A makeover of a former restaurant and office building on Buckhead’s Piedmont Road is intended as the first stage of a long-term plan that includes townhomes and a hotel.
Plans for 3121 and 3125 Piedmont in Peachtree Park were presented by the development team at a Nov. 2 meeting of the Development Review Committee (DRC) of Special Public Interest District 9 (SPI-9), a zoning area aimed at design details and walkability.
The buildings, located at the intersection with Martina Drive, formerly housed the restaurant Divan, which moved following a fire a year ago, and a hair replacement business. The property is owned by the Jooma family, which also runs the nearby Icebox jewelry store.
The current plan would keep both buildings – the house that was home to the restaurant and the two-story commercial building – but add onto them and connect them with a “sky deck” with open-air seating. An existing surface parking lot fronting on Piedmont would be rearranged, and more added in the rear, for a total of 19 spaces. And 10 more spaces would be built underground beneath the commercial building.
Robb McKerrow, an architect and consultant on the project, told the DRC that’s just the first step of a long-term concept that has already been floated to City planners. Future concepts include placing the parking underground and building retail space and a roughly six-story “boutique” hotel on the corner, and five townhomes with roof decks atop the commercial structure.
For now, though, McKerrow said, the plan is to renovate the “derelict” buildings so they can be rented again. For the restaurant space, the fire-damaged kitchen would be torn down and replaced in a two-story addition that also includes a new upstairs dining room. The addition also would involve what McKerrow called a “dramatic” new lobby and stairway in a tower-like structure.
The commercial building would get an addition to expand its leaseable space and another tower-like exterior stairway. The exterior walls would be replaced and refinished. A small patio would be built in the rear for employee use.
McKerrow said the developers aim to change less than 40% of the existing site on the understanding that avoids having to “go full SPI-9” – meaning triggering the zoning’s special design requirements. However, DRC members and City planner Nathan Brown said that is not the only trigger and that, as Brown said, the developers should make some “good-faith efforts” toward its goals.
McKerrow responded by emphasizing the plans are preliminary and saying, “The idea is not to get out of the SPI requirements…. [W]e’re not trying to get away with anything.”
DRC members had concerns with the major streetfront remaining a parking lot that pedestrians would have to walk through to access either building. Another concern was using an existing curb cut on Martina, currently giving access to a dumpster, as the driveway for the underground parking.
DRC member Sally Silver called the pedestrian access “totally underwhelming.” Responded McKerrow, “We will work to make that more ‘whelming.’”
DRC member Bob Stasiowski, who lives nearby on Martina, advised the team to meet with the Peachtree Park Civic Association, Neighborhood Planning Unit B and other local neighborhood groups.
He also mentioned noise and other complaints with previous restaurants and urged good management. Co-owner Rafi Jooma said he had purchased the adjacent house at 565 Martina to avoid such issues but that finding a good restaurant tenant and having good security are priorities.
Jooma asked the DRC for its opinion on the pros and cons of placing a bench at a MARTA bus stop on Piedmont on the edge of the site, which currently lacks any amenities for riders. That meant concern about homeless people sleeping on furniture. DRC chair Denise Starling called it a “tricky conversation” and Stasiowski advised that there’s “no good answer.”
Not discussed – and not technically within the DRC’s purview – is the possible historic value of the existing buildings. According to Fulton County property records, the restaurant building dates to 1960 and the commercial building to 1965 – both beyond the 50-year rule of thumb for historical considerations. However, they appear to lack any official historic status and are not included in the local Peachtree Highlands-Peachtree Park Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.