A homebuilder’s plan to expand its redevelopment of Buckhead’s Garden Hills neighborhood with more upscale townhomes has many area residents upset about the loss of affordable housing and what they say is the destruction of the community’s historic character.
Atlanta-based Hedgewood Homes wants to raze the six-unit apartment building at 71 Sheridan Drive where rents are roughly $1,500 a month so it can build three townhomes that are estimated to be priced between $750,000 to $1.2 million. The site is less than a half-acre and was purchased last year by Silver Creek Redevelopment, based out of Dawsonville, Ga., for $1.3 million.
The planned townhomes at 71 Sheridan Drive would be combined with Hedgewood Homes’ project approved two years ago also on property owned by Silver Creek Redevelopment. That project includes demolishing three low-rise multifamily residences at 77, 81 and 87 Sheridan Drive to build a dozen townhomes and single-family homes. Cost for these new homes are estimated to also cost between $750,000 to $1.2 million.
Neighborhood Planning Unit B members voted 19-4 at its Nov. 7 meeting to reject Hedgewood Homes’ request to rezone 71 Sheridan Drive to make way for townhomes. The members also rejected Hedgewood Homes’ variance requests that include reducing the front-yard setback from 40 feet to 22 feet. The votes came after two months of deferrals.
The city’s Zoning Review Board voted unanimously at its Nov. 9 meeting to deny recommending Hedgewood Homes’ rezoning and variance requests. The Atlanta City Council is expected to consider the recommendations and make a final decision on the request in December.
Mary Heather Tatum, a 30-year resident of Sheridan Drive, said at the Nov. 7 meeting that replacing 71 Sheridan Drive’s affordable apartments with pricey townhomes appears to be an attempt to “purge” middle-income residents from the affluent NPU-B community. Besides Garden Hills, neighborhoods in NPU-B include Peachtree Hills, Pine Hills, North Buckhead and South Tuxedo Park.
Other NPU-B members said in a previous meeting that a first-year firefighter, a first-year police officer or a first-year Fulton County teacher making 80% of the area median income, or $57,200 a year for one person, could not afford to live in the community. They stressed caution when approving the demolition of existing affordable housing in NPU-B for new luxury developments.
Garden Hills was planned as a residential neighborhood beginning in the early 1920s to include a diverse mix of housing for people with different incomes, Tatum said. Demolishing 71 Sheridan Drive would eliminate much needed affordable housing in the community.
“What [this project] is doing is eliminating the multifamily and … eliminating essentially the middle income,” Tatum said at the Nov. 7 meeting.
Kimberly Shorter, chair of NPU-B’s zoning committee, said many of the smaller multifamily residences in Garden Hills are considered “missing middle housing” because they were built decades ago to look like single-family homes.
The architecture and landscaping of the apartment buildings and other homes in the area were included as reasons for Garden Hills gaining its historic district status in 1987, Tatum said.
Tatum noted the rare architecture style of 71 Sheridan Drive that includes a causeway, or bridge, to the front door. The look and style of the building makes it the “bedrock of the character of the street,” she said.
“I feel this building is very unique,” Tatum said. “You can’t see it anywhere else. There’s nothing like it. I feel like it’s important to try to spare 71 Sheridan for the character.”
Hedgewood Homes is the same developer behind the controversial Delmont Drive project approved two years ago.
The developer demolished most of the Delmont Townhomes at 69 Delmont Drive, a circa-1940s complex with onsite owners and renters. Hedgewood Homes is now building 35 luxury townhomes on the property that is adjacent to Sheridan Drive. The development, named “Delmont by Hedgewood,” shows home listings well over $1 million.
The Delmont Drive project was criticized by some for depleting affordable housing in Buckhead, where home prices soar well over $1 million in many areas and rents continue to climb.
The adjacent Atlanta International School (AIS) was a vocal opponent of the development. Kevin Glass, head of school for AIS, wrote a column for Reporter Newspapers about why housing affordability mattered to the school.
This story has been updated with the city’s Zoning Review Board vote on Hedgewood Homes’ requests.