Plenty of neighbors have raised eyebrows while driving (or strolling) along North Highland Avenue just south of Ponce de Leon Avenue.
Construction and remodeling to 664 N. Highland Ave. have been in full swing for many weeks, with lots of activity throughout this heavy heat wave.
The word on the street is that high-concept hot dogs and a bar (or even two bars), are in the works.
The name for the new establishment: HD1.
And Atlanta celebrity “Top Chef” Richard Blais is a partner.
A seedy market occupied the basic brick building on the property before it was sold in the mid 1990s to become the Right Brain Art Gallery. During the last decade, the building served as a San Francisco Coffee location.
Now, the property at the corner at Blue Ridge Avenue is “movin’ on up,” as the old TV theme song goes.
Up, literally, because a rooftop space is planned.
The property itself, according to a recent document filed with the city, is owned by Southern Buffalo LLC. HD1 also has key players (such as Blais) in common with Flip Burger Boutique, the group responsible for Flip Burger restaurants, with two locations in Atlanta and one in Birmingham.
The Poncey-Highland Neighborhood Association (PHNA), earlier this year gave its recommended support for a liquor license for HD1, and the Neighborhood Planning Unit-N followed suit.
More recently, owners asked for a second liquor license for a rooftop bar, as well as a “special exception for a reduction in parking.” These requests are pending.
The special parking exception — to reduce the on-site parking requirement from 32 to eight spaces — was on the agenda for the city’s July 7 Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) hearing.
At that hearing, the board deferred the issue to Oct. 13 to allow the applicant to apply for a special use permit for the rooftop space, which is an entirely different process from seeking a special parking exception. (The BZA confirmed that it is common practice to apply for a special use permit, such as one required for rooftop dining space, before pursuing such needs as parking exceptions).
In a June 18 interview with a reporter from Eater.com, Chef Blais indicated HD1 would be open within a “couple of weeks.”
Others connected to the property owners have said it will open “sometime this summer.” What is certain is that the folks behind HD1 are trying to keep details under wraps.
“We are happy to open HD1 this summer and hope to be a great addition to the Poncey-Highland neighborhood,” said Alyssa Jones of The Reynolds Group, which is handling public relations for HD1. “Our goal is to open organically and let the community experience our concept firsthand, so we wish to maintain an element of surprise.”
Jones was pressed to provide more details, but that is all she would say.
But in the June interview, Blais spilled the beans that HD stood for “Haute Doggery.” He mentioned the place would “have some fun with the American hot dog, sausage, and charcuterie.”
Blais also said there will be soft-serve ice cream, beer in a can, and a dark atmosphere that is “Goth, almost.”
Those seem to be the only tidbits to emerge thus far. Some Poncey-Highland neighbors have heard that HD1 will have capacity for about 140 patrons.
Neighbors concerned about noise, parking
Lenore Carroll, president of the PHNA, said HD1 is “the sort of very desirable business that we want to see here.”
But the neighborhood has concerns.
“While we think Flip Burger and HD represent the kind of vibrant, well-managed establishment we want to see in our neighborhood,” Carroll said. “Our main concerns have to do with noise from the rooftop terrace, parking, traffic and overall quality of life for the immediate neighbors.”
Chris Jenko, PHNA’s representative on the NPU-N, echoed Carroll.
“The Poncey-Highland Neighborhood Association is chiefly concerned about pedestrian safety, about noise and light from this new establishment affecting the immediate residences, and also about parking concerns,” Jenko said.
Jenko mentioned that a great many older dwellings in this specific Poncey-Highland pocket — both apartment buildings and houses — do not have off-street parking.
While the Druid Hills Baptist Church across North Highland has indicated it could lease parking to HD1, the PHNA wants to endorse a plan that makes sense.
Neighbors worry that if HD1 signage directs patrons to parking spots that are not in plain sight (such as a block away), they may be more inclined to grab spaces in front of residential units in closer proximity to what could be the next hot spot in town.
“They are coming in at a time when we haven’t really had serious parking issues,” Carroll said. “But it’s starting to swell. Some neighbors feel like this could be the tipping point. Without some real careful thought, it could become a problem. So we want to avoid problems. That’s our goal, to make sure we go about this carefully.”
Stay tuned in: Meetings of the Poncey-Highland Neighborhood Association are at 7pm on the third Wednesday of every month at the Druid Hills Baptist Church, corner of Ponce de Leon Avenue and North Highland Avenue. www.ponceyhighland.com