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Normaltown Parking Deck Moves Forward

Plans for a medical building and attached parking deck in Normaltown are continuing to move forward, says John Barrett, the owner of the vacant lot extending from Prince Avenue back to Yonah Avenue between the P&M Army Surplus Store and Marti’s at Midday. 

“The challenge is, with a building that big, you can’t get enough parking. So that’s why they’re proposing an integrated parking deck,” ACC Senior Planner Bruce Lonnee tells Flagpole.   

Barrett hasn’t submitted any building plans to the county, “just a footprint,” Lonnee says, and “there’s a handful of things they haven’t sorted out yet.” The proposal is under review by various county departments who may comment with concerns like traffic and emergency access, and Barrett will have up to six months to respond.  

Barrett, who bought the land after the original development proposal had already been submitted, denies rumors that he’s just trying to keep his options open by stringing along plans with the county. 

“We’d like to have a commitment for a few leases before moving forward,” he says. “We’ve had some interest… I think we’ve got a great location.”  

He envisions a three-story building with a parking deck. “We’ve been tweaking plans to come up with a plan that fits the property,” he says  

Long-time neighborhood activist Tony Eubanks calls the proposal “uninspired, to say the least.” Eubanks points out that the plan offers no transition from commercial to existing homes across Yonah Avenue, and he asks, “What do you think that’ll do for their view and/or their property values?”

Such conflicts are exactly why ACC planners proposed a new zoning category for Prince, Eubanks says, but then they decided not to apply it there. Building apartments along the rear of the offices would “soften the blow” to the homes on Yonah, he says. Instead, a “dead zone” will exist on the street at night and on weekends.  

A medical building would be the logical use of the lot, one real estate source says. “It’s across the street from the hospital. It’s the highest and best use.” But, this person adds, doctors are presently able to buy or build office space in Oconee County cheaper than they can rent it in Athens. But Barrett says there are “quite a few physicians who would prefer to be closer to the hospital than a 30-minute drive.”