DUNWOODY, Ga. — Dunwoody residents will hear more about Edge City 2.0 this summer as the project moves into a new phase to invigorate the Perimeter Center over the next 20 years.
In May, the city’s consultant, Pond and Company, released an updated market analysis showing how the Edge City 2.0 node compares favorably to competitive markets like Buckhead, Alpharetta and Peachtree Corners in terms of basic demographics, daytime employment and rental rates.
The node has the third highest average household income behind Buckhead and the Alpharetta North Point Activity Center. It also has the largest daytime employment by a wide margin, followed by the Cumberland Community Improvement District and Buckhead. It has average rental rates that trail Buckhead and the Alpharetta Downtown Livable Centers Initiative area/Avalon nodes, according to Pond and Company.
But, Michael Starling, director of Dunwoody Economic Development, says the goal moving forward is to collect community input to develop Dunwoody’s own blend of community. Unlike the other cities, Dunwoody relishes its MARTA and interstate connectivity, a large base of existing employment, and hotel and shopping, all in a concentrated area.
“Maybe it’s not one or the other,” Starling said. “Maybe it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We’re looking at creating our own unique place so to speak. … The vision for this is to create a community-driven and market-feasible vision for the Perimeter area.”
Comparing apples to apples
Starling said Pond and Company’s research began at the start of the year to find out the market demand for office, hotel, retail and residential.
It found that 6.2 million square feet of office space was constructed prior to 2000 and that the average lease rates are higher than both the submarket and metro average. Vacancy rates topped 23 percent, which is significantly higher than the 10-year average of 17.5 percent.
Additionally, there are nine existing hotels in the node that total 2,100 rooms, with four new hotels having opened between 2016 and 2021. There is also approximately 3.4 million square feet of existing retail inventory, with 1.56 million square feet, or nearly half, lying within Perimeter Mall.
The research found, there are approximately 5,300 multifamily units in the study area, which saw 30 percent rent growth throughout 2021. Vacancy has averaged 5 percent to 6 percent over the past decade.
Starling said the next step is for Pond and Company will be to develop three different growth scenarios ranging from low to high. However, the consultant already has “five big ideas” intended to elevate the quality of life in Dunwoody, facilitate sustainable development and continue economic growth.
The plan is for Edge City. 2.0 to “bend the curve” and establish a community heart with lots of things to do and see for local residents. It also calls for introducing new formats of residential to provide something for all including townhouses, rowhomes, stacked flats, seniors living and mixed-use apartments. The idea is that this will create a livable community, foster community interaction and generate neighborhood pride.
Another idea is to foster an environment that offers different formats of employment where people can live, work and come together. The competitive analysis also seems to show that Dunwoody has a prime opportunity to shape its future compared to other nodes in North Atlanta.
Lastly, with Perimeter Mall being the largest property in the study area, it is expected to have the largest impact through phased infill and redevelopment. Pond and Company says it has the potential to become the “heart” for the community when integrated with High Street, which would connect various uses to MARTA.
Connections and greenspace
Through community involvement this summer, Starling said the city hopes to learn more about what kinds of amenities residents are looking for, but also the level of development and investment they’re comfortable with. He said while it’s possible there’ll be less demand for office space post-pandemic, the city is looking at ways to better connect those office buildings that are farther away from MARTA, so they compete with those that are nearby.
“Certainly, long-term office development is probably not going to be as strong as what we’ve seen in the past, so we need to understand that and be aware that we can’t rely on more office development in the future. We may have to look at some other sectors like hotels or retail or residential.”
One amenity that seems to be non-negotiable is adding greenspace such as multi-use trails similar to the Beltline and Path 400.
“We’re hearing very clearly from the community that they not only want to see those, but they want to see more,” Starling said. “That also goes hand-in-hand with what we’re hearing as far as the types of retail they want to see. They want more dining and entertainment that is focused outdoors. I think lining up those types of amenities will be core to whatever scenario we select.”
Starling said he wants the community to understand there’s going to be more opportunity for outreach and public meetings, and probably late summer, more information will be shared about the different scenarios, so they can have their voices heard and input taken.