DUNWOODY, Ga. — Branch Properties has announced plans to build a new shopping center with a new public road and pedestrian and bike paths near Perimeter Center.

The development would be created by paving over the pond near Ashford Dunwoody Road and Ashwood Parkway, a site that currently contains a P.F. Chang’s and two other restaurants which have gone out of business.

The development would be anchored by a major grocer and include a gas station, bank, five buildings containing a combination of retail stores and restaurants and a small turf area. New bike and pedestrian paths would surround the shopping center. 

Branch also plans to build a road cutting through the shopping center and connecting Ashwood Parkway with Meadow Lane.

Most of the 700 feet of walkways would be planned to preserve existing trees and provide an alternative to driving for the nearby subdivisions. The walkways would create a 5-foot-wide walking path sloping up to a 10-foot-wide biking trail, which would have an 8-foot buffer running up the road. The shopping center would sit about 8 feet below the road on the Ashford Dunwoody side. 

Citizens and council members expressed concerns over the amount of parking inside the shopping center, the aesthetics of the development’s fit with the area and the number of revisions to the plans over time — more than 30 according to Branch officials. 

City Councilman Tom Lambert asked development representatives why they needed more parking than the minimum requirement and how developers could cover unattractive dumpsters near the walking paths. 

Branch officials said they needed the parking to comply with the unnamed organic grocer’s demands and that they would work on adding more landscaping to unattractive areas near waste facilities and the gas station. 

Councilman Terry Nall said he liked the one-story building design for all retailers and restaurants. The 6,000 to 7,000 square foot buildings would be broken up into multiple stores of 2,000 to 3,000 square feet. 

Restaurants with a greater capacity nearby have failed, said Jack T. Haylett, senior vice president of Branch Properties. The trend is toward more fast casual eating options, he said. 

Councilman Lynne Deutsch asked for a condition for chef-driven restaurants, guaranteeing that the new development would not contain large chains which could harm Dunwoody’s identity.

“The first generation [of restaurants] may lead to something very different from the second generation of business, because restaurants are a very difficult proposition which I understand,” Deutsch said.

Haylett responded that he could not accept that condition because of the difficulty of the restaurant business and negotiations with a bank after the first chef-driven restaurant failed. The bank, he said, would want greater assurance that the next business would perform better. 

Councilman John Heneghan asked for city oversight of road construction and said he was concerned about the lack of a hydrology report. He also suggested increased outdoor seating rather than more parking spaces. 

Mayor Denis Shortal concentrated his remarks on building design, saying he wanted less wood. “I like brick and stone,” he said to Haylett. “I know you’re not happy because I can see the look on your face, but that’s why the people elected us, I guess.”

Branch will return with a revised plan at the next council meeting on June 10. 

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