Bringing Affordable Housing to an Atlanta Suburb

With rising interest rates, soaring home prices, and a growing population, the city of Chamblee, Georgia — like many urban areas across the country — has experienced a lack of affordable housing. But Bohler and real estate development firm Blue Ridge Atlantic are helping to address the issue with the construction of the community’s first housing complex for low- and middle-income families.

Specializing in affordable housing development, Blue Ridge Atlantic is building Sky Harbor Apartments on a 1.59-acre lot in the heart of the Atlanta suburb. Situated at the corner of Chamblee Tucker Road and Hood Avenue, the site is within walking distance of the local railway station and the Chamblee Rail Trail, a paved walking and biking path that winds through downtown — making it an ideal location for people who work in the city. It is also close to the airport.

“This development is intended to serve as housing for members of the local workforce,” says Joel DelliCarpini, Principal and Regional Manager in Bohler’s Atlanta office. “The accessibility of the walking path and the rail system makes it easier for people to get to their jobs and navigate the city without a car.”

Overcoming Site Constraints

While this densely developed area of the city is a prime location for the project, the site presented several design challenges. One notable obstacle was its stormwater drainage issues. As a multidisciplinary partner, Bohler led due diligence, site design, permitting, conceptional review, construction administration, and landscape design on the project.

As part of this work, the Bohler team conducted a comprehensive site review at the project’s start and discovered that the church next door was discharging stormwater to the site. To address the issue, the Bohler team devised a plan to capture the additional runoff through a headwall, route it through the project site, and discharge it into an outfall point within an adjacent city right-of-way. But it turned out that redirecting the runoff wasn’t enough.

The construction process revealed that the corrugated metal pipe at the outfall point had deteriorated and was unable to carry additional stormwater. The Bohler team had extensive meetings with the director of public works, the owner, and the contractor to discuss options that addressed the issue.

Another site challenge involved meeting International Fire Code (IFC) requirements. For buildings over 30 feet tall, the IFC requires that a that a ladder truck must have 15’ of clearance from the structure to navigate the larger ladder around entire perimeter of the building, but the small site made meeting these requirements difficult.

“The easiest solution would be to design a loop around the property, giving fire trucks full access to the building,” Daniel Walsh, Sr. Design Engineer explains. “However, that was not feasible on the space-constrained lot.”

Bohler’s solution was to adjust curb lines and parking circulation to provide area for circulation and backing movements within code requirements. The team provided the county with a fire truck turn and access simulation plan, showing that the new placement of curb lines would allow the ladder truck to safely maneuver the property. Additionally, this allowed proper ladder clearance and hydrant spacing.

“We worked with the architect and the developer to get creative in our site layout so that a fire truck can access and service the whole building while providing the necessary parking and circulation for the project as well,” Joel says.

Keeping the Project Moving

In addition to resolving the site constraints, the Bohler team overcame two other noteworthy challenges — both of which ensured the project continued moving forward without blowing the budget.

The first involved meeting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for building heights. Sky Harbor is being constructed across the street from the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, and as the project evolved, it became clear that the approved building height would exceed FAA regulations. Although it might seem surprising that a land development firm would be involved in issues regarding FAA guidelines, as a full-service multidisciplinary firm, Bohler has extensive experience advocating for clients to secure all approval types.

“We have worked with the FAA on previous projects, and we ended up leveraging that experience to successfully navigate the FAA process and get the building height approved,” Joel says, adding that the effort avoided project delays and significant architectural changes.

Because of our team’s dedication in working with the county commissioners and staff, we were able to get the necessary permit within the anticipated timeframe.

Joel DelliCarpini, Principal, Atlanta, GA

The other time challenge that Bohler managed getting county approval for sewer capacity. It traditionally takes a year to get sewer capacity permits approved in DeKalb County. The  Bohler team closely tracked the process, consistently following up with jurisdictional representatives and county commissioners to ensure the application stayed at the forefront.

“Because of our team’s dedication in working with the county commissioners and staff, we were able to get the necessary sewer capacity permit within the anticipated timeframe,” Joel says. “That was a huge win that kept the project on track.”

Delivering the Vision

With Bohler’s innovative solutions in place, Sky Harbor Apartments delivered on Blue Ridge Atlantic’s ambition of bringing affordable housing to Chamblee.

It’s a vision that the Bohler team takes pride in bringing to fruition.

“It’s a cool concept to bring affordable housing to the community,” Daniel says. “Real estate is booming in and around Atlanta. Rent is continuing to increase so there’s a real sense of accomplishment in being able to turn this small site into a useful resource for the community.”


1.59 Acres
52 Units

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