City DopeNews

Plans Call for Grocery Store and Apartments at the Varsity Site

The Varsity development as seen from Broad Street.

Varsity fans will still be able to get a chili dog at Milledge and Broad—they’ll just have to buy the ingredients and cook it themselves.

In a move that has been expected for years, The Varsity’s Athens location quietly shut its doors June 20, announcing it on social media the following day. After more than 80 years in Athens and almost 60 at its most recent location, the fast-food chain’s owners, the Gordy family, have been planning to redevelop the increasingly valuable property for some time. (Despite other news outlets’ claims, the pandemic had nothing to do with it.)

“We have made the difficult decision to close our Athens location,” the company announced. “We are incredibly grateful for the many years of support from our customers in Athens and we look forward to serving them again soon at a new location in the Athens area.”

As expected, recent plans filed with the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission show a grocery store in the proposed new development. No particular occupant was announced. The plans show a six-story building at the corner of Broad Street and Milledge Avenue, with one story of parking and four stories of apartments above the grocery store. Two more five-story buildings with retail below and residential above would front Broad, with a parking deck in the middle, a swimming pool on the Chase Street side and two-story townhouses facing residential Reese Street.

ACC Senior Planner Bruce Lonnee described the plans as “very preliminary.” Some issues need to be addressed at the staff level, Lonnee said, but currently the plans do not appear to require Athens-Clarke County Commission approval. In preparation for redevelopment, the commission approved a zoning overlay district for the block in 2019 requiring setbacks and limiting building height, among other measures meant to mitigate the impact on the surrounding neighborhood and save historic homes on Reese.