Ask Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson what he hopes the residents of Chamblee will be able to boast about in 10 years and he has a clear, immediate response.
“When people ask us ‘Where’s downtown Chamblee?’ we’re going to be able to say, ‘At the intersection of Peachtree and Broad,’” Clarkson said. “Right now, when we’re asked that question, folks scratch their head and say they don’t really know because we have never really had a defined downtown.”
Clarkson and the city are working hard to make that town center a reality for the city — one comprised of a new city hall, public safety facility, multipurpose athletic fields and perhaps, down the road, a small amphitheater.
“There’s always been a desire to create a sense of place, but this current council really took it seriously,” said Clarkson, who has been in elected office in Chamblee for 17 years and has been involved with the city for over 20. “Since 2010, Chamblee has grown threefold. In the 2010 census we had 10,000 residents and now we are over 30,000.”
According to David Carter, chair of the Chamblee Downtown Development Authority (DDA), more details of the town center plan may be presented at the April 23 meeting of the DDA. Estimated development costs for the project are $110 million and the project is expected to be funded through a public-private partnership, he said.
A year-and-a-half ago, the city council began the process of getting public input, Clarkson explained, and brought on the Seven Oaks Co. commercial real estate and development firm and the HGOR landscape and architecture firm to develop a conceptual plan for what a town center development could look like.
After six months, a final plan was adopted by the city in August 2018. It is focused on what will be known as the Broad Street Corridor, and proposes significant public-private spaces and retail, residential and office opportunities. Seven Oaks was approved to be the master developer for the city and is presently planning a mixed-use project that will be a cornerstone of the town center.
Other parts of the plan including a complete rebuilding of the Peachtree Road pedestrian hardscape and landscape, with an eye on pedestrian activity, expanding the Chamblee Rail Trail system, and implementing a new downtown area sub-district zoning ordinance with streetscape standards, building typologies and zoning requirements to complement the city’s vision. Much of this, according to Seven Oaks founder and Principal Bob Voyles, is already underway, and will be completed within several years.
“The city’s geographic coverage has tripled in less than 10 years; its current City Hall was built nearly 20 years ago and just did not anticipate the space needs that are currently needed for the growth that the city has experienced,” Voyles said. “This need for a new city hall, coupled with an orderly development of those parcels which form the city’s land assemblage, as well as the positive development marching up Peachtree Boulevard, make for the perfect timing to launch the town center effort. … Also, the renaissance of other historic downtown communities all over the region, and the much-publicized plans for Assembly on Chamblee’s northern border, were reminders to the city of what could take place here in historic downtown Chamblee.”
Currently, according to Voyles, Seven Oaks is working with the city and its Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to activate certain sites that the authority currently owns to further the objectives of the plan.
“The city continues to make strides in infrastructure improvements, including extending its Rail Trail, relocating the police station, improving and building new park and athletic facilities, and widening the pedestrian path of travel from MARTA,” Voyles said. “The city is also exploring partnering with Doraville and the developers of the Assembly project to establish an autonomous shuttle from Chamblee’s MARTA station north up Peachtree Road to Assembly. That work is dovetailing nicely into the plans for the city center.”
Carter said Phase One of the town center project will add more than five acres of new residential, retail and office space in Chamblee’s downtown, with additional development north along the MARTA corridor.
“Residents have been invited to participate in the planning and design of the town center project over the last two to three years, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Carter said. In addition to new retail and entertainment space, the town center plan addresses currently limited parking options. "Chamblee hopes that a well-planned town center that incorporates shuttles, publicly available bicycles/scooters and autonomous vehicles will significantly relieve traffic congestion in the area.”
The DDA hopes the town center will become a destination that sets the standard for municipal development for years to come in the Atlanta metro area, Carter said.
“While prior projects have focused on the southern areas of Chamblee, the town center will anchor development on the northern edge of downtown closer to Doraville's Assembly project,” Carter said. “Residents of the area will benefit from better strategic planning in the town center, including better parking and the ability to become less dependent on motor vehicles entirely. The town center will help create more employment and retail opportunities closer to where Chamblee residents live, and a village-like feel will promote a sense of community in the town center area.”
Chamblee Town Center
In a master plan presentation presented to the Chamblee City Council last year by Seven Oaks and HGOR, the five-year plan for the Chamblee town center project includes:
2019 – 2020:
• Negotiate easements for improvements along Broad Street and with existing landowners; construct improvements
• Design and begin construction on ‘High-Line’ portion of Rail Trail, using master plan streetscape specifications
• Expose options for reuse of current City Hall building for private use (with design/use restrictions), or as a new community facility for arts center and other uses
• Police offices relocate, construct new plaza area in front of City Hall
• Design and install street bridge and improvements along Peachtree Road Bridge (over Chamblee-Dunwoody)
• Construct new City Hall building on former police station site
• Continue strategic land acquisition and sale strategy within Downtown Chamblee Town Center (DCTC) area
2021 - 2024
• Complete High Line Rail Trail
• Design and construct Low-Line Rail Trail, including negotiating easements for remaining right-of-way needed
• Complete DCTC streetscape improvements along American Way, Broad Street and Peachtree Road, as well as any newly created roads
• Continue strategic activation of land parcels within DCTC in order to complete the DCTC Master Plan
• Complete remaining street grid installations and green space as drawn on Master Plan
• Negotiate easements and design/build DCTC portal bridge over Peachtree Boulevard