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Group proposes Buford Highway retail, gateways
by LaTria Garnigan
June 03, 2014 09:33 AM | 3323 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city of Brookhaven’s Buford Highway Steering Committee met again last week, this time focused on an economic development strategy for the Buford Highway corridor.

As a subset of the overall comprehensive plan for the city, the Buford Highway component is in Phase II — focusing on issues and opportunities within the corridor.

Isaac Kwon, with Urban Partners, gave a presentation on the retail, housing and office market potential for the area. Kwon said with roughly 27,000 residents, the study area has grown five percent since 2010. In terms of diversity, the study area had 9,781 Hispanic/Latino residents in 2000 and 13,610 in 2010. Incomes range from $30,000 to $90,000.

On the retail side there is a total of 121 businesses occupying about 671,000 square feet of space. The demographic is made up primarily of supermarkets, full-service restaurants, apparel stores, home furnishings and improvement stores and specialty goods stores. Kwon said the retail market sees $152.5 million in annual sales, with consumers spending about $267 million on goods.

“Based on data and field observation, in the study area we have a gap in supply of 43 percent,” he said. “So of that $267 million, only 57 percent is being spent within the study area. People are going somewhere else to purchase goods.”

With that gap, there is a potential to keep those customers in the study area with development and an expansion of community-serving stores, said Kwon. Examples would be pharmacies, a hardware store, florist, sporting goods, nurseries and garden centers and internationally-themed dining and gifts stores.

Kwon also touched on the potential with the rental and sales housing markets. On the rental side, redevelopment would be a viable option, with the upgrading of older properties — however, comments were made to make sure not to displace and out-price residents already living in the 33 apartment complexes along the corridor. On the sales side, there is a potential for new luxury construction, with prices that can range from the $200,000s to $500,000s.

When speaking on office space, City Manager Marie L. Garrett asked about the potential for mixed-use development to help with space.

Jim Hartling, with Urban Partners, said office use nationally is fairly stagnant with many employees now working from home and telecommuting several days a week.

“The amenities of a mixed-use scenario can improve the likelihood of an office succeeding,” he said. “Again someone will have to respond to be able to afford the build so it will probably need a single user to trigger development.”

Landscaping was also discussed at the meeting, as a way to aesthetically improve the look of the corridor, including the major gateways into the city. A few upgrades that involve landscaping could include bike facilities, parking and bus shelters.

“Parallel to all studies we are working with another firm regarding standardizing the gateway features and signage and what Brookhaven parks and character areas are,” said Garrett. “We’re looking at points of demarcation, so when you cross the invisible line you know you’re in Brookhaven.”

At the end of the meeting, Garrett said the city would need to look at incentives to get developers to migrate to the area.

A public meeting including the Buford Highway plan and the Parks and Recreation master plan will be June 12, 7 to 8 p.m. at Oglethorpe University’s Lupton Hall.

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