Memorial Drive’s setbacks and successes

Some people call it DeKalb County’s “golden corridor.” Or, at least they hope Memorial Drive again will be a major economic engine in the county.

A recent announcement by Publix that it would be closing its grocery store in January highlights the frustrations of some community leaders who are trying to return Memorial Drive to its former glory, or create a new one.

In April 2011, DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton told The Champion that she hoped to have a community improvement district (CID) in place for the corridor this year. That has not happened yet.

That same month, approximately 60 business and community leaders met to discuss the formation of a Memorial Drive merchants association. That group met for a while and then dwindled away.

The county’s zoning department recently recommended that the Board of Commissioners approve a new minor automobile repair shop on the road to the chagrin of community leaders trying to bring in higher quality businesses.

There have been some successes on the road since Memorial Drive’s first Walmart opened up in 2008 on the land where the old Avondale Mall once stood. During its grand opening DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson said Walmart would bring a surge of vitality to Memorial Drive as customers come back.

“Walmart is a critical component in the redevelopment of the Memorial Drive area,” Johnson said at the time. “Their presence will motivate others to invest in the area.”

Johnson was correct; other businesses have invested in the area: Aldi’s grocery store, Sonic Drive-in, and Zaxby’s have been open for a few years. In addition to the new businesses, an extensive streetscape project is under way on Memorial Drive paid for with county, state and federal funds. MARTA has started a rapid transit system on the road and installed new passenger shelters.

A Ross store recently opened in the same shopping center Publix is leaving and a Planet Fitness is under construction nearby.

And the biggest investment since the Memorial Drive Walmart is a second Walmart under construction and expected to open next year.

Memorial Drive has had a mixture of setbacks and successes. And more coordinated effort is needed from the county government, community and business leaders to usher in new glory days for DeKalb’s golden corridor.


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