Chamblee’s Downtown Renaissance Plan Adds Energy to the City

April 11, 2016

One of the gateway murals on a MARTA-owned retaining wall.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of Georgia's Cities.

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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