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Q&A: Dunwoody’s economic development czar says Central Perimeter is the next (hybrid) Midtown

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New developments, including entertainment and recreation options, plus walkability are key components of future growth, says Michael Starling

Rendering of office buildings and restaurants with people moving throughout.
High Street is expected to bring a central gathering place to the Perimeter Dunwoody market.
Rendering: High Street Atlanta

Head over to Perimeter Mall in the City of Dunwoody, and the amount of forthcoming development would be difficult to miss. At the moment, the ongoing source of construction also contributes to an ongoing frustration with traffic congestion.

It’s no secret car access to the area has been difficult for many years, and increased office, retail, entertainment, and residential density will not ease the area’s knotted roads.

However, as Micheal Starling is happy to discuss, forthcoming changes are not only focused on bringing more opportunities to residents, workers, and visitors to the area, but also making access easier, with an increased focus on alternative transportation and walkability.

Michael Starling.
City of Dunwoody

Curbed Atlanta spoke with Starling, Dunwoody’s director of economic development, to dig deep on what the quickly developing city’s hopes are, as the future is obviously now.

Curbed Atlanta: Looking at the big picture, what goals do you have for growth in the Perimeter Dunwoody area in the next five years? Ten years?

Michael Starling: A focus on filling existing office vacancies, which are slightly higher than other markets, and creating new development opportunities from existing surface parking are our primary goals for the next five years.

Capitalizing on existing surface parking is already happening at Perimeter Mall, where Trammell Crow is constructing the Twelve24 Office building. The goal is to improve walkability, especially for the area around the Dunwoody MARTA Station.

Leveraging our existing connection to MARTA will allow us to grow without increasing traffic pressure.

The city is also focusing on creating more entertainment/recreation options for residents, workers and tourists. Significant new investment is occurring in new hotels and renovations of existing hotels. The Crowne Plaza, Marriott Perimeter Center, and Embassy Suites have all recently undergone renovations.

Twelve24 is slated to bring 334,000 square feet of Class A office space and 11,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space facing Hammond Drive.
Rendering: Trammell Crow Company

I believe tourism is a significant growth opportunity and the number one complaint from tourists is lack of entertainment options.

Looking forward 10 years, our goal is to establish the Perimeter Dunwoody Market as a “third option” to Atlanta’s decades-long debate between OTP and ITP living.

We are becoming a hybrid place, certainly not as urban as Midtown, but no longer suburban either; what Leigh Gallagher has termed an “Urban-Burb” and Christopher Leinberger calls a “WalkUP”—ATP (At The Perimeter).

We’re working to leverage the best of our suburban characteristics and supplement with more urban options that I think most families are looking for.

High Street developers promise to create a 10-block “pedestrian-friendly street grid.”
Rendering: High Street Atlanta

CA: What’s on tap exactly for High Street, Dunwoody’s new mixed-use project?

MS: We are excited that GID is partnering with North American Properties (as well as architectural firm Dwell Design Studio) on High Street and look forward to the expected groundbreaking later this year. Our understanding is that the latest plan for Phase I will include a central gathering space [or] park with retail, restaurants, residences, hotel, and office space.

CA: How will this development benefit local residents?

MS: The most significant benefit of High Street will be the creation of a central gathering place for the Perimeter Dunwoody market as well as increased walkability and connectedness within the market.

We’re already becoming more walkable with State Farm’s Park Center project and Trammell Crow’s Twelve24 Office building. High Street will take that to another level.

Hyatt Place will add 180 rooms on 10 stories next door to Twelve24.
Rendering: Trammell Crow Company

CA: You mention you want the Perimeter Dunwoody area to be a crossroads of Atlanta with connectivity in terms of transportation access, land mass, etc. To that end, what plans do you have for bike lanes in the area?

MS: The City of Dunwoody recently increased the Hotel Motel Tax, and the city portion of these funds will be used to create a multi-use trail way throughout the Perimeter Dunwoody market.

Phase I will kick off early next year with a trail along the entire length of Ashford Dunwoody Road. Earlier this year the city opened a new multi-use bridge that connects the commercial market to the Georgetown neighborhood to the east.

CA: Do you have plans for a connection to PATH400? If so, what are they? And what is the timeframe for the project?

MS: Yes, the Perimeter Community Improvement District is working with Livable Buckhead, PATH, and Sandy Springs to connect PATH400 to Perimeter along Peachtree Dunwoody Road under I-285.

One lane of Peachtree Dunwoody Road is currently closed to allow for the construction of this new connection that will ultimately connect Perimeter to the Beltline.

CA: What other alternative means do you have on tap for getting around?

MS: Perimeter Connects is a program of the Perimeter CID and helps commuters and employers navigate different commute options including MARTA, SRTA Xpress Bus Service, local shuttles connecting MARTA to office and retail developments, van pools, ride share, etc.

CA: What, if any, role would the proposed I-285 toll lanes project play in your plans for transportation access in the Perimeter Dunwoody area?

MS: Transit options are critical if we’re going to have any chance of improving traffic congestion. The proposed toll lane project has a connection at the Perimeter Center Parkway Bridge, which is a quarter-mile from the Dunwoody MARTA Station.

If the Express Lanes can be used for a Bus Rapid Transit System, increased Xpress Bus service and increased use of Van Pools, they could be a significant help with congestion.

CA: What other concerns or issues are at the top of your list right now to meet the needs of Dunwoody area residents?

MS: The Perimeter Dunwoody market is the best of both worlds—urban and suburban. Combining the best of our current development pattern with more amenities in a walkable environment will create a more livable place for residents, workers and tourists.


When asked about other developments of note headed to Dunwoody, Starling listed the following:

  • Restaurants and a food hall: The Park at Georgetown Food Hall, Breadwinner Café and Bakery in Dunwoody Village, Duke of Wellington Pub, Lazy Dog Restaurant at the Mall, and Backyard at Parkwoods Beer Garden at the Crowne Plaza;
  • Perimeter Market Place: Branch Properties new mixed-use development at the former Brio site includes a grocery store, 30,000 square feet of retail/restaurants, a hotel, and RaceTrac;
  • Twelve24 Hammond: office, retail, restaurant space and Hyatt Place hotel; new headquarters for Insight Global;
  • Second phase of State Farm’s Park Center.