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.

First Look at Cousins’ Development Plan for Callaway Site

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At the Decatur Downtown Development Authority meeting last month, AMLI/Cousins presented the latest version of the Callaway Site Plan.

The architect Smith Dalia’s website describes the project thusly…

In the heart of Decatur, a joint venture between Cousins Properties and AMLI is transforming a five-acre urban site into a lively mixed-use environment with 361 units, five live-work [artist or other small business] spaces and ~ 20,000 sf of retail/commercial space. A parking deck will not be visible from the street. The development will offer housing and walkable retail choices for Decatur’s burgeoning in-town community.

The building aptly responds to the context of a small town square. A challenging site with 40′ grade differentials is answered by a graceful terraced design.  Elemental materials have been selected with cues from the surrounding context, including stone, glass and metal. Amenities abound with two rooftop terraces, one featuring a bird’s eye view of the Decatur High School football stadium, and one overlooking Decatur square. Other amenities include a bike shop and a screened in porch on the now-developing north public plaza. This Type III-over podium design is tracking LEED for Homes Silver.

At the last DDA meeting, the development team asked for the DDA’s support for a list of exceptions related to “topographic challenges”.

According to the draft minutes from the meeting, AMLI/Cousins is requesting the following variances due to the following conditions…

  • The facade length along Trinity is difficult to break up but efforts were made to create step backs and changes
  • Some units on Commerce sit above the street level creating some walls that exceed the height limits because of the grade but these have been turned into planters to soften the look.
  • The step back of the building on N. McDonough exceeds requirements but this was done to accommodate the bicycle track that is being installed because of streetscape improvements.
  • The design team added elevations and sections to show what the sidewalks will look like along the street. They have combined the sidewalk and patio area to create more of an urban feel along Trinity and North McDonough. The team worked with Hugh on streetscapes and tried to even out the grades as much as possible.

City staff recommended support, but with several notable conditions listed in the DDA resolution

First, they have asked that the east-west street be changed from a private drive “to an unrestricted two-way street to improve the existing street grid system”.

They also asked that Cousins make “additional design changes to the southern elevation of the exposed parking garage to include a change of color on the solid vertical walls to reinforce the pattern of the residential buildings to the east and west of the deck and the addition of a cornice/parapet at the top of the building to mimic the treatment of the residential buildings within the proposed development.”

Additionally, they have requested “approximately 3,000 square foot unimproved shell space to the Authority /City of Decatur rent free for a minimum of 25 years to be built out for use as a small performing arts space.

And finally, the Authority has put  it in writing that the developer should be consulting with them “throughout the design development and permitting stage on issues and changes including, but not limited to, plans, building materials, and construction details.”

With that all in mind, here are a variety of plans and renderings of AMLI/Cousins development to give you more context on how the project is currently planned…

Continue reading “First Look at Cousins’ Development Plan for Callaway Site”

Atlanta Business Chronicle Reports Large Scale Calloway Project

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It’s no secret that there has long been an interest in turning the Calloway Building site (home of the Maloof Auditorium, a huge sloping parking lot, and some quality barbwire fencing) into a high-density, mixed use development.  And in the past year or so, there have been rumblings on and off that the County was finally willing to sell.

Now, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the County could vote on the project as early as next month.  The full article is behind a paywall, but the key points include…

  • Cousins Properties, who didn’t comment for the article, would be the developer of the mixed-used project
  • DeKalb could vote as early as February 12th to sell the site to the city and then the city would potentially work with Cousins to redevelop the site

I don’t think it’s too dramatic a statement to say that such a development would go far and redefining Trinity Avenue as the city’s second Main Street, something the city continues to strive towards with the redevelopment of Allen Wilson Terrace and Beacon Hill, along with the longer-term idea of extending Fairview Ave through from Ponce to Trinity.

Photo courtesy of Google Streetview