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The Gallery at South DeKalb Reinhabitation

Jobs, Justice and Climate

Location- 2801 Candler Rd, Decatur, GA 30034

Professor- Ellen Dunham-Jones

Term- Spring 2021

Team members-  Chris Barnum, Erin Heidelberger, Prerana Kamat

What if the Gallery at South Dekalb and its parking lots were reinhabited to create a new neighborhood anchored by a central park and entrepreneurial-oriented incubator space?  


Located at the intersection of I-20 and Candler Road, the Gallery at South Dekalb retains its status as a community center at a time when malls around the nation are declining. Even during the current pandemic, there has been a good amount of foot traffic in the mall. Despite this, business occupancy has steadily decreased, exacerbating problems of unemployment and access to jobs. Affordability in the area is also an issue, with over a quarter of residents within the surrounding census tracts spending over half of their monthly income on rent. We see the reinhabitation of the Gallery at South Dekalb as a catalyst for the creation of new small businesses, access to multimodal transit, and renewed environmental stewardship. 


Short-term, the existing mall building would be reinhabited around a central park, retaining the anchor stores and parts of the body. The smaller pieces of the mall would be transformed into incubator space, which provides cheaper space that attracts smaller, more entrepreneurial-focuses businesses. The anchor stores of Chapel Beauty and Satellite Cinemas would retain their current programming, while the former Macy’s store would gradually be retrofitted to provide access to childcare, health services, and localized food production. In the long-term, the surrounding parking lots would be redeveloped into a highly walkable, mixed-use neighborhood. Linking these visions is the proposed MARTA transit hub that would provide improve public transit access to the new mall in the short-term, while connecting residents to regional job centers in the long-term.  


Through improving access to jobs, providing greater mobility across the site and beyond, and adapting to a changing climate, the reinhabitation of the Gallery at South Dekalb will revitalize a beloved community center. In the end, this would connect to the past and bring cultural continuity through the retained mall, while promoting a modern, energy-efficient, mixed-use neighborhood that serves as the community hub for Panthersville. 

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1. Explore policy solutions to allow current small businesses to remain on site.
2. Create relationships with entrepreneurs through opportunities to pitch business proposals.
3. Foster micro commerce and start-up growth through dedicated incubator space.
4. Apply a Live-Work zoning overlay to the existing mall site.
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