This could be a good thing: Four north DeKalb cities are forming the nonprofit Peachtree Gateway Partnership to help them work together on strategic priorities.
Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville and Dunwoody are close to metro Atlanta’s population center. Combined, they have about 140,000 residents.
The four cities are “working to create a strategic plan that sets priorities for improving and promoting the area,” according to a press release from the Atlanta Regional Commission. Among the joint efforts suggested in ARC planning documents:
- Coordinated transportation planning
- An “interjurisdictional trail system similar to the Atlanta Beltline, Silver Comet and Heritage Trail”
- Development of a joint development blueprint, similar to the one created for Aerotropolis Atlanta
- Creation of a new Community Improvement District
- Exploration of a joint development authority
There’s a bit of reinventing the wheel here. Frustration with DeKalb County government and a dose of north-side elitism contributed to Dunwoody’s incorporation in 2008, Brookhaven’s in 2012, and Chamblee’s addition last year of big chunk of territory. Now, the four cities are re-assembling some economy of scale to partner on a whole host of issues that in the past would have involved the county.
“We realized that we could be more successful if we join forces to promote the many strengths and assets we share,” said Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson, who is chairing the partnership.
That almost sounds like an argument against balkanizing DeKalb County into a dozen little cities. Of course, one big difference today is that the partnership is proposed as a public-private 501(c)6 controlled by the four cities themselves — not by the DeKalb County Commission.
In many ways, the Peachtree Gateway cities epitomize development issues facing much of metro Atlanta. Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville fill in the wedge formed by highways I-85, I-285 and 400, while Dunwoody sits just outside the Perimeter. The central location and multiple highways complement economic assets like MARTA, Spaghetti Junction, DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, Oglethorpe University, Buford Highway and the still-fallow grounds of the former Doraville GM Plant.
All four cities have long faced pressure to urbanize their way out of unsustainable suburban sprawl, but the transition has a been slow. The area lacks the development framework and transportation resources it needs to handle density, and the congestion and service demands that come with it. It will be interesting to see whether a cross-governmental organization like the Peachtree Gateway Patnership can address those challenges more effectively than the county did.