The Towne Center condo project, started in 1999, was the first mixed-use residential development in the downtown commercial district. The Decatur Downtown Development Authority identified the area for residential development in 1994 and began working with individual property owners to secure their support and cooperation. The DDA purchased a critical piece of the site from MARTA in 1996 and operated it as a short-term, paid parking lot to pay an interest-only purchase loan. The DDA paid for a downtown housing market study and used it to market the site to potential developers.
Construction began in 1999 and the units were 60 percent sold before the developer broke ground. While the original market was intended to be young professionals, more than 60 percent of the units were sold to empty-nesters ready to sell their single family homes in Decatur or wanting to leave the suburbs for smaller, more conveniently located condominiums. The developer was required to adhere to the downtown district design standards that required the parking deck to be hidden from E Ponce de Leon, retail space to be located on the ground floor and the construction of streetscape improvements according to the City’s streetscape design standards.
As the first residential project built in downtown Decatur, the developer was gambling on an untested market. The site was difficult to assemble and prolonged negotiations resulted in increased financing costs. While the DDA had secured ownership or owner cooperation of the majority of the site, one private property owner and a church ultimately opted not to sell, resulting in a challenging site design. The infusion of residents to a downtown district also created issues related to noise from adjacent commercial businesses and early downtown dumpster pickups that had not previously been a problem.