A construction team aiming to provide a nondescript Buckhead hotel with cosmetic updates recently got more than they’d bargained for—potentially in the name of good urbanism.

At its most recent meeting, the Buckhead SPI-9 Development Review Committee informed representatives from Homewood Suites by Hilton the company’s property at 540 Pharr Road is not compliant with current codes, in that the building walls off access to its main street and all pedestrian activity.

“The property literally turns its back to the street,” reads a Buckhead DRC meeting summary from Oct. 4.

The hotel in question, located between Piedmont Road and the neighborhood’s increasingly walkable Buckhead Village, has been undergoing interior renovations, beginning with top floors and moving down toward street level. 

The property had previously operated as a Staybridge Suites for more than a decade. Its remake into the Homewood Suites brand began last year, according to Fulton County property records.

The Homewood Suites' location between the heart of Buckhead Village, left, and Piedmont Road. Google Maps

How the Homewood Suites relates to Pharr Road, as seen earlier this year when it operated as a Staybridge Suites. Google Maps

Homewood Suites was aiming to renovate portions of the exteriors, outdoor recreation area, and landscaping as well. That work would entail building a covered outdoor dining cabana, updating doors and courtyard windows, and replacing a canopy awning.

City of Atlanta officials recently told the hotel group they would have to take such plans before the neighborhood planning group in Buckhead.

The Buckhead DRC's verdict, in summary, was… not so fast.

The Pharr Road hotel was constructed before current SPI-9 zoning regulations were put in place. Those rules state, in part, that all properties must have front entrances that are accessible and visible from sidewalks along major roadways.

Homewood Suites’ plans would not comply with those regulations, as the front courtyard spaces would still be walled off from Pharr Road’s sidewalks. As is, the hotel’s entrance is tucked off the street, accessible only through its parking deck.

Initial facade revisions (above) planned on the building's Pharr Road side. Ponder & Ponder Architects; via Buckhead SPI-9 Development Review Committee

DRC members recommended the applicants familiarize themselves with SPI-9 regulations and “completely redesign the proposal” before resubmitting the application and applying for a Special Administrative Permit, or SAP.

Homewood Suites reps stated “they were unsure of why they were coming before the [Buckhead DRC], and that they were unaware that they needed to file for an SAP, as the majority of the changes to the property were interior-only,” the meeting recap notes. “The committee expressed surprise at the applicant’s comments, noting that the permitting process through the city should have triggered the DRC review process much earlier than it did.”


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