June 8, 1998
Volume 50, No. 33
Emory, Druid Hills together
A major, first hurdle has been cleared in Emory's goal to reconfigure University Apartments under the new campus plan. The DeKalb County board of commissioners "unanimously and enthusiastically" approved the rezoning plan for the area at its May 28 meeting, reported Betty Willis, director of community affairs. The rezoning gives the green light to Emory's plans to begin building at University Apartments next year.
The area will comprise Emory's new "East Campus," where a parking deck, a recreational center and the reconstruction of low-rise housing units are a significant component of the Master Plan. Plans also call for building a road to the main campus that will accommodate bikes, shuttle buses, pedestrians and service vehicles but no cars.
Perhaps even more significant than the board's approval is the more harmonious relationship that's developed between the Druid Hills Civic Association and Emory. Abandoning the somewhat contentious and wary associations of the past, Emory and its neighbors worked together to amend the University's plans for the apartments in ways that were pleasing and accommodating to both parties.
"We worked closely with the neighbors throughout this planning process and greatly appreciate their contribution to what ultimately produced a very attractive plan for the East Campus," said Willis, who was joined by President Bill Chace at one civic association executive board meeting. "This neighborhood support of our plan gives us the opportunity we've been waiting for to show we can build thoughtful and well-designed facilities that can benefit the community as a whole."
"We are pleased to support this plan," Druid Hills Civic Association President Debbie McDonald said at the commission meeting. "We've spent many hours together and appreciate having been included in the process."
The University has made several concessions to the group, which represented the Emory Grove neighborhood located off North Decatur near Emory Presbyterian Church but extending toward University Apartments. These included amending the size and location of the proposed parking structure, which was shifted 60 feet to the east and shortened by 45 feet. The deck, which will have an office-like facade, will be situated on the lowest elevation possible and built partially into the ground to minimize its height even more. Shorter-than-average lighting poles directed away from the neighborhood, a wall erected on the top level of the deck, and plantings along its periphery should help cut down on the glare of headlights into Emory Grove homes.
The agreement between the two groups even extended to the types of plants that will adjoin the parking structure in a "setback" that further buffers the deck from the neighborhood. The University also agreed to shift planned recreational facilities away from Emory Grove and limit building heights to two stories within a specified area that borders neighborhood property. Emory also promised to improve the sidewalk along Clairmont Road.
DeKalb commissioners, who'd probably heard their share of Emory-Druid Hills Civic Association "battles" in the past, were equally pleased with the positive turn of events. "Town-gown relations have evolved and improved between Emory and DHCA, and I salute both for what I see as the beginning of a new relationship," said Commissioner Judy Yates. "I attribute the success of this to President Chace and his team, the boards of DHCA and Clairmont Heights."