If you have been in Atlanta for a while, the mention of Chamblee may very well not do much for you. But it will soon.
The city, which sits just inside the Perimeter in the southwestern corner of its intersection with I-85, is seeing more than $360 million-worth of private-investment projects underway. Following those projects are the city’s efforts to build a new Town Center and a Rail Trail, which, like Alpharetta’s newly proposed Alpha Loop, would be a bike trail weaving through all of this.
I find Chamblee interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that its origins have a direct connection to my home town of Roswell. The city started as a railroad junction with one of the rail lines connecting the area to Roswell, and, according to the city’s website, it was first called Roswell Junction. The city eventually took on the name Chamblee.
The city saw a small boon when Camp Gordon opened during World War I, and then again when it re-opened as a Navy flight training center during World War II. After the war, the city really got going with residential and retail construction that housed and serviced workers at the newly built GM Plant. Frito-Lay, Kodak and General Electric built plants along Peachtree Industrial, and the area took on the industrial look that is being transformed today.
More recently, the area has received national acclaim for the restaurants sitting along a stretch of Buford Highway that runs from Chamblee about seven miles north past I-285. A writer for Bon Appetit called this area a “United Nations of restaurants,” teaming with authentic Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and Mexican food. Even the king of restaurant cool, Anthony Bourdain, made a stop there in an episode he filmed in Atlanta. This has given the area a big bank of cool points and serious street-cred.
Another asset is the redevelopment of the nearby GM Plant. The $2 billion project will include more than 10 million square feet of office towers, apartments, stores and restaurants. Many of Chamblee’s very affordable homes will likely house people working at, or wanting to be near, this massive new development.
I met a new friend at a BBQ restaurant in Chamblee a couple of weeks ago and was impressed to see a slurry of fresh, new developments. If you talk to city leaders, it appears they are not trying to be something like Buckhead, or even Brookhaven, directly to the south. According to a great article on Chamblee in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, they are happy to play off of their ‘gritty’ industrial past and are creating a “different and more eclectic vibe…extremely diverse” with a “small-town feel,” according to one developer quoted in that article.
Several new projects are underway around the Chamblee MARTA station, including a development called Peachtree Station, which is an 11-acre development that will include the Whole Foods Market and several restaurants including Taqueria del Sol, YEAH! Burger, Starbucks and Chipotle. The development is already 100 percent leased.
Another is called Parkview on Peachtree which is scheduled to open this year with 40,000 square feet of street-front boutique shops, cafes and restaurants, and 14,000 square feet of loft office space and 503 multi-family units. The four-story development is across the street from the MARTA station and sits along the proposed Rail Trail.
With all this new development in the works, the city’s development authority spent $5.5 million to buy about five acres along Peachtree Road creating its own town center. They are looking to develop a town green surrounded by mixed-use development and a parking deck. Requests for proposals have already gone out.
Chamblee is becoming a very cool and affordable ITP city that is a short drive, or quick MARTA ride, to downtown Atlanta.