by Mark Goldman, representing Emory Village Alliance
Following a three-year effort led by the Emory Village Alliance, with input from literally hundreds of stakeholders, the Emory Village Zoning Overlay has been approved by the District 2 Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners!
Involved stakeholders included the DHCA, its members and other DH residents, Emory University, Emory Village businesses and property owners, the Druid Hills Golf Club, the DeKalb County Department of Planning and Sustainability and the Law Department, former County Commissioners Jeff Rader and Kathy Gannon, and current Commissioners Michelle Long Spears and Ted Terry and their staff. With Spears and Terry’s strong support, the BOC approved the new Overlay unanimously.
Since its inception in 2001, the primary goal of what is now the Emory Village Alliance has been to revitalize the Village as a safe and attractive place to meet others, dine, shop, live, and play. A Zoning Overlay was first developed in 2007, and this led to substantial improvements to public spaces: replacing a slow five-way traffic light with the most beautiful and efficient round-about in all of the metro area; a delightful plaza with fountain and sculpture made from trolley tracks found under our streets; new sidewalks and crosswalks, benches, trash cans, and bike racks; and over 50 street trees.
What has not been achieved is mixed-use redevelopment, envisioned to be a bit like a miniature version of downtown Decatur, with three- and four-story buildings largely containing restaurants and shops on the ground floor, and offices, condominiums, and apartments above. “Best Practices” from around the world indicated that this approach would help revitalize the Village.
Unfortunately and surprising to many, the 2007 Overlay did not result in developers moving forward with redevelopment of non-historical properties. Additionally, much had changed over time, so the mix of businesses, restaurants, and offices needed to be rethought. With support from DeKalb County Commissioners and the Department of Planning and Sustainability, EVA took a second look. The aim was to remove unnecessary barriers to positive and successful mixed-use developments, while maintaining long-established objectives to keep the scale moderate (no more than four stories), for the Village to be pedestrian-oriented, to keep historic buildings, and to serve the community.
None of what had been controversial when the first Overlay was developed have been changed: number of building levels, building height, and the Village’s boundaries.
Changes to the Overlay include:
- Allowing a food hall, a yoga studio, a day spa, a tutoring center, and centers for research.
- Permitting rooftop dining on the second, third or fourth levels.
- Further encouraging offices for attorneys, therapists, optometrists, and similar, primarily on the second floor.
- Prohibiting tattoo parlors, cigar bars, and smoke and vape shops (however the existing one is “grandfathered”)
- Eliminating square footage requirements for apartments, condominiums, and offices.
- Allowing a few townhouses/rowhouses on the very edges of the Village next to existing single-family detached homes.
- Slightly reducing parking requirements, with most new parking in structures behind multi-story buildings.
- The new Overlay will soon be available on the EVA website (emoryvillage.org).