At a sometimes contentious meeting March 2 in 208 White Hall,
the Alliance to Improve Emory Village (AIEV) unveiled its plans
for transforming the—according to many—underutilized
commercial center at one of the University’s most visible
Several years in the making, the plan calls first for major changes to roads
leading into the five-pointed intersection of Dowman Drive and Oxford and N.
Decatur roads, as well as to the intersection itself. AIEV’s plan involves
a “road diet” on N. Decatur—meaning one lane in each direction
with a center turn lane—between Clairmont and Lullwater roads, redirecting
N. Oxford as it enters the intersection, and replacing traffic signals at the
intersection itself with a roundabout.
The roundabout idea became popular at a community meeting AIEV held in January
2002, when Australian traffic engineer Michael Wallwork, an expert on roundabouts,
described the signal-less traffic device and how he thought it could work in
Emory Village. AIEV and DeKalb County first sought to study the possibility by
simulating both the road diet and the roundabout using temporary measures such
as pylons and street restriping.
But this idea never came to fruition, and instead AIEV turned to URS Corp., a
traffic-engineering and consulting firm, to gather data on traffic patterns and
feed them into a sophisticated computer model. That was earlier this year, and
at the March 2 meeting AIEV Presi-dent Stuart Meddin shared the results.
“These results,” Meddin said, “confirm that our vision for
a more accessible, safe and economically viable village can become a reality.”
The model showed that a road diet and roundabout made no significant changes
to travel times and queue lengths at the several intersections along N. Decatur
from Briarcliff to Clairmont roads—except at the village intersection,
where the roundabout resulted in significant improvements.
Of course, traffic improvements are not all AIEV has in mind for the village;
the group envisions a transformed, mixed-use zone incorporating commercial, retail
and residential ventures, characterized by streetfront seating for restaurants,
red-bricked pedestrian crosswalks, off-street parking and other amenities. However,
after extensive consultation with possible developers, AIEV concluded none of
that would be possible without first addressing the village’s traffic and
But are they problems? Not everyone who attended the meeting was sure.
“I walk around that area every day, and I’ve never had a problem,” said
area resident John Pappas, who distributed flyers before the meeting protesting
AIEV’s plans. “The last thing we need here
is more apartments and condos.”
Pappas was not the only audience member to vocally oppose the proposed redevelopment.
But AIEV—a nonprofit organization made up of representatives from village
businesses, Druid Hills residents and Emory officials—has held several
public meetings since its inception in 1999, and this latest forum was the first
marked by such a degree of antagonism.
As for Emory, it long has held that the intersection is unsafe for pedestrians.
And though people like Jen Fabrick, director of campus planning and an AIEV board
member, were skeptical that a traffic device with no signals and at which no
car is absolutely required to stop could handle the volume of vehicles passing
through the village every day, they seem satisfied with the computer model’s
“We were pleasantly surprised when we saw the modeling,” Fabrick
said. “Granted this modeling was done with current traffic counts, and
we don’t know what the future portends, but we believe this plan improves
safety at the Emory Village intersection.”
DeKalb County seems to be satisfied with AIEV’s work. When the Atlanta
Regional Commission last May made the renovation of Emory Village eligible for
some $2.2 million in design and construction funding under its Livable Centers
Initiative, the county agreed to provide the required 20 percent matching funds.
The money was split into two grants: $192,000 in fiscal year 2004 to go toward
planning and design, and another $2 million in FY2005 for implementation. Which
means, when Emory students return to campus in fall 2005, they could see a very
different vista upon exiting the Haygood-Hopkins Gate.
For more information on AIEV’s plans, visit www.emoryvillage.org.