North DeKalb Mall

Updates May 22, 2008. Photos of Mall options to accommodate CostCo and useful blog here. Historical Summary: In October 2004, the new owner of North DeKalb Mall, Charlie Hendon, contacted Charlie McGoff of the Medlock Flood Plain Coalition to request a meeting with neighborhood representatives to discuss his plan to extend the parking lot into the floodplain in order to accommodate a new Costco store. Over the course of the next several months, representatives from CHCA, MANA, MFPC, and others listened to Hendon, walked the area with him, and sought professional advice. Hendon and the neighborhood representatives organized a large public meeting in December 2004. Neighborhood consensus emerged that a Costco was welcome but not at the expense of risking negative impacts on the floodplain. Hendon eventually withdrew his proposal to the county and in January 2008 informed the neighborhood that he and Costco had agreed to situate the store within the existing footprint of the mall without extending into the floodplain. The following timeline is offered to reflect the process and effort required to accomplish the neighborhood's goals. October 04, 2004: The Medlock Flood Plain Coalition, including representatives from CHCA and MANA, met with N. Dekalb Mall developer Charles Herndon. His attorney, Kathy Zickert, suggested he meet with the coalition before he goes ahead with his plan to build a 6 acre parking lot at the south end of the mall, in the flood plain, near the nature preserve. He planned to bring in Costco (130,000 sq ft) as an anchor store to "upgrade" the mall, and they needed more parking spaces. He proposed to do that over the flood plain acreage he owns. Hendon was offering to use 6 acres for parking in return for which he would promise to use the rest of the floodplain acreage to mitigate drainage for the entire mall. At the meeting, everyone agreed they didn't want the floodplain compromised. The following tries to capture briefly what we all agreed to: 1. we are very supportive of "improving" the mall 2. we are generally not in favor of his building a parking deck in the floodplain 3. we are concerned about the deck's impact on S. Peachtree Creek (flooding, run-off) 4. we are concerned about lost green space, and buffer for the Shepherd Nature Preserve 5. we are concerned about increased traffic 6. we want to know what other options have been explored (ie. decking existing parking, different location of Costco within Mall property, etc.) 7. we wonder what other stores might be better than a Costco October 18, 2004: Hendon Properties reviewed their proposal to redevelop the North Dekalb Mall again with neighborhood representatives. In order to build in the floodplain, the developer will first need to get the land rezoned for commercial use. The neighbors were concerned about many things: 1. How this will affect the floodplain 2. How this will affect the nature preserve and wildlife habitat 3. How this will affect those living closest to the mall (lighting, noise, traffic, visibility, etc). Hendon claimed that their development will not impact the neighborhood or the Nature Preserve. They believed with proper screening and planting that the impact will be minimal to nothing. They also claimed that their development will actually reduce the amount of water and chemicals flowing from the mall into the floodplain. While neighborhood rep's supported the redevelopment of the mall, they were not in favor of any development in the floodplain. October 21, 2004: Meg Rose (MANA), Dan Magee (Laurel Ridge) and Nancy Ciliax (CHCA) met with County Commissioner Gale Walldorff. She assured them she would back the community groups and deny Hendon rezoning and variance requests to build into the floodplain. October 23, 2004: Hendon and neighbors tour the site of the proposed expansion. October 26, 2004: Application of Hendon Properties to amend the land use plan on property generally located on Land Lot 18-101 approximately 200.80 feet south of the right of way of Latham Road along the north side of the South Fork Peachtree Creek, west of North DeKalb Mall from LDR and POS to LIC and POS and from R-75 to C-1. The property has no frontage, and contains approximately 11.50 acres. October 29, 2004: Message sent to CHCA Listserv: CHCA and other nearby neighborhood associations were recently contacted by Hendon Properties (a Dekalb County based developer of shopping centers in many states across the US and the owner of N. Dekalb Mall since 2003), to review the planned expansion and redevelopment of the mall. Charles Hendon presented his plan on Monday (10/18) to a group of 20 neighborhood representatives. Mr. Hendon is proposing to add a Costco to the mall with later plans to add Circuit City, Staples and/or a major bookstore to the mall. His plan would also include renovating and updating the existing mall. In order to satisfy Costco's parking requirements, he has filed to rezone 11.5 acres of the floodplain (behind the Saturn Dealership) from R-75(single family residential) to C-1(light commercial) to accommodate a cantilevered two story parking deck. In return for neighborhood support, Hendon promised to reduce storm water flow by correcting the existing drainage problems at the mall and to deed over the undeveloped acreage in the floodplain over to the neighborhood or county. Mr. Hendon has stated that their development will not negatively impact the adjacent neighborhoods or the Nature Preserve. He believes the surrounding road infrastructure is sufficient to bear the additional loads caused by adding Costco, and so has not had a traffic study performed. While most of the neighborhood representatives were excited to see plans for improvement of N. Dekalb Mall, the overall sentiment of the group was that of opposition to any development within the floodplain. We felt redevelopment of the mall as proposed would not be in the best interest of the surrounding neighborhoods. We were concerned about stormwater runoff, lighting, traffic, noise, visibility, property values, the nature preserve and setting a precedent for other floodplain rezoning attempts. Since the meeting last Monday, a cross-neighborhood task force has been formed with representatives from each of the affected neighborhoods. We are working under the name of the Medlock Floodplain Coalition, Inc. This group, still in existence, was formed many years ago to fight the expansion of the Saturn Dealership. The Saturn Dealership was built anyway, but the neighborhood did get the Nature Preserve in return. We have already scheduled a meeting with Commissioner Waldorff and are in the process of retaining an attorney and gathering experts to review Hendon's plans. Clairmont Heights has pledged $500 from our legal fund to assist, and MANA, NDHNA and others have pledged similar amounts. However, it is doubtful this will be sufficient for all of our attorney's fees. How can you help? 1) Attend Meetings - Hendon Properties has already taken the first step toward building in the floodplain, by filing an application to have the floodplain rezoned. They will be presenting their case at the following county meetings in the upcoming weeks. Your attendance makes a difference. It sends a message to the developer, Planning Commission members and members of the County Commission. Because speaking time is limited, we ask that you leave the allotted time to our attorney and designated neighborhood speakers. * Planning Commission- 7:00 pm. Thursday 11/4 at the Maloof Auditorium in Decatur * Board of Commissioners - 7:00 pm. Tuesday 11/23 at the Maloof Auditorium in Decatur 2) Sign a Petition - There will be a petition at the Oct. 30 CHCA Fall block party on Woodmoor 3) Write letters/make phone calls/send emails to our County Commissioners - Your letter/email/call should simply state that you are a resident of DeKalb, live near N.Dekalb Mall and that while you welcome redevelopment of the mall, you are wholeheartedly opposed to ANY development in the floodplain. Especially with the recent hurricane-related home floodings and the FEMA buyouts currently in progress, allowing any construction in a floodplain area would be a very counter-productive idea. You can add that while you are aware that Mr. Hendon is promising many improvements to the existing runoff situation at the mall, most if not all of those improvements will be required by federal law for all commercial property owners in the next couple of years anyway. 4) Get Involved - We need volunteers to help the cause. If you are interested in helping, please contact Theresa Same 5) Contribute money to the Medlock Floodplain Coalition Legal Fund - November 2, 2004: Neighborhood representatives emailed Hendon one day before the Community Council meeting to inform him that the neighborhoods were going to oppose his initial proposal to build the deck over 6 acres of floodplain. Hendon requested a "full-cycle" (60-day) deferral. That enables him to come back with another proposal. CostCo reps also attended but did not show any plans to the Council. Hendon told neighborhood reps afterwards he would ask for a deferral before the Planning Commission that Thursday and the Board of Commissioners on Thursday, 11/23, as well if they will continue to work with him (i.e., not reject all floodplain proposals a priori). At this informal meeting Hendon and CostCo shared their next proposal -- build only 3 acres into the floodplain, make what was the second level in the original proposal into the first level, and add a level onto that and onto the existing parking lot adjacent to the CostCo site, making a total of 619 spaces (down from 670). Neighborhood leaders said we have two options at this point: 1.) Tell Hendon we oppose all development in the floodplain. 2) Work with him to minimize the impact and maximize the conditions to be attached to the re-zoning requests. Most favored negotiations. About one-third voted to oppose all floodplain development. A majority suggested we organize two public meetings within the next few weeks; the first one, to educate neighbors on the issues, and the second, to invite Hendon and Costco for a Q&A. Hendon is technically asking for a re-zoning of the floodplain area from Residential to Commercial. We have the most leverage in this process. He still would have to seek a variance to build in the floodplain and within stream buffers but we would have virtually no say and no leverage in that process. In fact, the county's planning department has already indicated their approval for the original proposal, not recognizing the streams as perennial (thus state waters and thus protected by buffer ordinances) nor even that the area was floodplain. It is CostCo which is insisting on parking spaces adjacent to their building. Hendon owns 16 acres in the floodplain, of which the two residential lots on Latham Rd comprise 1.2 acres. The proposed floodplain deck would technically not be "cantilevered." It would be supported by 262 6x6-foot pylons, driven 50 feet deep. Hendon today emailed that the number of pylons might be reduced by half. Hendon's proposed concessions/conditions: * Make the whole deal contingent on CostCo's acceptance. If they refuse, Hendon starts over with us. * Expand detention pond and redirect stormwater flow to it resulting in 35% reduction in 1-year floodplain; 51% in 100 year floodplain. * Add oil and sediment separators. * Upgrade external appearance of buildings. * Donate remainder of the floodplain to the neighborhoods or county. * Pay for construction of PATH through the floodplain. * Move the gas station that CostCo wants further away from the neighborhood side to the area behind Pier 1 * Pay for us to do our own hydrology study * Screen/shield lights above and below * Let neighbhorhood review his landscaping plans * Make it all a legally binding contract * Maybe offer to buy out property owners on Latham Road but only to sell to new owners "who know what they're buying into," not to convert into townhouses, etc. Other conditions that attendees suggested: * Mosquito control of wet areas * Replace all large trees * Review civil engineering plans * Specify construction site and access restrictions. People were mostly concerned about soil disturbance around the streams and noise. * Have Hendon buy out Clyde Shepherd (Nature Preserve) * Make stormwater mitigation the deal-breaker * Have Hendon set up an endowment fund to pay for maintenance of donated land. November 5, 2004: Planning Commission Meeting. Victor Ellis did not show a site plan and spoke generally about the project, including the statement that Costco would be the catalyst for improvement of the mall and this was an initial step toward redevelopment, and communications with the neighborhood and asked for a full cycle deferral. He did mention that Hendon had presented a plan to us and after feedback had shown us a "first revision." Ellis mentioned that Costco had not yet agreed on the revised version and, therefore, Hendon had not files the revised site plan. In opposition, CHCA rep Jim Smith agreed with the full-cycle deferral and spelled out some of our concerns (floodplain, potentially permanent damage to the floodplain resulting from the construction itself, flooding, the nature preserve, lighting, traffic, etc). He emphasized that the planning department report (in which they recommended the development) did not mention anything about the project being in the floodplain or concern over the stream. Planning Commissioners Kathy Gannon and Don Broussard both cautioned the developer about any development in the floodplain. Broussard expressed concern that the staff report completely failed to mention a "100-year FEMA-regulated floodplain." He supports the idea of the mall thriving (which he thinks is already the case to some degree) and stated his belief that Costco SHOULD NOT BE AT THE LOCATION that is planned. Gannon wanted an environmental analysis and more work by the Planning Department. In other news, MFC has retained Susan Garrett as our legal council as of yesterday and we are hard at work organizing the town hall meeting scheduled for December 15, 2004 at Shamrock Middle School. ------------------------------ May 2005: Text of petition circulated to neighborhoods: We, the undersigned LOCAL residents, oppose the pending applications by Hendon Properties, Inc., to amend the land-use classification and zoning for the floodplain site between South Peachtree Creek and North DeKalb Mall. (LP-04-79/CZ-04-113). We believe that allowing the construction of a 3.86 acre parking deck in and over the South Peachtree Creek floodplain will be detrimental to the environment, our homes and the surrounding areas including the Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve (C.S.N.P.) on the opposite bank of South Peachtree Creek. Specifically, and after seeking the opinion of professionals, we believe that: * Additional downstream flooding will occur due to a reduction in vegetation and compaction of soils in the floodplain; * Significant light and noise pollution will negatively impact the C.S.N.P., an Atlanta Audubon wildlife sanctuary which received the Woolford Baker Greenspace Award from the Friends of Emory Forest for Greenspace Protection in 2004; * The stormwater detention plan of the developer is considered to be a relatively untested design and depends on being able to pump storm flow uphill. Loss of electricity or pump failure, common occurrences during storms, would likely have a major impact on the floodplain and downstream residences; * The difficulty of long-term maintenance of the proposed plant lighting under the parking deck make it very likely that vegetation will not grow there, having a severe impact on the ability of that part of the floodplain to slow down water flow and decrease downstream flooding; * Professional hydrologists and others practicing watershed protection have identified a stream within the footprint of the parking deck that should be classified as state waters. This violates both DeKalb and State of Georgia stream bank protection ordinances; * With major problems with flooding in various parts of the county severely impacting existing housing, it is dangerous for DeKalb County to set a precedent for building in a floodplain; We respectfully request that the Board of Commissioners deny the applications. July 19, 2005: Listserv Update: The application by Hendon Properties to rezone the floodplain to allow for a parking deck for Costco will be heard on the following dates - all starting at 6:30 pm: Wednesday, July 20 - Community Council @ Northlake-Barbara Loar Library, 3722 LaVista Rd, Tucker Tuesday, August 2, 2005 - Planning Commission @ Maloof Auditorium, 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur Tuesday, August 23, 2005 - DeKalb Board of Commissioners @ Maloof Auditorium, 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur The first two hearings are to establish recommendations that will ultimately go to the Board of Commissioners. We do not need a huge turnout for the July 20 hearing. However, your presence would be appreciated and is certainly welcome. We ARE looking for your attendance and support at the August 2 and August 23 hearings to s! how your opposition to the application for rezoning the floodplain land (not to Costco). THE COMMISSIONERS HAVE INDICATED THAT THESE WILL BE SUBSTANTIVE HEARINGS AND WILL NOT BE REQUESTS FOR DEFERRALS. Also, becasue of the multiple deferrals, we will be early on the agenda, so if you should plan to attend, you will not have to spend your entire evening in a meeting. Our area has a slate of speakers for the August hearings as the time is limited to only 9 minutes total. It is however very useful to have a large number of neighborhood folks in the audience. This is because when we ask "Everybody opposed to please stand" and half of the auditorium stands up, it always gets the attention of the policy-makers. July 28, 2005: Listserv Update: Yesterday, the attorney for the Medlock Floodplain Coalition received a fax from the attorney representing Charlie Hendon, the owner of North DeKalb Mall, stating that Hendon Properties was withdrawing their application to rezone the floodplain next to N. DeKalb Mall to allow for a parking deck for Costco. Mr. Hendon has previously stated that he was aware that there was no support for that plan on either the Planning Commission or the Board of Commissioners and that he expected a denial if he proceeded. Hendon has been working to assemble parcels along N. Druid Hills Road in order to design a site plan for Costco that is clear of the floodplain but still meets Costco's unbreakable requirement of 600+ parking spaces AT THEIR FRONT DOOR. At the Community Council meeting last week, Mr. Hendon stated that he would like to move the Burlington Coat Factory to another location, tear down that structure, rebuild it for a new tenant and put the Costco on top of that, with a parking deck stretching out to N. Druid Hills Road. Members of the CC applauded his pursuit of a site plan that left the floodplain alone and suggested that he also consider building a residential component (townhomes) along the N. Druid Hills Road frontage to increase his income and to soften the commercial look of that strip. He said that the local Costco representative liked the N. Druid Hills site and he has submitted a proposal (without a residential component) to Costco mgt. for review. August 18, 2005: "Developer still working on bringing Costco to North DeKalb" BY THERESA WOODGEARD (Community Review) North DeKalb Mall developer Charlie Hendon is considering moving Burlington Coat Factory to another location and building a parking lot for the retailer extending out to North Druid Hills Road. The owner of North DeKalb Mall, Charlie Hendon, has withdrawn an application to build a parking deck for Costco in a floodplain plain near the mall. “The tea leaves tell us we would not get a recommendation of approval from commissioners Kathie Gannon or Gale Walldorff,” Hendon said. The rezoning was necessary to add 600 parking spaces located directly in front of their store, an absolute requirement for Costco, according to Hendon. The application to build was withdrawn, Hendon said, because he was aware that the DeKalb County Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners would not support building in the floodplain. “We are looking for other ways to build,” Hendon said. An alternative plan would be to move Burlington Coat Factory to another location, tear that structure down, rebuild it for another tenant and put Costco on top of that, with a parking deck stretching out to North Druid Hills Road. Costco has indicated they would approve that location. Hendon said he is pursing that route but is not optimistic because he does not own that property along North Druid Hills and it would be very expensive to acquire from the various owners. “We would have to have higher density [a residential component] along with the development to offset the additional cost we’re going to have,” Hendon said. “ If we don’t find a location for Costco, it will shift momentum away from North DeKalb to another area and the mall will continue in its downward spiral and become a flea market.” “The percentage of vacancy in the mall right now is 25 percent with a potential to become a lot greater if we don’t have a major attraction,” Hendon said. According to Hendon, although the two-story parking deck would have been cantilevered over five acres of floodplain plain, detention plans included slowing down the rate of water and improving its quality. In response, District 2 Commissioner Gale Walldorff said, “That is a business decision he made. We can’t spend taxpayers' money on buying out homes in floodplains and turn around and approve building a parking deck on stilts in one.” Walldorff said she is willing to work with developers in redeveloping aging malls and strip centers to help them make a profit, but they had to think outside of the box. “Using an overlay district with more density is a possibility. This is a land use issue. Big boxes tend to say ‘it’s my way or the highway.’ Why can’t we have a two-story Costco?” According to Walldorff, the new Federal Emergency Management Agency maps indicate that in certain areas, floodplains have increased. “Some DeKalb homeowners that weren’t previously in a floodplain plain are having to buy flood insurance now.” Hendon said he understood that building on a floodplain plain would mean an exception, but that he had demonstrated he could slow the flow of water and improve its quality. “I’m bringing a full package to the table. Bringing Costco to the mall would bring in a $100 million in taxable sales,” said Hendon. “I think you ought to be able to set a precedent for that.” On August 2, the Planning Commission approved his request for withdrawal of building in the floodplain and Hendon said he expects the Board of Commissioners to do the same on August 23. The developer said he would continue looking at alternate ways to bring Costco in. --------------------- November 2, 2006: Charlie Hendon provided an update about the Costco plans at the N DeKalb Mall. He appeared to be very close to completing a plan to bring Costco into what seems to be the existing footprint of the mall. He will make use of the existing parking surface. He has no plans to build into the floodplain. Depending on the outcome of certain negotiations, he mayor may not need to build a parking deck. He has not said where that would be and it is his preference to avoid doing so. It is his belief that he will only need building permits to implement his plan. ----------------------- March 17, 2007: "Costco for North DeKalb Mall Not Yet Dead" by Mary Swint for North side of North DeKalb Mall facing North Druid Hills Road.Hendon Properties continues to work on bringing Costco to North DeKalb Mall. "There are a number of hurdles to go through," Steve Spiegel, the company's director of leasing, said. As part of the planning process, Herndon had the entire mall surveyed to locate utility lines. The Costco discount store will be largely on the footprint of the mall and parking lot, Spiegel said, adding that it will not be built in the floodplain. Costco stores contain 150,000 square feet. The mall, which has 640,000 square feet, is close to 90 percent occupied, he said. "We're talking to several businesses about opening at the mall," Spiegel said. "We can't name them now." He did not discuss details of current plans for the Costco store. Hendon has been working on this project for almost three years. The planned construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter at the old Avondale Mall location has not added any pressure, Spiegel said. In the summer of 2005 the mall's owner Charlie Hendon tried to get some floodplain property next to the mall rezoned in order to build a parking deck for the Costco store on part of the property. He withdrew that application after it met with opposition from neighborhood groups, who were concerned about flooding and the impact on the nearby Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve. At that time, Hendon indicated he was considering adding some property on North Druid Hills Road to accommodate the parking deck. "We have not taken a position against Costco coming to the mall but we want it to be consistent with the needs of the neighborhood regarding traffic, proper lighting, respect for neighboring properties and consistent with environmental sensitivities," Gail Richman, co-president of the North Druid Valley Home Association, said. "We anticipate having good relations with Hendon Properties." North DeKalb Mall, which opened in 1965, is located at the corner of North Druid Hills Road and Lawrenceville Highway. Costco is a national chain of warehouse stores, which charges customers an annual membership fee. It is considered to have lower employee turnover than most retailers. ---------------------- January 8, 2008: Charlie Hendon reported he had reached an agreement with Costco to add them to the mall. The contract is contingent upon getting building permits, etc. The plan would place Costco in the center of the existing mall between Burlington and the Theater. This plan will not require any decking or expansion of the paved area of the mall. Under this plan they would likely add stand alone businesses along the edge of the parking lot near Macy's (where the carnival is often located). The Costco would include a gas station which would be placed on the additional property that Hendon owns behind the Pier One (perviously Toco Labs). If all goes as planned they hope to start construction as early as this fall. Once the site plan has been finalized, Hendon has agreed to meet with the community to go over the plan. This is not required since neighborhood support will not affect the permitting process. Make sure to look for an article about the development in the upcoming issue of the Atlanta Business Chronicle. On another note, Hendon Enterprises has not ruled out the possibility of changing the mall out a "lifestyle center" with an open air mall, mixed use and a road going through the area. According the Hendon, this area is already designated as a "town center" so this type of development is possible in the area without any zoning changes. They are currently studying the feasibility of this option. February 15, 2008: Charlie Hendon reported that all the plans are moving forward to bring Costco to the Mall. They are working with all the tenants they have to relocate and producing the plans for permitting. He said it is basically "full steam ahead." They seem to be proceeding with the plan to place Costco in the center of the mall with no need to increase parking or touch the flood plain.