Significant changes could be coming to 320 W. Magnolia Ave.
The Auburn Planning Commission on Thursday approved a preliminary and final plat consolidation of 11 lots to built a multi-story parking deck and a large residential structure there.
Frequented businesses within the lot include Chick-fil-A and Domino's.
“You a have a preliminary and final plat for what constitutes 3.5 acres in the urban neighborhood west zoning district,” Auburn principal planner Tyler Caldwell said. “There are currently six owners that represent 11 lots. Those 11 lots are being proposed to be consolidated into one lot.”
The consolidated lot is surrounded by West Magnolia Avenue, Toomer Street, Genelda Avenue and Thomas Street.
Apartment complexes within the consolidated lot will be razed to construct the parking deck and residential structure.
The Subway restaurant and an Auburn University parking lot in the area will not be part of the project, according to Caldwell.
A majority of the planning commission voted to recommend the Auburn City Council consider conditional use approval for the installation of a Chick-fil-A drive-thru into a multi-story parking deck adjacent to a residential structure to be built on the consolidated lot.
“Chick-fil-A, with authorized representative Brett Basquin (chief engineer and founding principal of Foresite Group, Inc.), are looking to be part of a redevelopment of that property,” Caldwell said. “A new building fronting Magnolia Avenue will be part of the redevelopment. The development would be a much larger building that would have residential above it with structured parking in the rear.”
Auburn Planning Commission chairman Phillip Chansler opposed the recommendation for the conditional use approval of a 38-vehicle capacity drive-thru, beginning at an entrance on Thomas Street into the parking deck and a right-turn-only exit leading onto West Magnolia Avenue.
“I think we are really putting ourselves in a bad way because we are getting so dense downtown,” Chansler said. “We've got to get people out of their cars, and this is purposefully putting people in their car to get some food. Why don’t they park in this parking deck? There is going to be plenty of room to walk into this place. This is going to exacerbate the problem. We are becoming urban.”
According to Caldwell, commercial parking will be designated on the first floor of the parking structure for Chick-fil-A patrons to walk into the new restaurant within the residential structure.
“The existing Chick-fil-A was only a 2,300 square foot building, and they are somewhat limited on space,” Basquin said. “The size of the new facility’s kitchen alone will be 2,300 square feet in this building, so part of this is how quickly they can turn over the food to have a big impact on the turnover of people in the drive-thru.”
As the development was reviewed, city planning staff placed an emphasis on the vast number of vehicles waiting in line to be served at the current Chick-fil-A and the potential to curb the traffic. Cars in the drive-thru line routinely spill out onto Magnolia Avenue.
“I think everyone is currently aware of the problem we have there,” Auburn planning director Forrest Cotten said. “It is not limited to meal hours. It is a constant obstruction to a very important roadway. The exit is going to be right-turn only, so you won’t have people trying to come out here to make blind lefts. You won’t have people backing up, trying to get in.”
Ensuring traffic will be directed in the event the number of vehicles exceeds the capacity of the drive-thru, commissioner Mack Lazenby suggested the recommendation to the city council include a requirement for a traffic director, employed privately by Chick-fil-A.
The planning commission agreed to place the stipulation in the recommendation.