Selig’s Official Argument for Reduced Parking at Suburban Plaza Walmart

As reported on Patch the other day, the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a public hearing on the planned renovation of Suburban Plaza on Wednesday, December 14th at 1pm (how convenient!) at the Maloof Auditorium at 1300 Commerce Drive in downtown Decatur.

Interested in reading Selig’s parking exception application and parking study for yourself?  Well, we just happen to have a copy.  CLICK HERE to read all 24 pages.

Initial highlights…

  • Selig hopes for a reduction from 1,786 spaces (or 5.5 spaces/1000 SF) to 1,269 spaces (or 3.9 spaces/1000 SF) because they believe that “the character of use of Suburban Plaza is such that the full provision of parking spaces required by the Zoning Ordinance is not necessary because actual demand for parking will be much less than the number of spaces required by the Ordinance.”
  • Selig points to other “successful shopping centers in similar urban locations in the Atlanta area” that are functioning adequately with” the parking ratios being proposed by Selig.
  • They note that MARTA buses currently serve Suburban Plaza and there’s “the possibility of being an integral component of the proposed Clifton Corridor Line.”
  • The applicant is “committed” to participating in the Decatur Shuttle system, Emory Shuttle system, and other mass transit systems.
  • They argue that the variety of uses in the shopper center allows to “shared parking.”  They go on to detail how grocery stores need more parking on the weekend and in the evening, while restaurants require parking during lunch and dinner, and the bowling alley will have higher demands for parking at night.
  • Construction of an underground parking deck will locate 79% of Walmart’s parking underground
  • Sidewalks will be built on all street frontages.  “The center will be a hub of transit activity including the Decatur and Emory shuttles over both the near and long term.”
  • Selig puts DeKalb County “on notice” that the owner believes “any action other than to approve the application as requested…will result in a violation of the owner’s constitutional rights, including Article I, Section I, Paragraph I; Article I, Section I, Paragraph II; and Article I, Section III, Paragraph I of the Georgia Constitution and the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.”

23 thoughts on “Selig’s Official Argument for Reduced Parking at Suburban Plaza Walmart”


  1. Also, that last challenge strikes me as unnecessarily combative. Approve an exception to the zoning ordinance or we’ll sue? That statement along with Selig’s pronouncement at the meeting with the local neighborhood associations that the only businesses who wanted to lease there now were pawn shops, also struck me as a threat.

    What gives? As I understand it, they need the variance to build the underground deck and could put an old-school massive surface lot WalMart without it. That’s why most people I know support the variance.
    They’d rather see a more pedestrian-friendly version. I don’t get this over-the-top combativeness.

    1. My guess, THC, is they’re showing some fangs up front because the variance hearing will be ground zero for the opposition effort because it’s the only public hearing needed for the go-ahead. Anyone who has any beef whatsoever with the project will likely show up there, so Selig and Co. are likely sending a message to the board: Don’t be swayed by the emotion likely to be out in force.

      The irony is that, because it’s their only opportunity to fight the project, people will fight the variance, even though 4 spaces per 1,000 sq. ft. is a perfectly reasonable number for the context. But they’ve got no other opportunity for influence.

      1. There are other opportunities to influence. For one, anyone has the right to make Selig an offer to buy the property. At that point if you wanted to leave it as is it would be your right. While “Selig” is a company, Steve Selig is an individual that has done a ton of good in Atlanta for decades, and it’s his property – not ours. He’s not a fly-by-night developer from out of town.

        1. Remember that it was Selig that fought toot-and-nail to put the CVS in the back corner of the strip at Commerce and W Ponce, thus would have created an ocean of parking lot. Only neighborhood and City pressure brought it up to the corner of the street.

          1. Fair point. In this case I personally support the rights of the property owner who has been paying taxes and wants to invest in what is otherwise a pretty dead corner. The tenant may not match my taste but neither does my neighbor’s addition. If he was asking for a rezoning I would feel differently, but as a community we (Dekalb) have already said that it’s OK to put a walmart there.

          2. Keep in mind, Steve, that the CVS incident did not reflect poorly on Selig. It reflected poorly on the city because our zoning (at the time) allowed for something that was contrary to our goals. Selig was doing what any developer does — seeking to build, with the least unpredictability and delay, what is legally permissible. If anything, I credit him with “meeting the city half way” when he was not obligated to do so. The project is better than what was initially presented (but less than what the city ultimately wanted) because both sides chose to work together.

            I credit the city with, afterwards, heeding the lesson and modifying our code. Today, our downtown zoning no longer permits the things we do not want. And it was all because of the CVS.

    2. It is pretty standard phrasing for any zoning case. It is really less of a threat and more of a legal reservation that they have the right to appeal and sue for fair treatment. Not that Selig is so wonderful, but their lawyer made them do it.

      1. Ah, gotcha. And, from what I have been hearing people say in different settings, I do think they can expect some to show up to oppose the variance just because they don’t like the whole project. I think it’s short-sighted.

        I do have respect for Selig in that he/ the company made quite an effort to attract a strong anchor tenant. They put together proposals for Whole Foods and for Trader Joe’s (I think he said at the meeting they approached them twice) and WalMart is who was interested. I give him credit for pursuing it for so long. I don’t fault him for wanting to make the property more profitable and can understand if this is the last serious effort he’s going to make to turn that center around.

    3. They have to use this exact language before a decision is made or else they lose any right to have any recourse over the decision. While it may sound combative, it is what the courts require and they cannot vary it even by a sentence.

  2. What does “commitment ” to the shuttle systems–one of which doesn’t exist (unless they mean senior centers)–mean?

  3. It is always interesting to see “business Constitutional rights” rather than “citizen Constitutional rights” which in this case is our neighborhoods. The reduction of parking is necessary for the project to succeed and is therefore open to challenge. Who is not working at 1pm?

    1. With regard to parking counts, it’s also appropriate to keep in mind that the study assumed that ALL of the retail space in the shopping center is fully occupied and generating business. Since the food store is vacant and many of the other existing businesses are less than thriving, the need for parking in the short term will probably be less than projected.

      If Selig should decide at a later time to expand or redevelop any of the remaining portions of Suburban Plaza, they’ll have to go for another variance if there’s an increase in square footage. If a day comes when there’s not enough parking, it’ll mean that all the property’s businesses are thriving (and probably improved from today)…and that’d be a good thing, wouldn’t it?

  4. So, we are to believe that Selig could only get Walmart interested in this opportunity to move into the Decatur market? Has anybody challenged Selig their promotion of this particular tenant? I just find it hard to believe that a more community responsive company, such as Whole Foods or Trade Joe’s, turned down the opportunity to move into the Decatur market.

    1. Neither TJ or WF would have the store size or customer numbers to be an anchor tenant and make the development numbers work. An alternative would have to be some other brand of big-box store.

  5. I’ve enjoyed living here in Decatur for 20 years and have seen a lot of changes. Some that I was happy to see, and some not so much.
    Until I hear more compelling arguments, I support the redevelopment of Suburban Plaza. It’s been an eyesore since I moved here.The worst issue I can see so far is increased traffic. Just don’t think it’s a big enough issue to keep it from happening though. The fact that Walmart and Selig are working with the community is a good sign. I don’t want to stop progress- especially when it’s willing to work with us. Makes it hard for me to jump on the anti-development bandwagon.
    Just wanted to let people know that there are some residents who support the idea. I really hope the plan is approved.

  6. I totally agree with 20yearResident. As a longtime Decatur resident, I also “support the redevelopment of Suburban Plaza. It’s been an eyesore since I moved here.” Goodbye, thrift store! Hello, great values! I live on Forkner, grocery shop at the Avondale Walmart and the DeKalb Farmer’s Market, and can’t wait to shop closer to home. I wouldn’t have spend much time at a Whole Foods anyway – the prices at Walmart for the same items are just night and day better. I’d rather buy Great Value butter and milk and spend the saved food dollars on dinner out at the Brick Store, Cafe Alsace, and Iberian Pig.

  7. I just moved to Decatur and would really enjoy having a Walmart in the Suburban Plaza. I shop at several grocery stores in the area (Dekalb Farmer’s Market, Krogers, Publix, and Avondale Walmart), and I know Walmart has the best prices on staple products. Having a WMT in the Suburban Plaza would brighten up what is now a dingy plaza and give us a more convenient place to shop & save money.

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