Manuel’s Tavern: First steps begin toward surrounding it with mixed-use project

By David Pendered

Manuel’s Tavern could be surrounded by an array of homes, shops and offices if the Atlanta City Council approves the first step in a rezoning process that is to get its first hearing Tuesday at the council’s Community Development Committee.

Many small businesses, such as Manuel's Tavern, bungled their paperwork to compete for a slot at the airport. Almost two of three small business submitted botched bids. Credit: Manuel's Tavern

The land beneath and around Manuel’s Tavern is to be developed with homes and shops, and possible offices. File/Credit: Manuel’s Tavern

The committee is to consider a proposal that would pave the way for the land beneath the tavern, and its two parking lots, to be rezoned for residential and commercial developments.

This is the first public phase of the redevelopment of the land beneath and around one of Atlanta’s iconic gathering places.

Note the careful language – land beneath and around the tavern. Owner Brian Maloof made the distinction between the tavern and the land in a note he posted on Facebook in February, after news broke that Green Street Properties was buying the tavern’s site and would build a mixed-use development.

Here’s a portion of Maloof’s remarks:

  • “Only the land is being sold. Manuel’s Tavern is Not.
  • “The land sale is part of a partnership deal with Green Street Properties to renovate our building on North Avenue and North Highland Avenue, refurbish the tavern and also develop a neighborhood-scale, mixed-use development on the immediately surrounding property.
  • “Under the agreement, I will continue to be the sole owner of Manuel’s, Green Street will become our landlord, and the tavern will have a long-term lease at its present site.”
Manuel Maloof, and donkey

Manuel Maloof, the tavern’s namesake, posed with a donkey outside the tavern to promote his 1987 campaign for reelection as DeKalb County’s CEO. Credit: dlib.gsu.edu

Maloof made the deal with Green Street after two groups of concessionaires he had joined failed to secure a site at Atlanta’s airport when the city put the concessions contracts on the block in 2011.

At that time, Maloof said a location at the airport may provide enough profits to enable the tavern to restore employee benefits and make improvements to the existing tavern – steps the business could not afford at the time.

The first step in the process of rezoning the property is to amend the city’s Comprehensive Development Plan. This is the request the committee is to consider at its meeting Tuesday at Atlanta City Hall.

At some point in the future, the rezoning request will be presented to the council for consideration. The rezoning request is not listed on the agenda of the Zoning Committee meeting set for Wednesday, though it could be introduced at the start of the meeting.

The proposal pending before the Community Development Committee involves amending the CDP for three tracts of land from their current land use designation to the designation of Mixed Use-High Density. Here are the current zonings:

  • The tavern is on land zoned as low density commercial;

    Manuel's

    Running for president: Bill Clinton, Manuel Maloof, Al Gore and Robert Maloof at Manuel’s in 1992 during the presidential campaign File/Credit: Maloof family

  • The parking lot behind the tavern is zoned single family residential;
  • The parking lot across Williams Mill Road from the tavern is zoned single family residential.

The Mixed Use-High Density category provides access to 14 of the city’s 38 zoning classifications, according to the city’s code.

The highest density available to the Mixed Use-High Density category appears to be the Mixed Residential and Commercial zoning classification, MRC-3. This classification would authorize a development of 7.2 times the size of the property. Given the site is about 1.6 acres, the maximum development under this classification would be about 313,600 square feet. That’s about the size of three Walmart stores, the old store type without a grocery.

However, Green Street President Katharine Kelley has indicated the company has no plans for a development of that intensity. Kelley said in reports published in February that Green Street intended to comply with a master plan for the neighborhood that envisions four story structures, with retail on the ground floor and residences on the upper floors.

This density is permitted in some of the zoning classifications that will be available if the city provides the Mixed Use-High Density category.

This map lists the requested amendments to Atlanta's Comprehensive Development Plan to allow the redevelopment of land beneath and around the tavern. Credit: City of Atlanta

This map lists the requested amendments to Atlanta’s Comprehensive Development Plan to allow the redevelopment of land beneath and around the tavern. Credit: City of Atlanta

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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