An international hotel company has pulled together fresh renovation plans after its property near the heart of Buckhead Village drew criticism for being fortress-like and walled off from pedestrian activity.
According to a drawing filed with Buckhead’s SPI-9 Development Review Committee for review at its monthly meeting scheduled Wednesday, representatives from Homewood Suites by Hilton are changing course with the company’s recently purchased lodge at 540 Pharr Road, just west of Piedmont Road.
The nondescript, six-story structure had previously operated as a Staybridge Suites for more than a decade, and its remake into the Homewood Suites brand began last year, according to Fulton County property records. To date, all renovations have been inside the building.
At its Oct. 4 meeting, DRC officials informed Hilton reps the property is not compliant with current codes, in that the building walls off access to its main street and all pedestrian activity, “literally [turning] its back to the street,” per a meeting summary.
Homewood Suites had planned to renovate portions of the exteriors, outdoor recreation area, and landscaping. That work would have entailed building a covered outdoor dining cabana, updating doors and courtyard windows, and replacing a canopy awning—but not improving street connections in the increasingly walkable neighborhood.
More recent plans filed for DRC review show a revised hotel front yard, so to speak. It would include stairs to the Pharr Road sidewalk, a “grilling zone” for guests overlooking the street, a new accessibility ramp from the sidewalk, seasonal (and cascading) landscaping along the street, and a more passive “play zone” with open greenspaces.
As DRC members have noted, 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 accessible and visible from sidewalks along major roadways.
Earlier this month, DRC members recommended the applicants familiarize themselves with SPI-9 regulations and redesign the proposal before resubmitting the application and applying for a Special Administrative Permit with the city.
As is, the hotel’s main entrance is tucked off the street, accessible only through its parking deck.
Homewood Suites, Hilton's extended-stay brand, is also moving forward with plans to build a new hotel in downtown Decatur, with no additional parking included.
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