Building a Walkable Community – Reporter Newspapers & Atlanta Intown


Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven and Buckhead are taking steps to create hangouts

Sandy Springs is considering expanding its City Springs downtown project. (Amy Wenk)

A team envisions how a 200 acre neighborhood along Peachtree Road could become the walkable center of Brookhaven. New projects bring common spaces around the Perimeter Mall and Dunwoody Village. Sandy Springs is exploring ways to expand the city center to include more restaurants and possibly a hotel. And developers are redesigning areas in Buckhead with new tenants and community events.

It’s all an effort to make the communities more accessible.

Other suburbs have shown the way, such as Roswell, Alpharetta, Woodstock and Duluth, each of which has transformed their historic inner cities into modern city centers.

What is motivating the trend? It’s about creating a better quality of life, city guides told Reporter Newspapers.

“These projects build the connective tissue of the community,” said Rusty Paul, Mayor of Sandy Springs, who is now trying to expand its downtown City Springs project. “It really created a sense of unity, cohesion and identity for the entire community.”

Here’s a closer look at development efforts in Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, and Buckhead:

Sandy springs

Sandy Springs opened City Springs in 2018. There was no historic downtown area to replicate, so city officials had to build their own.

These efforts began shortly after Sandy Springs was founded in 2005. The city gathered land and worked with Atlanta developers Selig Enterprises and Carter on the 14 acre project.

The Select, a restaurant in the City Springs downtown project. (Amy Wenk)

Today City Springs is home to the Performing Arts Center and City Hall of the city. It also has a central green space flanked by restaurants like The Select.

“It has had a real impact on the entire community,” said Mayor Paul. “A place has been created where the community comes together.”

Now planners are investigating how City Springs can be expanded. In October, Sandy Springs selected Goody Clancy and Associates Inc. to update its master plan for the district.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul.

The city owns an additional four or five acres south of the development between the Mount Vernon Highway and Hilderbrand Drive, Paul said. The hope is to expand City Springs by at least one block.

“How can we take the amazing success we have had with City Springs and move it south?” Paul said, adding that the hope is to create more restaurants and possibly a hotel. The city would likely be working with the private sector again on a project.

“It won’t quite double the existing City Springs, but it will make it a lot bigger,” said Paul. It would likely take 12 to 18 months to start a project, he said. The master plan needs to be finalized, along with community input sessions and an RFP process.

Another project is in the works nearby that could expand the walkable core of the city.

Atlanta developer Jamestown plans to redesign part of Parkside Shops, a shopping mall on Roswell Road just blocks from City Springs. A spacious parking lot could be converted into a mixed-use environment with green spaces, new restaurants, loft offices, apartments and condominiums.

A depiction of a planned renovation at Parkside Shops in Sandy Springs.


Dunwoody officials see the Perimeter Mall and Dunwoody Village areas as two emerging walk-in centers. Both have new projects in the works.

The long-planned high street project would occupy 36 acres west of the Perimeter Mall. It would include a unique park, hundreds of homes, and new retail and office space. In September, a new location for the Puttshack mini golf bar was announced for the project, which could start construction soon.

A rendering of the Dunwoody High Street Project.

Dunwoody’s director of economic development, Michael Starling, sees the Perimeter Mall area as a regional hub. In recent years it has attracted massive projects like the State Farm Campus.

“A thousand people come to work every day,” he said of the mall. “The perimeter is certainly changing and becoming much more walkable … away from this suburban and car-oriented center.”

Michael Starling.

The Dunwoody Village area would have a different feel, he said, geared towards the smaller-scale neighborhood. The district covers approximately 165 acres including the Dunwoody Village and The Shops of Dunwoody shopping centers.

The city recently approved a new zoning district for the area, creating the conditions for more modern development. Dunwoody City does not own any land there but is working with existing landowners.

“There will be a small step here, a small step there,” said Starling. “But the good news is that we are starting this process.”

A project is already in progress. Dash Hospitality is building an entertainment complex in the Dunwoody Village shopping center that will group several restaurants and bars around a central courtyard. The first, a bar called Bar (n), will open in November.

“I just want this to be a ‘Cheers’ for Dunwoody,” Dash Hospitality’s David Abes said in a recent interview.

Dash Hospitality’s David Abes opens Bar (s), a new bar that is part of an entertainment complex in the Dunwoody Village Shopping Center. (Amy Wenk)


Brookhaven now imagines what an inner city project could look like.

The planners are well on their way with a “City Center” master plan, which extends over an area of ​​212 hectares along Peachtree Road. It includes areas such as Town Brookhaven, Oglethorpe University, the Brookhaven MARTA Station, Dresden Drive, and Apple Valley Road.

One of the goals is to find a place for a new town hall. One possible location could be the extensive parking spaces at the MARTA train station. There’s no agreement, but MARTA was actively involved in the planning process, said Patrice Ruffin, Brookhaven’s deputy city manager.

Brookhaven is exploring how to create an downtown project. One idea could be to redesign the spacious parking spaces at the MARTA train station.

The master plan also provides for new connections across Peachtree Road to make it more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists. “It’s a river that is difficult to cross,” says Meg Robie, landscape architect at HGOR, the Atlanta-based office working on the master plan.

The hope is to have a draft plan early next year. Based on community feedback, the plan is expected to be submitted to city council for approval in the second quarter of 2022, Ruffin said.

There is still no schedule for the start of downtown projects.

But the great hope is to create a new centerpiece for the community. “Brookhaven needs a central location so that we can build an identity,” said Robie.


When asked, Denise Starling, Managing Director of Livable Buckhead, had difficulty defining Buckhead’s walk-through center.

But there is recent investment in Buckhead Village and around the Lindbergh MARTA station that is paving a way forward, she said.

Denise Starling is the executive director of Livable Buckhead, a nonprofit focused on sustainability efforts, including parks and trails, alternative commuting, long-term planning efforts, and community events.

In 2019, Jamestown acquired The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, a collection of upscale shops and restaurants on Peachtree, East Paces, and Pharr Streets. It renamed the project Buckhead Village District and adjusted the tenant mix (which includes luxury brands like Dior) to be more accessible. For example, a new location for Fetch Park, a dog park bar, is in the works.

Jamestown has also revamped its community events and planned a whole host of vacation activities.

“It’s not just about walkability, it’s programming,” said Starling, adding that Livable Buckhead is focused on creating more community events. “I can’t really stress the importance of programming … it’s part of economic development.”

Real estate company Edens has also had a significant impact on Buckhead’s West Village by acquiring and remodeling several properties including Andrews Square in recent years.

Another major investment was the takeover of Lindbergh City Center by Rubenstein Partners. It renamed the project Uptown Atlanta and gained new tenants, including an esports gaming hub.

“I think that has a lot of potential down there,” said Starling of the area around the Lindbergh MARTA station. “That’s at the junction of the PATH400, Peachtree Creek Greenway and the BeltLine. The whole area will appear on the map as soon as the BeltLine arrives there. “

Another ambitious project, HUB404, could create a walk-in center for Buckhead. The project would limit Ga. 400 in the center of Buckhead. Funding for project design is to be increased again after a break during the pandemic.

“This is certainly the key project that would create a walk-in heart for the community,” said Starling.

A rendering of the HUB404 project that would limit Ga. 400 in Buckhead.

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