A new mixed-use development in south DeKalb hopes to be a catalyst in revitalizing an area off Covington Highway that city officials say has been long in need of increased services.
Panola Slope, a development consisting of 22 brownstones and 15 retail locations on the ground floor, is slated to open in the spring and will be the first of its kind in the area.
“South DeKalb isn’t really enjoying the same amenities that they are enjoying in the Perimeter and Lenox areas. So, this being the first site where residents and retail can cohabitate, I think it’s going to be a real important statement for our area,” Vaughn Irons, CEO of neghborhood revitalization firm APD Solutions, said.
“It’s semi-built because it was foreclosed on before it was finished,” Irons said of the complex. “It was owned by three different banks, which prevented it from really being able to come back into commerce. We were able to negotiate with all three banks, put it under one ownership, and work with the county to establish a new vision for Covington Highway.”
At a groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 11, Irons told the crowd that to flourish the neighborhood would need community support. Irons and his staff then handed out cards for a time capsule, asking that each resident present write down what he or she hopes for the community in the future.
“In exactly 11 years on Nov. 11, 2022, we will come back to this thriving site and this thriving community and we will open that time capsule and we will see what you all had to tell them,” Irons said. The capsule was later buried at the top of a staircase by the main building and covered with bricks.
DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May said that he was glad to see the complex, which has sat vacant for the past three years, finally being put to use.
“The reality is, people are sometimes scared to bring some projects to this part of the county; they feel it’s too risky,” May said. “This corridor is in need of development and revitalization.”
Irons said that Panola Slope recently signed its first retail establishment, a specialty bakery and sandwich shop, and there are several other contracts in the works including a white-linen Italian restaurant.
When the establishment was first built, Irons said the housing units were listed at $449,000 but now they range from $199 to $244,000. He also said that there is down payment assistance available from the county and other assistance APD will provide for those interested in the homes.
Leonardo McClarty, president of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, echoed both May and Irons and said he hoped the complex would kick off a string of similar developments in the area.
“I think Vaughn said it all in that it would be a catalyst for future development,” McClarty said. “At the end of the day, regardless of background and ethnicity, people want to have the same thing—they want to have services and quality development in their community.”