It's no secret....the residents and the City of Doraville have long been waiting for something to happen with the Doraville GM Plant. What's that saying....
"Good things come to those who wait."
Mind you, it HAS been a long wait. The General Motors Doraville Assembly Plant closed in 2008. It was announced much earlier than that, but as we all know, real estate went South in 2008. And so the massive site just sat. And sat. Grew a bumper crop of weeds in the parking lot cracks. And sat. (I've written numerous articles about the site here.)
Thursday evening, I attended the Real Estate Investment Advisory Council Meeting at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead. It was a great experience to meet so many people that are on the commercial real estate side of things! But at that meeting, there were two important presentations and both were my reasons for attending. One was on the Technology Square Development of Georgia Tech in Midtown, and the second was a presentation by Egbert Perry,CEO of the Integral Group, which just closed on the Doraville GM Plant site a few weeks ago.
First, let me review some site facts....
- The site is 160+ acres -- the largest tract of land inside I-285 (with the exception of Ft. McPherson)
- 90 Acres....yes NINETY ACRES of the site is UNDER ROOF!
- 11 railroad tracks separate the site from the Doraville MARTA station (GOLD Line...important point!)
- 2300 feet of frontage to I-285 with some 250-300,000 cars passing the site daily (I did not get the exact number)
- 4.2 Miles from the Perimeter Center/Mall area
- 7 Miles from Buckhead
- 2 Miles from Center For Disease Control
- 2 Miles from Dekalb/Peachtree Airport, Georgia's SECOND busiest airport
- 5 Miles from "Pill Hill" (Northside and St. Joseph's Hospitals)
- 10 minutes from Georgia Tech
- An Opportunity Zone tax credit of $3500 per new job created on the site for employers
What Has To Happen Next?
Having just closed on the sale, Mr. Perry had limited details on the plan, but certainly has a vision to make the site be something. But first...
- Demolition of that 90 acres of building that will generate some 78,000 TONS of salvage. Demolition will take some 8-10 months alone!
- Complete a plan for the site that includes creating an urban grid that does not exist on the site
- Look at connectivity gaps and how to bridge and connect the parts
Perry said the Master Plan for the site should be completed by the end of January. The development team has selected New York-based Perkins Eastman as the master planner for the redevelopment. The company has done some notable projects which include Batterh Park City in Manhattan and Target Field Station in Minneapolis.
A New Urban Node
Ok, I admit, I had to look up the word node. "A centering point of component parts." Perry referred to the Doraville GM site as a "hole in the donut." And how right he is. Draw a circle around the site, and you have Chamblee, and it's MARTA station, PDK Airport and new development just announced there; Doraville and the International flavor of Buford Highway; Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Norcross (and the up and coming Atlanta Media Campus and Studios) and then on to Buckhead and Midtown.
Perry says the GM site will be able to knit the region together, and create a destination for people. His presentation further outlined:
Leverage the great location and critical mass to create a new urban transit-oriented district in Atlanta with a mix of uses that include:
- Green Space -- parks, trails, gardens
- Office -- Corporate, Finance/Technology and Life Science campuses
- Residential -- Apartment homes, townhomes (let's hope some sort of condominum-type living as well!)
- Retail -- Restaurants, stores
- Arts, Culture and Entertainment -- including Civic Spaces
- Master plan the site to foster interaction among employees and between users, with activated and walkable streetscapes.
Conversations after the presentation with other representatives gave hints of plans to connect the existing Doraville "downtown" with the site. Park Avenue, where the current city core is and is completely occupied with city buildings, yet is right next to the MARTA station might see a transformation. Park Avenue will be a logical city street "entrance" to the site...but remember those 11 railroad tracks I mentioned earlier? Could there be a tunnel connection underneath the MARTA station AND the railroad tracks to the site? One could probably equal that undertaking to the likes of the 17th Street Bridge to connect Atlantic Station to Midtown Atlanta!
Access to the site from the busy, and often stop-and-go I-285? Buford Highway, Motors Industrial Way, Peachtree Industrial Blvd...and perhaps a "down and under" exit to the site? (Think the changes to 14th Street in Midtown where motorists now go UNDER 14th Street on their way to 10th Street.
Oh, and that MARTA Gold line I mentioned earlier. No change of trains to get to and from the World's Busiest Airport...The Gold Line runs the length.
A New Urban Node indeed.