Community input changes the landscape of S.J. Collins Enterprises’ North Decatur Square

Community input changes the landscape of S.J. Collins Enterprises’ North Decatur Square

The landscape of the American dream is forever changing as more and more millennials and empty nesters move into the urban core in cities all over America.

Looking to live where they work and play, many people are trading long commutes for the ability to reside in an area that affords them the opportunity to enjoy an active, energetic lifestyle. As the trend toward urban living steadily rises, Georgia based developer S.J. Collins Enterprises has created a strategic plan to identify older urban industrial cores that are ready to be redeveloped.

North Decatur Square in Decatur, Ga. is one of those cores. Formerly a car dealership, the 18-acre site will soon be home to an 86,000-square-foot mixed-used shopping district. Anchored by 365 by Whole Foods Market opening on December 12, North Decatur Square will feature 23 retail shops and restaurants as well as a four-story apartment building, which will house 450 residents, with multi-use trails and a park.

Jeff Garrison, partner at SJ Collins Enterprises

“That walkable lifestyle is what’s in demand,” says Jeff Garrison, partner at S.J. Collins Enterprises. “People want to be able to walk everywhere and leave their cars at home. They want to go have a good dinner, grab an ice cream and make an evening of strolling around their neighborhood.”

With each project, S.J. Collins Enterprises takes a special interest in getting to know the community and creating a center that uniquely speaks to them. North Decatur Square is no different. The developer held more than 60 community meetings and events with organized neighborhood groups, commissioners and stakeholders within the community before breaking ground.

Over the course of those meetings, S.J. Collins Enterprises routinely made changes to the project, and in the end, North Decatur Square has a completely different look and feel than what the developer initially intended it to be, driven almost entirely on community input.

“All that time we spent in the neighborhood meetings really defined what our merchandising mix would be as well,” says Garrison. “We tried to understand what would be the greatest additions for them.”

Residents expressed their desire to establish a sense of community that extends beyond the workday by creating a place where they could take their children and dogs to play. Based on their feedback, S.J. Collins Enterprises created almost an acre of green space and a park that connects back to their community behind the grocery store.

The importance of safety and connectivity was discussed at great length. After learning that cyclists couldn’t bike through Church Street, S.J. Collins Enterprises opted to add multi-modal paths around the entire site and three new crosswalks, allowing people to cross into the center safely.

Located across the street from the Emory Decatur Hospital, S.J. Collins Enterprises worked with the hospital to create a connection point and build a traffic signal near the hospital’s front door. In doing so, the developer hopes to provide easy access for hospital guests and medical staff to all of North Decatur Square’s offerings.

Big Peach Running Co. and Comcast recently opened their doors at the mixed-used development. Six additional tenants, including four restaurants, are scheduled to open in October, with the center expected to be fully operational by spring 2019.