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Dunwoody halts apartment, condo development for six months

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What this could mean for major projects in the urbanizing city remains to be seen

an early rendering of the proposed project
Park at Perimeter Center East, as seen in a rendering, could bring a substantial mix of condos, offices, and retail to Dunwoody
Courtesy of Grubb Properties

The close-in suburb of Dunwoody has been showing noticeable signs of urbanization lately, but that activity appears to have hit a snag.

During a specially called meeting of the Dunwoody City Council last week, officials approved a six-month moratorium on multifamily development, according to Reporter Newspapers.

That means, for half a year, the city won’t process applications or permits and won’t allow any construction of apartments and condos.

The reason: to give officials time to study up on the city’s fire safety codes and ordinances.

The move comes on the heels of the Georgia General Assembly’s approval of legislation that precludes counties and municipalities from barring construction companies from using timber as building material, according to a report by Bisnow.

Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal told Reporter Newspapers last week the new law had little to do with the decision to impose a moratorium.

Nevertheless, the legislation, House Bill 876, voided a Dunwoody ordinance that required commercial, office, apartment, or condo buildings taller than three stories to be framed with metal or concrete, per Reporter Newspapers. The materials are considered noncombustible but are typically more expensive.

Shortal told the publication that for months city leaders have been working with county fire marshals to assess fire codes currently on the books, because they’ve had an inkling “our codes were not up to snuff.”

The decision to halt multi-unit development, however, puts a question mark on a handful of major projects slated for the area, such as Grubb Properties’s planned mixed-use community, Park at Perimeter Center East.

Park at PCE is expected to include 900 for-sale condos squeezed into four towers—unprecedented density for that part of metro Atlanta. It was approved by the Dunwoody Planning Commission in October.

Additionally, the community is projected to bring some 500,000 square feet of new office space, around 12,000 square feet of retail, a handful of for-sale townhomes, and nearly three acres of green space complemented by a multi-use trail

And then there’s the mammoth High Street project, which has been in the works (but gathering dust recently) for more than a decade.

Boston-based developer GID has proposed a 42-acre mini-city for the corner of Perimeter Center Park and Hammond Drive. A land disturbance permit application was reportedly filed in March but has not yet been approved.

GID’s vision for the High Street site is ambitious: 1,500 apartments, 1,500 condominiums, 400,000 square feet of retail, 400,000 square feet of office space, and 400 hotel rooms, according to Bisnow.

Dunwoody’s moratorium is out of the ordinary, but it’s not necessarily unprecedented.

Other metro Atlanta communities have put a stop to construction projects in the past for a variety of reasons.

In September last year, for instance, then-Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed signed an executive order placing a moratorium on new projects in parts of Buckhead. (It was an effort to review legislation that would reduce the amount of parking developers were allowed to build, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.)

Similarly, in October 2017, the Atlanta City Council considered imposing a moratorium on new projects in West Midtown, where development was outpacing the upkeep of local roads and other transportation infrastructure.

If the latter measure was ever enacted, a construction boom on Howell Mill Road and other corridors shows it’s clearly been lifted.