Sunday, March 19, 2017

Stonecrest Will Become the Next Dunwoody

Photo credit: High Street

After living in various parts of midtown Atlanta and Buckhead for about a decade, I moved back to south DeKalb in the summer of 2013. I’ve loved the area since buying my first home in the early 90’s and knew if I had to move to a suburban, more family-friendly area, I wanted it to be south DeKalb.

Because I believe in knowing my area, I started reading the Champion and Crossroads Newspapers to see what was happening in the community. I found an article about a group trying to form a city of Stonecrest. Another later article informed me of an effort to form another city, dubbed ‘City of South DeKalb’. This got me even more interested as I live within the latter’s footprint. I eventually joined the effort to create the ‘City of South DeKalb’, later rechristened ‘Greenhaven’.

This past election year, I celebrated that voters decided overwhelmingly to create Stonecrest. I found the idea of Stonecrest compelling, viable and representative of something that I’ve known for a while: many of the people in this area are smart, well-cultured and will make things happen if given an opportunity.

I see Stonecrest and Dunwoody as being very similar. Sure, Dunwoody has the tall office buildings and hotels, many shopping areas and lots of upscale housing, but it hasn’t always been this way. Forty years ago, Dunwoody was an unincorporated part of DeKalb County with a newly-built regional mall (Perimeter Mall), and a scattering of low-rise office parks. The business leaders of the area marketed it as an alternative to downtown and midtown for business.

Stonecrest must borrow from this playbook. There are many that may look at this idea as preposterous. After all, what and why would companies want to locate 20 miles outside downtown Atlanta? I’m sure when the developers of Perimeter Mall and Perimeter Center office park pitched their proposals, they were probably met with the same questions. Much of the Perimeter Center area pre-development was farmland and forest and not close to the center of Atlanta’s business communities.

Imagine the people who grew up in Dunwoody back in the 40’s and 50’s and how they remember the changes in the area. Many of them probably couldn’t imagine that pristine farmland eventually becoming one of metro Atlanta’s largest commercial centers. Imagine a high-tech company looking to locate in metro Atlanta and deciding on Stonecrest because of its proximity to the airport and downtown, low crime rate, highly skilled workforce, a diversity of housing choices and a bet that a MARTA rail line will come out that way in the near future. Now imagine them building a 6-story regional office in Stonecrest. A few years afterwards, more companies want to move to the area. It’s like a snowball effect. Just as what made the Perimeter Center area popular, companies and people like to be in a ‘hot’ area. Then more housing comes, more choices in entertainment, which in turn, attracts more businesses. This is the simplified version of what happens. 

All it takes is a serious marketing/ branding of the area, improving/ maintaining the quality of life and Stonecrest will thrive. Stonecrest is no different than any other upstart area: no one really knows the true the potential. If the recent announcement of a big sports complex is a harbinger of what’s in store for a city that is not officially open for business, just imagine what might happen when the city’s open for business.

I must say one thing about the mayor’s office (yes, I’m injecting some politics in this). I think Jason Lary is highly qualified to be the mayor of the city he helped envision and found. I’ve met him a few times at the Greenhaven town hall meetings and found him to be a highly intelligent person who I consider as less of a politician, and more of someone who is genuinely concerned about the community and who wants to make a big difference. If I could vote in the Stonecrest election, I would vote for Jason.

I see good things happening with Stonecrest. I see it becoming the next Dunwoody. I see MARTA rail going to the area, I see high-rise office and housing being built there. I see telling my grandchildren about how I remember when it was just a mall, some restaurants and retail scattered around the mall back in the day. They’ll then look at me in disbelief.