Located in Gwinett County, Duluth is a popular developed suburb of Atlanta with a diverse population of around 30,000. KWA, working with local developers Vantage Realty Partners and Fabric Developers, recently completed exterior designs for a multi-building redevelopment of Duluth’s downtown area. The project, which includes two 60-year old granite buildings, aims to incorporate twelve new commercial tenant spaces into Duluth’s existing downtown commercial district. Special attention was paid to site elements designed to promote walkability and enhance pedestrian experience.
Located along West Lawrenceville and Main Streets, KWA’s contribution to the project consists of two renovated buildings – a former church and parsonage, both dating to the late 1940’s – and four new buildings (scroll down for more building history). A fifth new building not under KWA’s scope will house a new location for Dreamland BBQ.
Kronberg Wall’s approach to the design draws heavily from traditional commercial design, which is most evident in the articulation, proportions, and materials used in the storefronts of the individual tenant spaces. Aside from the addition of semi-covered patios, the existing granite buildings were largely left alone in order to preserve their connection to the site. The tenant suites built alongside the existing former church building are designed with modern updates to traditional storefront designs in order to feel somewhat native, and the larger southeastern buildings were partially inspired by the kind of historic warehouse buildings common to former industrial sites in and around Atlanta, a narrative reinforced by the commercial rail line across the street. While all tenant spaces face inwards towards the central public space, special care was taken to make sure that the Main Street facades of the southeast buildings do not turn their backs to pedestrians. Most of the spaces intended for restaurant occupancy feature outdoor dining areas to maximize physical and visual connection to street life. The fifth building, which is still in development, sits across West Lawrenceville Street and serves as a connection from the clustered buildings to the Duluth Town Green.
As a firm that strives to promote walkability, connectivity, and thoughtful placemaking, it was hugely exciting to see the city of Duluth invest so heavily in a redevelopment effort like this. Such whole-hearted committal is rare and is a refreshing change of pace for designers that are used to arguing for more walkable and connective elements. The integration of public space and urban amenities will help to establish Duluth’s downtown as a regional hub for social and commercial activity.