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Chamblee’s Downtown Renaissance Plan Adds Energy to the City
July 4, 2016

In the summer of 2015, the city of Chamblee was invited to participate in the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership, a partnership of GMA, the Georgia Cities Foundation and the Uni­versity of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the College of Envi­ronment and Design. City staff and the Chamblee Downtown Development Au­thority (DDA) worked with senior UGA landscape architecture student Juan da Silva to create design options for Cham­blee’s historic commercial business dis­trict Peachtree Road.  

Peachtree Road was the primary commercial corridor in Chamblee be­fore the construction of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, which is now called Peachtree Boulevard. The Norfolk Southern and MARTA rail lines domi­nate one side of Peachtree Road, but the other side contains a mix of historic storefronts from the early 20th Century, warehouses redeveloped into loft of­fice spaces, and new condominium and residential developments. With adjacent areas seeing renewed interest amid the new construction of several mixed-use developments and a Whole Foods shop­ping center, Peachtree Road required a unique aesthetic that signifies entry to the historic downtown corridor. Silva’s task was to determine how to highlight the corridor’s character, knit together a community divided by railroad tracks, and create a more attractive shopping and dining district.  

The final plan included several gate­way mural opportunities along the cor­ridor: one on a MARTA-owned retaining wall and one each at two railroad under­passes. Adding vibrant art to these cur­rently drab spaces is an opportunity to highlight cultural and historic themes in the community while creating mem­orable landmarks. Coupled with new ways of finding signage at key intersec­tions, the plan includes both visually interesting and use­ful elements.  

Chamblee’s Downtown Renaissance Plan also includ­ed enhanced streetscape de­signs for certain segments of Peachtree Road. Silva identi­fied problem areas where wide areas of asphalt contributed to higher auto­mobile speeds than the posted limits, which contributed to an unpleasant pe­destrian experience. While there is an existing project to improve the right-of-way along the railroad, Silva used those plans to design sidewalk and parking configurations on the building side. The plans also involved several off-street parking lot designs that could boost the appeal of existing commercial spaces and make retail more viable. Infill build­ing designs were added to currently vacant lots to complete the urban scale and create a more interesting pedestri­an environment.  

Silva presented the Chamblee Down­town Renaissance Plan at a meeting of the mayor and city council, along with assembled staff and the public. After very positive reaction to the presenta­tion, Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson and the city council allocated $100,000 to see that elements of the plan are real­ized. Under the direction of the Cham­blee DDA, city staff is working to deter­mine the feasibility and priority of the identified improvements. The gateway mural designs were deemed a key first project and staff is finalizing the frame­work of a public art program where cit­izens and downtown stakeholders will get a chance to participate in the mural design.

 
 
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