“We feel that Advance Auto Parts and the developer, Trinity and Associates, should have been more in tune and aware of the tightness of the community and surrounding neighborhoods,” said Underwood Hills resident Wyatt Gordon, speaking on behalf of most of his neighbors.
Gordon said there are several reasons why both Berkeley Park and Underwood Hills residents are against the proposed store located on three lots on Howell Mill.
“Howell Mill Road is already extremely congested and one of the entry and exit points to get into Advance Auto Parts would feed in and through Berkeley Park neighborhood, specifically onto Holmes Street, which is maybe 300 yards long with about 15 kids living on it,” Gordon said. “It is a safety issue for neighborhood kids.”
Additionally, he said there are already about 12 automotive businesses on Howell Mill and the “further saturation of that automotive model goes against the Beltline overlay district vision for that stretch of Howell Mill,” he said. “The vision is to be mixed use.”
Advance aims to close on the purchase the lots Aug. 31 but an official date is not set for the demolition of the existing building or the new store’s opening. Advance’s employees feel the location is ideal, according to Shelly Whitaker, the Roanoke, Va.-based company’s manager of public communications.
“We chose this location for the store because it is convenient to where our customers live and shop, as well as the garages where they take their vehicles for repair,” Whitaker said.
Matt Hinton, owner of Bell Street Burritos at 1663 Howell Mill Road, one of the lots Advance plans to purchase, opened his restaurant seven months ago and has built up a following, he said. Hinton said he just found out about the new store in July and he must move out by Aug. 31.
“When you put money into a business like this, you expect to have some time to recuperate your costs and we didn’t really have that opportunity,” Hinton said. “It’s a drag to have to move out so quickly and to start over again. There’s not going to be another place out there to just walk in and turn on an ‘Open’ sign.”
To fight back, Gordon said the neighborhoods held strategy meetings and wrote “position papers,” which they sent to five or six corporate Advance executives.
“We have been flooding emails directly from residents of affected neighborhoods expressing opposition,” he said.
Gordon said they heard no response, and when he contacted developer Mark Renier of Trinity and Associates, Renier said he saw the papers but had no commentary or reaction either way.
“We’re going to the city of Atlanta to let the city contact the developer [Renier] to ask what he is going to do about several issues we are uncovering and concerned about,” Gordon said. “The end goal is [to] stop Advance Auto Parts from coming in to hold out for a better, more acceptable and agreeable business coming in to that location,” Gordon said.
Renier did not respond to emails seeking comment as of Friday.