Last Tuesday, DeKalb County held a community meeting to disseminate information and address concerns regarding the proposed redevelopment of Toco Hill Shopping Center and the Williamsburg Apartments area. For those of you familiar with the area, this begins at the intersection of North Druid Hills Road and LaVista Road to the northwest and runs down North Druid Hills to Clairmont and then encompasses the apartments to the southeast of that intersection. Looking at a map, it creates a butterfly shape, as they pointed out at the meeting.


The idea is intriguing. In a high-traffic, very un-pedestrian, and somewhat unattractive area, the idea of a town center that encompasses the opposite values would seem to come as a breath of fresh air (literally). However, I live in the area and this proposal raises more than a few questions in my mind (this is Jenny “speaking,” team marketing manager). Perhaps someone can shed some light on some of these questions for me? Or perhaps join me in asking them?


> Is DeKalb County proposing that Toco Hilll Shopping Center be completely flattened and we start over?

It’s certainly not the most attractive strip center, but it is highly used and, more importantly, already existing. Can we build upon the existing structures? Maybe add condos on top of the Publix like Plaza Midtown? Perhaps add a large green roof over the Ace Hardware? Top Spice could have a rooftop patio that connects to other rooftop gardens... I know the county is waiting to be approached by developers about the space, so it would be nice to have some resourceful developers.


> Why include Williamsburg Apartments?

Do we really need to tear down and redevelop a perfectly good housing area that’s happily occupied and beautifully wooded? And for what? To put up more dense housing with less trees? This is not an Atlantic Station in a defunct, desolate area of town. This is an active senior community that has been there for years. Make Toco Hill more accessible to everyone – don’t expand the “Town Center” into the neighborhood.


> What about wider, more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks? Possible pedestrian bridges?

Most of us that live within a mile of Toco Hill couldn’t walk or ride our bike there for fear of death from cars flying by on N. Druid Hills or Clairmont. Just making the shopping center more accessible to the surrounding single family neighborhoods could potentially easy the Short Trip Syndrome where people have to jump in their cars just to run up the road to the store.


> What about adding in medians with trees to the parking lots?

Have you ever seen the Toco Hill parking lot slammed with cars? Me neither. So why not repaint it with a few less spaces and add medians with trees in them? It would soften the strip mall look, not detract from functionality, and enhance the environmental impact and experience of the shopping center (not to mention it would cool down the blazing asphalt). The parking lot could use an overhaul in the flow of traffic anyway.


> What about increased / improved transportation options?

MARTA already goes through the area, but the stops are on the sides of the roads and not very pedestrian-friendly. Those stops could be improved along with Emory's Cliff shuttle stops there, too. They mentioned restructuring the flow of traffic at these key intersections, but didn't have ideas on-hand as to how that might manifest itself.


In addition to the Toco Hill Town Center concept, the Georgia Conservancy is also working with the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition on improvements to the east. Their Blueprints program also has plans for a streetscape along N. Druid Hills Road between I-85 and Toco Hill and additional improvements along LaVista between Toco Hill and Northlake. (We posted a previous blog about the Lindbergh and LaVista corridor – just click here!)


What are your thoughts? Insights?