Cousins, Gables Start Construction on $250 Million Emory Point

ATLANTA
(July 19, 2011) – Cousins Properties and Gables Residential have started construction on the $250 million Emory Point mixed-used development on Clifton Road. The development will be the first new retail project built in the trade area in 20 years; the largest private development start inside the Perimeter in more than three years; and the first partnership between Cousins and Gables – two Atlanta-based development companies.
“We’re very excited about Emory Point and are glad to see a development of this magnitude move forward,” said Larry Gellerstedt, Cousins President and CEO.  “This project represents an incredible infill opportunity in a supply constrained
submarket with high demand.  We’re fortunate to have an exceptional partner in Gables and are grateful for our strong relationship with Emory University, which trusted us with leading this opportunity.”
Located in the Clifton Corridor, adjacent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in close proximity to Emory University and Emory Healthcare, Emory Point is a vertically integrated mixed-use development; Phase I will include more than 80,000 square feet of retail space and 443 luxury apartments.
Under the DeKalb County zoning plan for Emory Point, 25 acres of densely wooded land behind the development, approximately half of the site, will be protected as undevelopable under Emory’s land classification plan.  Prior to the rezoning, those woodlands were not protected. The development site is also registered for EarthCraft Communities certification, while the apartment component is registered for EarthCraft Multifamily certification. In addition, retail portions of the development have been designed to meet EarthCraft standards.
“Emory Point sets the new standard for the Emory community because it blends pedestrian-friendly retail with luxury apartment living, all while being an environmentally conscious development,” said David Fitch, Gables Residential President and CEO. “There is tremendous pent-up housing demand in this neighborhood, making Emory Point a bright spot in an otherwise challenging market.”
The $100+ million Phase I of the project began construction early this month and is expected to be complete by fall 2012. The second and third phases of the project will be developed according to market demand in an area. Emory University, which includes Emory Healthcare, is the largest employer in DeKalb County and the third largest employer in metro Atlanta.
“The proximity of Emory Point to our campus will enhance the social and intellectual vibrancy at Emory by providing housing, dining and retail venues for faculty, staff and students,” said Mike Mandl, Executive Vice President for Finance and
Administration, Emory University. “This type of mixed-use development was envisioned during the creation of the Clifton Community Partnership five years ago, and it is gratifying to see it coming to fruition.”
http://www.emory-point.com/

Northlake CID May Be Too Small to Energize

Tom Doolittle
“Northlake Station” blog editor, 8-year local writer, tennis coach
 
I’m not promoting a Northlake CID explicitly. Questions abound, but if we should have one, one aspect is worth discussing here: What size does it need to be to work – from recruitment to payoff.
The subject of a possible community improvement district (CID) came up at last week’s Northlake Overlay meeting (reported by Patch’s Ben Schnider, June 8). It has been assumed from the get-go that a CID if formed would be centered on Northlake Mall and would have essentially the same boundaries as the Overlay District. We appear hell-bent on affirming that the “Northlake” name must only be associated with the small area that converges on Lavista Road near the mall and I-285. That’s not a community, it’s a choke point.
A CID is an organization of commercial/institutional property owners that taxes each member to get things done collectively. No room for detail here, but if you’ve been to the area around Perimeter Mall, that’s a CID. The CID paid for the sidewalks, streetscape and lamps but also paid for feasibility studies, planning and reporting that keeps more work in the pipeline. You can multiply the amount of streetscape in Northlake by 20 and that’s just a start of what about 350 owners of high-end property can pay for. The Perimeter CID is up to about $5 million in collections per year, and it claims that every dollar can get matched 25:1 by local, state and federal government. The proof can be seen in the $50 million “fly-over” bridge that was just built over I-285. Do you see the painted highway guard rails near the manicured highway interchange at Ashford-Dunwoody? CID-paid. Need a powerful lobbyist for your area? A CID does that.
Perimeter CID is actually run as two CIDs – one DeKalb, one Fulton. However, their data is kept jointly. The district is about 40 percent larger than the Northlake Overlay (projected Northlake CID area). However, their property is worth at least 10 times that of the Northlake business area. My back-of-the-napkin calculations three years ago showed our overlay zone would generate about $750,000 a year contrasted with the Perimeter CID’s $4 million plus at the time.
Northlake’s lesser $0.75 million should beg reevaluation of our assumed CID area. The amount is enough to clean and secure the place and pay for some studies but a long way from what is needed to get help for roads and bridges. As envisioned, it’s not wrong; it can be the basis of a larger conversation. If you can call it Phase 1 of a more “complete” CID, the whole conversation changes. Of course, there are also many pros and cons to CIDs in general, so all stakeholders, businesses, residents and other partners could raise questions about CIDs in such a conversation too.
The Northlake Community Alliance website (www.nlake.org) says they are working with the fellow who started three CIDs in Gwinnett: Emory Morsberger. However, Morsberger told me he’s been dissuaded by a lack of interest from some major players, most notably Simon Properties. Simon has ignored the CID idea here since at least 2004 when the mall manager at the time peppered them with requests. That hurt because Simon did get involved in Buckhead’s and Town Center’s CIDs.
A developer and visionary, Morsberger is also the guy behind the Brain Train commuter rail plan (http://www.georgiabraintrain.com/) that would come through Northlake and Tucker (more on that another time). Morsberger understands how to shape and size CIDs. He formed them each on different concepts: one, a corridor along US-78; the next, Gwinnett Village (GVCID), which has business centers over a 15 square mile area; and lastly Gwinnett Place, a mall center like the Perimeter CID. In each case, he found a few leaders that paid for a full campaign to recruit the requisite members (51 percent of inventoried property owners). One, Vulcan Materials, a large quarry operation started GVCID. All of these have something which has power that can be overlooked in its influence – a specific jurisdiction that defines the community it serves.
See the GVCID map at: http://www.gwinnettvillage.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=248&Itemid=92
In my view, a CID of this type–or partially of this type–could be the answer to Northlake’s limited revenue base and lack of institutional leadership.
A Northlake CID could include both sides of the railway where only the mall side is included in the overlay – important because of the value of rail for growth. It could extend further south on Northlake Parkway and Montreal Road to Lawrenceville Highway and include the entire medical center and whatever revitalization will be stimulated by the expanded I-285 interchange. (Coincidentally, Georgia Power’s DeKalb economic development office is or was located in the industrial park across the tracks from the overlay boundary.)  The CID could potentially move toward Shallowford Road and merge with the proposed I-85 CID coming up from North Druid Hills Road, Clairmont and Buford Highway.
Conversely, Northlake’s business center(s) could be added (piggy-backed) to other envisioned CIDs, given the lack of commercial property interest in the overlay district. Above all, looking at CID boundaries afresh can surface new corporate and institutional leadership. New enthusiasm from a different business community may pay for property inventories and tax digest studies under the rubric of throwing out old assumptions.
One thing is for sure: By expanding the base, you’ll have to rely less on Simon Properties’ Northlake Mall for leadership. I think all forms of our local stakeholders would find progress faster if we didn’t focus so much attention on the mall and its owners.
Looks like we need another overlay meeting, DeKalb.

DeKalb County Schools seeks 1-penny tax increase

Atlanta Business Chronicle  – by Carla Caldwell, Morning Call Editor                       
Date: Friday, June 17, 2011, 6:06am EDT
The DeKalb County (Ga.) School Board will ask voters in that county to approve a five-year penny sales tax to cover a $475 million list of schools’ improvements and building, according to the Dunwoody Reporter. Voters go to the polls in November.
Projects the district hopes to tackle include replacing up to seven schools, the newspaper reported.
If approved, the new SPLOST would run from 2012 until 2017. Shoppers would pay the increase in Decatur, portions of DeKalb that fall within Atlanta, and throughout DeKalb County.
The school board approved a draft plan in May to keep the county’s school millage the same: $22.98 dollars on every $1,000 of value on DeKalb residences. The board is required to adopt a millage by July, the newspaper reported.

DeKalb’s transportation wish lists cut to 33 projects

The list has been narrowed and DeKalb County won’t be getting $91 million to resurface its streets. And there won’t be $41 million for a proposed Sidewalk Transit Connectivity Program.
In all, 28 projects were deleted from the wish lists of county and city officials in DeKalb County.
But there’s still a chance for $76.6 million in road improvements— sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic signal upgrades and resurfacing—for Covington Highway from I-285 East to Turner Hill Road.
The Covington Highway improvement survived a cut by the state Department of Transportation. If it survives the final vote by the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable in October, the project will be on a list that will go to voters next year.
The regional roundtable consists of a city and county representative for 10 counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale. Representing DeKalb County are CEO Burrell Ellis and Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is also a member of the group.
Last year, Georgia’s legislature enacted the Transportation Investment Act (HB 277), which provides for regional referendums in 2012. As a result of this referendum, voters in the Atlanta metropolitan area will be able to vote on a penny sales tax to fund various transportation projects, including transit, roadway, safety, bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
The sales tax is expected to generate approximately $8 billion in revenue.
Commissioner Jeff Rader, a member of the Joint Fulton-DeKalb Transportation Committee, said the current list is still three times too long and will be reduced significantly.
Convincing voters in Fulton and DeKalb counties, which already have a penny sales tax that supports MARTA, will be a tough sell. Rader said he believes that if Fulton and DeKalb do not vote in favor of the referendum, it will not pass.
“We’ll be paying two cents for transportation,” Rader said. “There’s been nothing done to address that inequity.”
In addition to the possible transportation tax, DeKalb voters are facing tax increases by DeKalb County and the school district.
“There are other competing demands for the taxpayers’ money,” Rader said.
So far there are 33 projects on the unconstrained list for DeKalb County and its municipalities. Some of the projects include:
• Panola Road from Snapfinger Road to Covington Highway—widening and corridor improvements, $70.4 million.
• North Druid Hills Road connector from Buford Highway to Lawrenceville Highway—corridor improvements, $57.9 million.
• Buford Hwy/Peachtree Industrial Boulevard connector—new alignment, $48.5 million.
• Bouldercrest Road from I-285 South to Linecrest Road—widening, $34.1 million.
• Mt. Vernon Road from Fulton County line to Dunwoody Club Drive—corridor improvements, $20 million.
• Mountain View Road from Memorial Drive to Sheppard Road—sidewalks, $1.3 million.