Monday, December 27, 2010

What's Your Beef Dunwoody? Planned CFA Panned by DHA

A lifelong Atlantan, I've grown up with Chick-Fil-A, and maybe it's because of this, or maybe because CFA is just better [in my opinion] than most fast food, but whatever the reason, I'm sad to report the following:

With the glut of vacant or soon to be vacant Blockbuster Video stores coming on the market, Chick-Fil-A hoped to do something is has been unable to do much lately, namely, grow in metro Atlanta. At the intersection of Mount Vernon Highway and Dunwoody Club Drive in Dunwoody, where currently sits an abandoned Blockbuster Video, Chick-Fil-A had hoped to open a new restaurant but alas, for the second time, the neighborhood has voiced strong opposition to the idea.

Previously the neighborhood voted against Goodwill Industries opening a store and donation center in the shuttered Ace Hardware not far away. In both cases, one of the main arguments was that the development would open up the door for more "less desirable uses." Goodwill aside, I would tend to think an Atlanta-based business such as Chick-Fil-A, notorious for having strong ties to the communities in which it operates would be a welcome addition. Not only is CFA a good corporate citizen, but its opening would put dozens to work and add much needed tax revenue to the city of Dunwoody at a time when city budgets are tighter than ever.

Adjacent to Perimeter Mall sits a McDonald's restaurant that has a twin drive-thru and from what I've see, it adds minimally to traffic except for short periods during the breakfast/coffee rush. The restaurant, at the intersection of Ashford-Dunwoody and Perimeter Center West, is arguably a more congested intersection than that of the proposed CFA, and it has been open since 2007.

Opponents of the restaurant fear traffic problems arising from a drive-thru lane backing up into the street. While this may be the reason the twin drive-thru was suggested, it makes little sense as it would not be a twin drive-thru like those at Checker's but instead 2 lines that feed into 1. (See the illustration.) Honestly, I think that the single lane would suffice. I live not far from the Chick-Fil-A at Briarcliff and North Druid Hills roads, the first Free Standing Unit (FSU) Chick-Fil-A ever built. Open since 1986, and located at a very busy intersection, I've never seen the drive-thru line become an issue for traffic on the roads. Studies have shown that CFA has some of the most expedient and efficient drive thrus among fast food restaurants, and it shows in how quickly their lines dissipate. Chick-Fil-A has been voted "Best Drive-Thru in America" three times by QSR Magazine.

It would be tough to ask Chick-Fil-A to ditch the drive-thru. Perhaps a single drive-thru rather than twin, but a full elimination is more than a little unrealistic. Historically, over 50% of a fast food restaurants sales are from drive-thru traffic, a percentage that can be north of 70% at the lunch hour. In fact, Chick-Fil-A operates numerous Drive-Thru Only units like the one outside of North DeKalb Mall on N. Druid Hills Road.

Maybe it's just me, but I'd sooner have something, almost anything, in a vacant building rather than leave it vacant. Goodwill was voted down because it didn't fit the neighborhood, and the Chick-Fil-A was voted down because it would have required a drive-thru that neighbors feared would add to an already problematic intersection. Somehow McDonald's got to the intersection of Ashford Dunwoody and Perimeter Center Drive and Village Burger was able to open in the shuttered Bruster's Ice Cream. It's sad not more is done to spur development.

In Buckhead, there was opposition to both a new Pollo Tropical and Zaxby's Chicken, but both were eventually approved and both are scheduled to start construction early next year. Strangely, in Chamblee it's a different story: Zaxby's was approved to open in an as yet un- built-out parcel of the existing Lowe's Home Improvement store, but slightly north on Peachtree Blvd., the city struck down IHOP's proposed renovation of a shuttered Hardee's.

Having retained the services of a zoning attorney, Chick-Fil-A will bring a new proposal to the Dunwoody Homeowners Association when they meet next on January 9th.

While I, myself, don't live within Dunwoody, I'm in the area often. I'm curious what Dunwoody residents themselves have to say...

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I live about 3 minutes away from where they are proposing this cfa and I think it would be a great addition. As you mentioned, cfa is a well-respected company and I'm surprised to hear that people were opposed to them moving in. Chik-fil-a would be a preferable alternative to me since the two other fast food restaurants in the area and McDonald's and Arby's. While I actually like Arby's the service at the one nearby is horrible. Don't give up Chik-fil-a!

Emily said...

I drive this route to and from work every day, and also am in this area for lunch pretty frequently, and while the traffic is atrocious, I can't see how putting in a Chick-fil-A makes it any worse. That parking lot is huge and can easily accommodate any overflow cars waiting for the drive through, if there are any. As someone who has seen business after business fail in that shopping center, I would be happy to see someone with the staying power of CFA come in and revitalize that area and am frankly surprised that residents in that area would rather look at a vacant, falling-down mess. But then, that is pretty much what I have come to expect from Dunwoody residents with their NIMBY attitudes, who even tried to get the Dunwoody Green Market shut down.

Anonymous said...

much needed tax revenue for Dunwoody? We are doing OK here. We had a budget surplus. Did your city have a surplus? The only revenue for the city would be a couple hundred dollars for a business license plus another couple hundred dollars.DeKalb County collects the sales taxes and they will just blow it anyway. Put dozens to work? yes, unskilled labor is not really what we need here.

That McDonalds is on a six lane road in a commercial district, not on a two lane road in a residential area.

Chick Fil A was NOT voted down because it ans a drive-thru. It was voted down because the property is zoned NS (neighborhood shopping). For a drive-thru you need C1 (commercial) zoning. The issue was voted down because people did not want a zoning change for that piece of property, regardless of it being for Chick Fil A or Krytals or Popeye's..

"Somehow McDonald's got..." the McDonald's property was already zoned for a drive-thru - big difference. Village Burger does not have a drive-thru so you are not comparing apples to apples.

Many other restaurants have opened in Dunwoody the past six months, all using existing zoning.

Changing zoning is a big deal. The zoning change would allow for much worse than a drive-thru.

Nice blog you got, but you missed the key facts on this post.

Atlantan99 said...

Hello Anon,

I do see what you are saying but I tend to think the redevelopment of the shuttered Blockbuster will happen eventually and this seems like the best option I'm aware of.

You're mention of the "unskilled labor" is a little off considering the level of employee CFA hires. I'm not saying they hire rocket scientists by any means, but the only time I have with any consistency bad experiences with their employees is at the CNN Center location.

I understand that the drive-thru was not the only reason the idea was shot down but and that residents fear it will open up the floodgates to "less desirable uses" but I still don't agree with the reasoning. Not far away there are existing Arby's and McDonald's locations, both with drive-thrus, both in the residential area you referenced.

I'm no expert but seeing as the McDonald's near Perimeter was a Wachovia bank prior, are you saying a bank drive-thru is the same as a food drive-thru for zoning purposes?

Thanks for the kind words on the blog and for the contribution.

Anonymous said...

the nearby McDonald's and Arbys were not wanted by the community either - the county allowed that to happen - one of hundreds of reasons Dunwoody voted to be its own city.

The McDonald's at Perimeter is zoned in a commercial area, not NS (neighborhood shopping) so it was 100% legal to put a drive thru there.

The real reason that shopping center is empty is the owner. Kroger is across the street and does not want competition. So, Kroger pays the property owner $10,000 a month to keep the large building in the center empty. If people have an issue with an empty shopping center they should point two fingers; one at Kroger and the other at the property owner (a friend of Fran Millar).

Anonymous said...

As I recall, the good people of Dunwoody also opposed the Ronald McDonald House years ago.

Anonymous said...

I am 100% in favor of the CFA coming to our community! I am baffled by the reluctance of the Dunwoody Home Owners Association. Isn't the purpose of a business area to actually have businesses rather than vacant buildings! Also, we would have to search to find a better business organization to invite into our community. I am certain that including CFA into our little restaurant/shopping area enhance the area and will actually draw more businesses to fill the other vacant store fronts.
And by the way, what is the fear of a double drive thru?? Don't people realize that a double drive thru creates LESS traffic because the cars move through faster!

Come on CFA....I'd like to be the first customer in the drive thru lane and hopefully I will have my choice of lanes!!

Anonymous said...

Arby's on Jett Ferry closed and Chick-fil-A is bidding for the site with support of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association.Looks like chase bank might go into the closed blockbuster location nearby.