State Farm Leads Suburbs to Change

As new details emerge about State Farm Insurance Co.’s ambitious plan for its new campus, it’s becoming more apparent that the project has potential to rapidly urbanize a largely suburban Dunwoody, one of the newest cities on Atlanta’s Perimeter.

State Farm has filed plans to rezone 13 acres at Hammond Drive and Perimeter Center Parkway across from the Dunwoody MARTA station, developing three 20-story buildings, up to 90,000 square feet of street-level retail and restaurant space, and a park to round out the project.  The entire redevelopment will likely take much of the next decade to complete, and will include demolition of the 245 Perimeter Center Parkway building already owned by State Farm.

The first phase of development is the one that most signals change for Dunwoody: building an over 20-story tower that connects to the MARTA transit station. State Farm’s choice to prioritize access to the MARTA station points to a larger shift in corporate office development today, away from large lots for parking and towards more dense, urban mixed-use environments catering largely to pedestrians. The scale of State Farm’s project ensures that businesses on and around the site will be economic drivers, which could be an impetus for change in the traditionally suburban, historically large-lot residential Dunwoody community. The handling of this development could become a model for how other Atlanta suburban cities looking to embrace urban development characteristics move forward.

Though other Atlanta companies have opted away from older models in favor of dense mixed-use environments in convenient proximity to MARTA stations, State Farm is the first to do so in the Dunwoody area. NCR Corp., WorldPay, and Kaiser Permanente all have similar developments in Midtown, an already-urban district dense with pedestrians.

State Farm will file its plans with the state of Georgia under the Developments of Regional Impact, or DRI program so that the impacted cities, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, can plan how to deal with the challenges and opportunities such a large development will bring. Both cities have launched studies, and apartment projects in the area are already underway. The site will be an interesting one to watch over the next decade.

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