Virginia-Highland Developer 'Absolutely' Willing to Talk, Compromise on Mixed-Use Project

Residents and neighbors have questions about a proposed mixed-use development in Virginia-Highland, and it seems both the neighborhood association and developer are willing to come to the table to talk.

It’s been years since the Virginia-Highland community and the developer of the empty lot at 841 N. Highland Avenue sat down and talked — without lawyers — about plans to build a four-story mixed-use development on the property.

But it seems both Doug Landau, the developer of the property, and Virginia-Highland Civic Association leaders are willing to come to the table.

"I’m very willing to talk," Landau told Patch. "Absolutely…. there is a lot of compromise (possible)."

Landau announced in 2006 a plan to build a mixed-use development on the property, but a decline in the real estate market put the project on hold.

Plans involved a four-story building that included retail and residential space, an outdoor food court and a parking deck with nearly 300 parking spaces.

The project went through several transformations after major pushback from the community that included parking concerns and the height of the building, among many other issues.

Landau told Patch he is willing to reduce the height of the building if the planning unit grants him a special permit that would allow him to provide less parking spaces than the city code requires.

The property would need one parking space for every 100 square-feet of floor area to comply with city code.

But if the planning unit allowed him to build fewer spaces, he would nix plans for the parking garage and simply build a two-story building with retail and restaurant space.

The top two floors of the building are proposed condos, which Landau said he needs to build to cover the cost of the parking deck.

Jack White, president of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association, said he is willing to talk with Landau about the project.

"We regularly have folks come to us with new ideas, and we're always willing to discuss how various proposals can be adapted in innovative ways that are consistent with the interests of local neighbors and the community at large," White said.

"The first thing you look at is the uses and density of the proposed other floors. That’s the key piece."

White said other factors to consider include the size of the development and the impact on the community.

Today, the lot is used to ease parking issues in the retail district of the neighborhood and is the go-to spot for the weekly food truck event on Wednesdays.

It’s unclear if Landau has plans to break ground on the project in the near future, but he’s kept his permits alive and could move forward at any given time.

Would you like to see Landau move forward with his project? Would you prefer the property remain as is? Share your opinion in the comments.

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Abby Martin June 06, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Appropriate balances need to be set in place before any business is added to the intown menu. If they are in place, then all of us who live/work/play intown will have the best of all worlds. If the balance is skewed in one direction, then someone will bear those consequences. So, it is great that these discussions are being held now. I live near Loca Luna on the northern/eastern boundary of VH on the residential side. During Loca Luna's special events (almost every weekend and more during the warmer seasons), their traffic overflow (so volumnous that it can't fit in the 370+ spaces at Amsterdam Walk) filters into the residential neighborhood, blocking driveways, creating loud, noisy, drunken afterhours pedestrian traffic (on their way back to their cars) and blocking fire and safety vehicles from doing their work. The traffic gridlocks the intersection of Monroe & Amsterdam and holds the residents on the lower part of Amsterdam & Courtenay hostages in our homes. VHCA, on behalf of the residents, please take the parking issue seriously - particularly in light of the earlier post about the density along the Beltline and the time it will take to complete that project. Cars coming to VH need a place to park!! Once variances are granted and the business is in place, then the residents and established businesses will have to live with this. Please make sure that you learn from the Loca Luna situation.
MG June 06, 2012 at 08:01 PM
It would be unfortunate to lose the housing in the project. There is definitely a demand in the neighborhood for newer housing, especially with younger couples. This is an intown area, five minutes from downtown, DENSITY is not bad and should be allowed. Yes, the Beltline transit is far away, but we do have buses and the city is significantly expanding their bike paths. You live in a neighborhood that thrives because it provides walking and biking, let's not discourage this or change and growth. There are very unique development options for buildings that can provide great products and enhance the neighborhood, let's see what the options are before immediately turning to fear.
Seth Benator June 06, 2012 at 11:37 PM
I remember doing a student design project on that site during my days at GaTech in the 80's and 25 years later it's still an under developed eyesore. We Atlantans need to stop being satisfied with acres and acres of undeveloped asphalt within our nicest neighborhoods. There IS a right size and mix for that site, and it's up to the developer and community to find and implement that balance.
pmkatl June 07, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Couldn't agree more. Obviously this project needs to be developed in scale with the neighborhood, but to not embrace the possibility of having this eyesore developed is beyond me. I live in the neighborhood and would absolutely love to see a new, well-designed building in that space. Hopefully the retail will be comprised of something other than burger joints and women's clothing boutiques...
T June 08, 2012 at 06:12 PM
It's an eyesore because the landowner is refusing to keep it in decent condition. Le'ts not reward them for it. The owner leaves broken bottles, plastic construction runoff barriers, broken concrete, weeds along the sidewalk, and other trash and invests $0 in landscape. It's unacceptable. Go look at the surface parking lot at N.Highland @Amsterdam. No one is calling that an eyesore, because that property owner is being responsible. Yes, something of size will likely be build by Landau (needs to be less dense than proposed last time, with a look that fits a historic neighorhood). However, the current condition should not be a feather in the developer's cap that leads us to accept something we wouldn't otherwise.


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