If all of Michael Tuller’s hopes and designs on the city of Dunwoody could be summarized into an informal message to residents, it might sound something like this: Everyone, for heaven’s sake, get the heck out of your cars, and let’s walk.
Tuller, who was hired as Dunwoody’s community development director in late September, will oversee the blossoming city’s planning as it pursues a more environmentally and pedestrian-friendly future. Dunwoody became a city last year, and Tuller said he’s got big plans for it.
“I’ve been excited about Dunwoody being a city for about three years now,” Tuller said in a Nov. 6 interview. “You’ve got one of the most active job centers in the entire state.”
But first things first: “The big issue that we’re going to grapple with is traffic.”
Though the DeKalb County government included Dunwoody in a comprehensive plan in 2005, the city is creating its own plan that includes specific visions for neighborhoods throughout the city, including the heavily trafficked Perimeter Center area, Dunwoody Village and the city’s Georgetown area, which Tuller said could become an important transportation node in the future.
Tuller came to Dunwoody from Camden County, though he does have experience with similarly new cities. He worked for the city of Milton in Fulton County in 2006 after it incorporated. He said he has 13 years experience as a city planner.
The city is currently getting feedback from residents through a series of town hall discussions in areas the city hopes to revitalize or reshape. A meeting with Perimeter Center area residents was held on Oct. 29, and one with Dunwoody Village residents was on Nov. 3. Both were well received, Tuller said.
“Our plan has much more public involvement and outreach,” he said, comparing it to the county’s plan, which will no longer influence the city’s development since its incorporation in December.
Three other meetings are scheduled:
• Georgetown/Shallowford Area Discussion in Georgetown Park’s atrium, 4355 Georgetown Square, on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.
• Jett Ferry Area and Tilly Mill Area Discussions in the Jewish Community Center, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, on Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.
• Winters Chapel Area Discussion in Congregation Beth Shalom, 5303 Winters Chapel Road, on Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.
The comprehensive plan will guide city development and planning through the next 20 years, Tuller said. About 43,000 people live in Dunwoody, and the city expects another 7,000 will move in by 2030, he said. Most of them, he hopes, will move to the Perimeter Center area with its close proximity to a MARTA station. As the metro Atlanta area and Dunwoody becomes increasingly dense, access to public transportation will become more valuable.
“As traffic becomes more and more of an issue, (residents are) going to become more aware of transit nodes,” Tuller said.
He said he’d like to see much of the city’s growth continue in the Perimeter area but with better access to trails, walkways and other transportation modes. Again, the issue is getting people out of their cars.
“That’s one of the core values,” he said.
The Dunwoody Village, he hopes, will attract niche businesses that wouldn’t necessarily compete with those found in the Perimeter Center – the sort of retail that might be found in a place like Roswell, he said.
“Like what you would see in the Northeastern villages,” he said.
The Georgetown area, which sits at the intersection of I-285 and Chamblee-Dunwoody Road could also become very important if the state goes through with a proposed idea to make it a transit center as part of its plan to revive the area between I-85 and I-75 along I-285. Though it could take three to five years before that becomes a reality.
“It would totally redevelop that area, likely,” Tuller said.
Whatever happens, he said he’s excited to see what the future holds for Dunwoody.
“You’re creating, essentially, a new city overnight,” he said.