Callaway Site Trees Being Removed This Week; Replanting of 137 Trees Planned

From the Extreme Makeover: Downtown Decatur website…

As discussed previously in this forum, the Callaway site redevelopment plan — in particular the planned W. Trinity cycle track, together with the relocation of a major Georgia Power underground power line — will require the removal of existing street trees along W. Trinity Place.

Though an unfortunate requirement for the project to proceed, each tree lost will be replaced during redevelopment as part of tree plantings across the site.

Decatur’s Tree Canopy Conservation Ordinance, which stabilized the city’s overall canopy percentage at 45% and now fosters equal or greater coverage city-wide for the years ahead, requires developers to submit and abide by a full canopy replacement plan.

That plan will result in the planting of 137 native trees that range in height from 10’ to 15’ at planting with increasing height and shade in the years ahead. Featured species will include Oaks, Elms, Hornbeams, Dogwoods, Hemlocks, and Cedars, among others. All are scheduled to be planted directly on the Callaway property and, despite existing site trees such as these scheduled to be lost to construction, will result in a net downtown gain of roughly a hundred trees, as well as increased downtown canopy over time.

Furthermore, earlier this month, the city successfully transplanted four healthy trees from this site to the Decatur Housing Authority property across Commerce Drive.
The impact

The work is scheduled to begin as early as Tuesday, March 14, and last a few days.
How to manage

There will be a lane closing on the eastbound side of W. Trinity Place between Commerce and McDonough but traffic will continue to be accommodated. Pedestrians should use the north side of the street. Bicyclists should take an alternate route.

City: Callaway Development “Reflects Priorities and Safeguards”

With the recent demolition of the old rusty, asbestos-laden DeKalb County Callaway Building, the City of Decatur is taking a moment to consider the bigger picture, noting that the coming Cousins’ development embodies many components of the city’s planning efforts.

Posted by Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon, the article includes many interesting facts about the project.  Here’s a summary:

  • Office Space: “It will include 329 residential units, 65% of which are studio and one bedroom dwellings; 18,000 square feet of retail space; and Decatur’s first new office building in over 20 years, providing 33,750 square feet of Class A office space.”
  • $$$!: “the project will finally return the site’s 4.7 acres to the city’s tax rolls, reversing DeKalb County’s tax exempt status that’s been in effect for the past half century.” That’s approximately “$560,000 a year to the City Schools of Decatur and $280,000 a year to the city’s General Fund”
  • Trees: “137 native trees…Featured species will include Oaks, Elms, Hornbeams, Dogwoods, Hemlocks, and Cedars, among others.”
  • Bikes: project will be “bordered on three sides by dedicated bicycle facilities”.
  • LEED: “…downtown’s first commercial project to comply with the city’s high performance building ordinance.”  The development is currently seeking Silver LEED certification, with a hope of Gold.
  • Public Plaza: “The N. McDonough side of the project will feature an internal public plaza with fountain, fronted all around by commercial and live/work spaces and allowing for pedestrian access across and throughout the site.”

The article concludes by noting that the project is on track to be completed in two years, in Spring 2019.

Callaway Building Demolition Begins

After years of standing there rusty and neglected – and after many recent weeks of asbestos abatement – the Callaway Building at the center of downtown Decatur is being demolished today.   Barb sent in this photo.

The demolition is making way for the Cousins development, which was signed off on by the Decatur City Commission last year.

Callaway Development Back Before Commission with More Office Space

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New Rendering – Callaway Site

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Old rendering – Callaway Site

The Cousins Calloway development is back before the City Commission tonight (agenda item here), after the city sent the developer back to the drawing board last September for not including enough retail or office space in its plan.

A note from Asst. City Manager Lyn Menne summarized the changes thusly…

  • Reduces the number of residential units overall by 40 units (from 369 to 329).

  • Adds 30,000 sf of upper floor office space to the building in the northeast corner of the site.

  • Removes a round entry lobby on the southwest side of the new office building and a pedestrian bridge originally designed to connect upper floor residential uses.

  • Provides for a total of 721 parking spaces (an increase of 19 parking spaces to accommodate the increased office space).

  • Removes the black box theater space and replaces it with three additional live work units to create three more small office options for a total of eight live work units.

Ms. Menne states that the Decatur Downtown Development Authority Board supports the revised site plan.

Renderings courtesy of Smith Dalia

Grocery Store Now “Unlikely” at Callaway Site

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We had high hopes that we might get another grocery store in Downtown Decatur with the mixed-use development at the Callaway property, across from City Hall along Trinity Place.

But the recent disagreement between the city – who acquired the site a couple of years ago from DeKalb County – and the developer, Cousins, about what the market can support and what’s physically possible on the slanted site seems to have resulted in begrudging agreement that a grocery store isn’t possible at that location, according to a new blurb on AJC.com

Decatur wants more ground-floor retail, though a grocery—or at least a full-sized grocery—seems unlikely given the topography and layout makes it difficult for large delivery trucks.

Le sigh.  The blurb also notes that the city would like some upper-floor office space in the development, since the last time an office building was constructed in Decatur was back before the Olympics in 1991.

Seems the development appetite is still mostly in luxury rentals, which is the case all over Atlanta. A recent GA Tech study found that a large majority of the 11,000 apartments being built and the 9,000 planned are these “luxury rentals”.  At the same time, low-cost rentals are disappearing.

Rendering for old plan courtesy of Smith Dalia

City Responds to Common Criticisms About Downtown Development

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In the September issue of the Decatur Focus, the city has compiled many of the commonly heard criticisms of commercial and mixed-use development downtown and provides replies…

Downtown multiple dwellings caused the increase in our current school population.

More multi-family developments will do the same. In the six downtown multi-family developments completed since 1999, there is a total of 45 students registered for the current school year. Seventeen attend elementary school, two attend FAVE, 11 attend Renfroe and seven attend Decatur High School. That is 45 students out of 641 units. This accounts for only 2 percent of the student population growth. The school system’s current student growth projections include estimates, developed by consultants, for the number of students likely to enroll from the projects currently under construction.

Downtown multiple dwellings have a negative impact on our school system.

Decatur School Board members have stated that it takes at least a $700,000 single-family home to generate enough local school tax revenue ($7,000) to cover the local cost of one student. For each additional school-aged child living in that house, the education costs have to be covered by other tax payers. The estimated combined value of the six multifamily buildings already occupied in downtown Decatur is $167 million, generating a total of $1.6 million in local school tax revenue each year. The total estimated cost to the school system from local funds for these 45 students is $315,000. That provides the school system with more than $1.2 million per year to be used to educate other children

The Callaway property would be more beneficial to the school system for school expansion.

The Callaway property is a 4.7-acre site that was owned by DeKalb County. As a tax-exempt property, it does not pay property taxes. The City of Decatur worked for 10 years to acquire this property for redevelopment to create new tax revenues to benefit City Schools of Decatur and the City of Decatur. A conservative estimate of the local property taxes of the redeveloped site is more than $400,000 per year, or enough to cover the local tax share for more than 55 students. We continue to work with the developer to increase the amount of office space proposed for the site because there is a growing need for new office space downtown.

Apartment developments will ruin downtown and our community.

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