City Within a City Underway At Site of Old GM Plant

We’ve got great news to report in often overlooked Doraville, surrounded in DeKalb by Brookhaven, Chamblee and Dunwoody. Redevelopers from The Integral Group are presently building a kind of ‘mini-city’ in Doraville off Motors Industrial Way, a connector between Peachtree Industrial Blvd. and Buford Highway. For years it’s been the site of the shuttered old General Motors (GM) Assembly plant. Now Doraville has underway one of the largest redevelopment efforts in the Metro. It’s to be a mixed-use project—named with a thoughtful nod to the past as Assembly—to occupy space on a new 165-acre campus.

 

Serta Simmons Bedding, the nation’s largest mattress company, began in April to move its HQ to a 250,000 square foot building at Assembly this spring, along with 500 employees. They include personnel in Beautyrest brand offices in Dunwoody and a research and innovation office in Norcross. The company also offered jobs in Doraville to 120 employees from Serta brand offices in Hoffman Estates, IL. The Integral Group is to develop 750 multifamily housing units as well as 300,000 square feet of office space over the next 2 years. The entire complex may support as many as 15,000 jobs in Doraville.

 

Doraville occupies a strategic position on both sides of 285 and is home to remarkable Spaghetti Junction. The city’s worked for years to plan redevelopment of the site of the old GM Assembly plant, which started in the immediate post-WW II era in 1947. By the 1960s the plant peaked with about 4,000 employees on a huge tract of land the size of 125 football fields. There was assembly of Oldsmobile and Pontiac cars, now no longer around, and then the plant declined.

 

GM had its last gasp in Doraville about 2008 and over the years the site of the assembly plant became a distressed site. There was never any doubt that the huge property if creatively redeveloped would be great someday, but afterward it had all the disappointment of Charlie Brown. About 4 ideas for the site followed, including a 2014 misguided plan to build a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. The Integral Group then purchased the land and, working with Doraville under Mayor Donna Pittman, a transformation began. “We always envisioned and planned for a site predicated on regional job growth,” said Pittman, “so we view the Serta Simmons relocation as a catalyst.”

 

It’s taken 4 years to demolish 3.5 million square feet of empty GM buildings to implement 555,000 square feet of re-development. “We decided to create a city within a city,” said Matt Samuelson, chief operations officer, commercial division of The Integral Group, “and allow the users to come.” One of the earliest, in 2016, was Third Rail Studios, part of the burgeoning Georgia film industry. From the Doraville MARTA station I’ve seen their bold sign on a building for some time.

 

The Assembly site is situated in a nexus of accessibility. In addition to MARTA, there’s 85-285 Spaghetti Junction, Peachtree, Buford Highway, and PDK airport’s not far away. The Integral Group has announced that it plans to implement a free self-driving shuttle that would operate at Assembly. Officials there hope that the Serta team will be among the first to use it. The shuttle built by NAVYA, a French company pioneering specialist in the autonomous vehicle market, is arriving this spring. The shuttle at Assembly will be the first of its kind in a mixed-use development in the southeast. This summer, the shuttle will carry employees at Assembly to/from Doraville MARTA, a half mile away.

 

Assembly, projected to include parks and retail, will also offer food and entertainment in an area estimated to occupy 125,000 square feet. Doraville City Council has already voted to allow open containers of alcohol in certain parts of the district to encourage foot traffic. Assembly has many creative ideas in place and literally fills a gap in Doraville that may well attract people and businesses throughout the ATL. “We hope it becomes a place that many in the Atlanta metro area will come to enjoy,” says Matt Samuelson. I can’t wait, and I hope to have another new movie theatre to visit closer to my home in nearby Peachtree Corners.

 

– Dr. Paul Hudson

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