Auburn, GA: The heart of any thriving city beats within its infrastructure, and for Auburn, a significant milestone marked a leap forward for the downtown core. On Friday, April 26, the city celebrated the grand opening of its new Municipal Complex. This state-of-the-art City Hall/Police Department facility will help address the growing city’s needs and better serve citizens.

Former Mayor Linda Blechinger explained the transformational impact the Complex will have on the Auburn Police Department. “The best thing about this building is also the highest priority. PD has been operating out of a butler building for many years. It met our immediate needs years ago but the department has grown. We will now have separate quarters for interviews and bookings, as well as a training room. We will also have an evidence room that meets all the state requirements. Our Police Department serves us 24/7, and they are very excited about the new facility.”

The Complex brings with it a significant upgrade to the capacity of the Court and Council chambers. The previous chambers could only accommodate a few dozen attendees. The new building boasts seating for 120.

Dave Schmit served as master development partner for the complex, spearheading the coordination of city and state resources, and overseeing every aspect of the complex’s evolution from conception to completion.

The Schmit + Associates partnership also included planning and development of a residential community to surround the complex, and guidance for downtown revitalization. New residents have already begun to occupy dozens of the anticipated 300 homes. A 2020 Livable Centers Initiative study prepares the city for transportation projects, and vacated city offices are ready to be repurposed, attracting businesses that encourage residents and visitors to gather for dining, shopping, and entertainment.

Auburn, Georgia – City leaders partnered with Schmit + Associates in late 2017 to extend the downtown area, develop a new municipal complex, connect with the historic district and bring walkable vibrancy to the city core.

Three years and a pandemic later, with plans complete and public financing in place, work on the site is underway. Bringing in private investment, Dave has assembled a team to create the unique residential community that will surround the new City Hall, bringing vibrant activity and connecting with Auburn’s Historic District.

On August 25, 2021, a public meeting was held to present a preview of this new neighborhood. Dave began with an overview of the site and the vision, “The goal is to make a neighborhood community around the new Municipal Complex, which includes a large building, a police department, public parking and space for public events.”

The property entrance is also the gateway to the city on this end. Signage will be important for wayfinding related to the Municipal Complex, as well as the residential community’s front door.

Since the vision is for a walkable neighborhood within downtown, ‘making connections’ is another important theme. The community will connect to other public spaces and parking in the area, like the Perry-Rainey Center and Auburn Elementary School. And ultimately, the plan allows for future connections to Historic Downtown as well as existing and potential trails.

The design focus is on a rural aesthetic in a walkable downtown, and that ‘connecting’ theme.

  • Residential lots laid are out in a flowing form, with green space views from most every home.
  • Alley system in the back, for access to garages and trash pickup
  • Variety of lot sizes include options for households of different sizes, tastes and price points
  • Streetlights comply with ‘dark sky’ features

There will be gathering spaces like an iconic barn planned for the entrance. It will have utilitarian sections such as the mailbox hub and restrooms, but it will be big enough for serve as an event venue and maybe even a coffee shop.

To help make this an environmentally sustainable community, the team partnered with P. Allen Smith, acclaimed landscape and garden designer, horticulturist and preservationist. Then AEC integrated his recommendations into the development of a landscape plan.

Steve Rowe from AEC shared some of the highlights of the plan, including:

  • Tree canopy and plants made up of native adapted specimens with 4-season color
  • Edible plantings
  • Planted hedges where possible over constructed fencing
  • Blue Bird Trail
  • Community Garden
  • Trails
  • Opportunities for environmental education
  • Lush landscaping at the street as a network of bioswales to manage stormwater runoff.
  • Street trees and public parking line the primary street on the way to City Hall.

Looking further at this first phase of the plan, turning in from 5th Ave, on the left is the barn ‘complex’. It includes a tree-lined lawn and firepit gathering space just outside, for more people to congregate, or a tent could be used to expand event space.

The barn itself is about 64’ by 40’, that includes some covered open space. The mailboxes will be located just inside with bathrooms across a breezeway.

Up the road on the highest point, will sit City Hall.

To the right, a community garden is planned. It includes a shed structure for tools, and a gazebo for people to gather in the shade.

Greg Shiflett of Kinglett Homes presented samples of the variety of home types throughout the community. Single family, townhomes and micro homes, will generally include rear entry and front a shared green lawn.

Anne Schwall, of Atlanta Fine Homes, described the potential profile of residents who might choose this new community, including:

  • Active adults – retirees or those near retirement who appreciate a low-maintenance lifestyle
  • Young adults – perhaps essential workers or those who can work from anywhere, who want a more rural life with modern amenities
  • Families who are interested in education – home schoolers, or those who appreciate Auburn Elementary just a block away.

She also discussed the rationale behind the neighborhood’s name, “Again, we focused on the blending of the natural environment and all that comes with a neighborhood”, Anne explained. “As you’ve seen, this is not the usual neighborhood. It’s an ecosystem that includes people, gardens and green spaces. It also invites wildlife with a Blue Bird Trail and an Apiary. Living here is about living in concert with nature and each other. Ultimately, we determined we could say it all in one word: Harmony.”

The audience watched a simulated flyover video.

Inquiries are directed to

Pictured – Former Doraville Mayor Donna Pittman, DeKalb County CEO and former DeKalb County School Superintendent Michael Thurmond, Executive Director at Georgia Regional Transportation Authority & State Road and Tollway Authority Chris Tomlinson

Building an Economic Engine Required Many Players

Much has been written recently about the exciting plans taking shape at Assembly, the 165-acre site in Doraville where a shuttered General Motors plant once stood. Transforming and revitalizing projects such as Assembly always require critical, difficult, and often thankless, early work by many public and private partners that become Hidden Figures as memories dim over time. Two of the most critical figures are former Mayor Donna Pittman and DeKalb County CEO and former DeKalb County School Superintendent Michael Thurmond, but the list is much longer.
So, I want to take a moment to uplift those courageous partners and memorialize the culmination of what was our nearly ten-year engagement at Assembly, and to shed light on how the early work done by a team of private and public leaders with vision successfully undertook the heavy lifting to make Assembly appear today as a seemingly obvious location for significant economic development and investment by an end-users seeking an attractive location in the region.


In 2014, after nearly three years of negotiations, an Integral-led partnership that included Schmit & Associates, based in Roswell, Georgia, and Consolidated Asset Management Services, based out of Houston, Texas, purchased the Assembly site from GM for $50 million utilizing private capital exclusively. The GM assembly plant had operated in Doraville for more than 60 years, supporting 4,500 jobs and contributing almost 50% of Doraville’s annual taxes before its permanent closure in 2008.
There is no doubt that many metro-Atlantans likely drove by the dormant site, visible from I-285, dozens of times seeing nothing more than 90-acres of abandoned buildings on environmentally contaminated land. To put Assembly’s size in context, it is 30 acres larger than Atlantic Station and several times the size of West Midtown as well as Avalon’s Phase 1 in Alpharetta.
We were not the first or only development team to pursue the acquisition of the behemoth, but for the few that dared vision life at the site without the GM plant, the hurdles seemed insurmountable – 165 acres of concrete slab, significant expense of demolishing four million square feet of manufacturing buildings, environmental contamination requiring remediation of unknown scope and expense, and significant public infrastructure needs with no obvious way to pay for such infrastructure (i.e. public roads, public parks and green spaces, access to utilities, sanitary sewer lines, fiber optics, etc.).

Our Vision

When we acquired the site, our vision, supported by City, County and Doraville resident leadership, was to master plan and launch the development of a “city within a city” that would reestablish the site as an economic development driver for Doraville by offering increased job opportunities and an expanded tax base in a mixed-use, transit-oriented urban destination. To that end, we immediately sold twenty acres of land to Asbury Automotive creating more than 400 jobs within 18 months of buying the site. We self-developed and continue to own Third Rail Studios, a production studio. During a production, Third Rail Studios employs about 500 people. In 2017, we sold another five acres to a developer to build Serta Simmons Bedding’s national headquarters as Serta relocated from Ohio and consolidated 500 jobs at the site.

The early activation of the site by Serta Simmons, Asbury, and Third Rail, and the associated 1,400+ jobs, gave important signs to the marketplace about what was possible, just as a real estate broker might stage a home before hosting an open house – to help potential home buyers see themselves living there.

Financing Infrastructure

The initial land sales and early developments paved the way to finance the public infrastructure required to make development of the interior of the site possible. We were challenged to find a way to finance what could have been as much as $180M of public infrastructure necessary to activate the site for a City whose then annual budget was approximately $4 million. In the end, the financing vehicle for the public infrastructure required an amendment to Doraville’s City Charter, state legislative action to form the Assembly Community Improvement District (ACID), a bond for title arrangement with the Doraville Development Authority, and the formation of the City of Doraville’s first tax allocation district (TAD).

The creative structure designed by Bond Counsel Doug Selby, Financial Advisor David Corbin and Underwriter Cheryl Strickland, and the Bond Investor Preston Hollow Capital brought a simple solution to this very complex problem. The Assembly CID issued $53 million in tax exempt revenue bonds in a structure that was the first-of-its-kind in the country, all to be repaid from future tax growth within the ACID and TAD.

Partners and Sponsors

Our public partners and sponsors showed up early and enthusiastically to begin the heavy lift required to position Assembly for the development opportunities it now represents. In addition to former Mayor Donna Pittman, acknowledgement is due to the majority of the then Doraville City Council. Former Doraville City Manager Shawn Gillen and his successor Regina Gates, former Doraville Director of Economic Development & Executive Director of the Development Authority, Luke Howe, all played a hands-on role in the early days of the project.

Likewise, in addition to DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond, the DeKalb County Commission remained supportive, as did a number of key leaders at the State of Georgia, particularly Governors Nathan Deal and Brian Kemp, Executive Director at Georgia Regional Transportation Authority & State Road and Tollway Authority Chris Tomlinson, Commissioner of Economic Development Pat Wilson, Commissioner of Georgia Department of Transportation Russell McMurry, and others too numerous to mention. The coordination of the considerable lobbying efforts at all levels of government was successfully undertaken by Craig Lesser and his team at The Pendleton Group.

Without these many individuals and their tremendous leadership, the encumbered, contaminated, and blighted landscape would still exist at the site.

Building the Foundation for Success

As master developer, our role was to prepare Assembly for others to see the site’s potential, and, ideally, be motivated to purchase portions of the site and implement uses consistent with our and the City’s early strategic vision. Today, the site is fully entitled with a flexible zoning code allowing greater than 10 million square feet of development.
Upon our urging, in 2017 the Doraville City Council passed an open container law that allows visitors to the site to buy an alcoholic beverage at one establishment, and take it with them to the walking trails, green spaces, or other establishments; it has the first autonomous shuttle in Georgia, contemplated to carry visitors to one of two proximate MARTA rail stations; and more than 150,000 tons of concrete and building materials have been recycled and repurposed.

This summer, affordable senior housing units, single family townhomes, and multifamily apartment units are all slated to begin construction. While the momentum building at Assembly was slowed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the retail space, the foundation had been laid to make Assembly a project on third base, looking for the next player to hit a single and take it home. It is upon that foundation that we found ourselves, for the first time during our ownership of Assembly, seriously considering an offer to sell the balance of the site. Though we had received offers to buy all or substantially all of the site in the past, they all fell short of our development vision or financial goals, or both. Gray TV’s offer was different.

While we had expected that it might take more time, more public infrastructure, more environmental remediation, and more residential development to attract large economic development users like Gray TV, we remained clear that our and Doraville’s shared goal, was to reestablish the site as an economic development driver for Doraville by offering increased job opportunities and an expanded tax base in a mixed-use, transit-oriented urban destination. Gray TV’s plans for the site fulfill that goal, and they came to Assembly with a developer in tow to help it realize its vision. With the purchase price and the terms of the sale, our investors and development partners are quite pleased to pass the torch to Gray TV – truly a home run for all.

Thank you to the many Hidden Figures mentioned here and the dozens of others who helped make it happen. —Egbert L. J. Perry, Chairman & CEO, Integral

For almost 8 years, Dave devoted countless hours as a volunteer with the Roswell Downtown Development Authority. Among the major projects the DDA tackled during that time, was the redevelopment of the long-struggling ‘Skillet’ property on Alpharetta Hwy in the heart of Roswell. After an arduous RFP process to select the right development partner, Dave took the lead in negotiating the sale of the property to SJ Collins for development of Southern Post. Roswell Magazine chronicles the path of this prominent project, as well as the evolution of the DDA.

As the first Owners came online at Assembly, Dave Schmit shared some of the vision and work behind this massive 165-acre redevelopment project. After almost a decade sitting idle, the site of the former GM auto assembly plant is coming back to life. 

Interviewed by Todd Schnick and Carol Morgan on Atlanta Real Estate Forum, Dave detailed the scale of the work needed to get the site ready for new construction. The first several years were the purchase phase, where the Doraville 60 partnership bid, negotiated and ultimately purchased the property for $50 million. The next year was about taking down roughly 90 acres of buildings, where over 100,000 tons of red iron were reclaimed, recycled and largely repurposed on the site. Next years were dominated by planning, entitling, and working with the city of Doraville to make sure the end result is in keeping with the city’s vision.  Then came the public finance stage, with tax structure created to allow property taxes generated by the site to go into the public infrastructure that is ultimately owned by the city. And along the way, sales and marketing efforts began curating the projects that will come together to fill the site with a vibrant urban mix of commercial and residential uses. 

Third Rail Studios and Serta Simmons Bedding are at now operating in Assembly, and new park and trail areas will soon be open to the public. Additional projects will add more commercial activity to the area, including an entertainment district. New residential projects coming online will bring opportunities to live in this ideal location. 

ROSWELL, GA, March 22, 2018 – Roswell celebrates the opening of Roswell Court, a newly completed project blending luxury homes, neighborhood office and quiet retail. At the corner of Norcross and Forrest Streets, it’s less than ½ mile from Canton Street, and well within walking distance to all the festivals, shops and dining of Historic Roswell. Convenient access to GA 400 is just 2 miles away.

JW Collection, John Wieland’s boutique brand, partnered with Schmit + Associates to create Roswell Court. “This neighborhood setting is unique, walkable and right where you want to be with detailed homes that sacrifice nothing in sophistication or style,” commented John Wieland.

“This is the first small lot, true mixed-use development in Roswell,” said Dave Schmit, principal of Schmit + Associates. “Combining high end offices with John Wieland’s impeccable touch to residential, it’s an exceptional opportunity.”

The Historic District is undergoing redevelopment with the recent opening of 2 breweries, a planned distillery, a planned hotel, library renovation and other new projects. The nearby Roswell Plaza Shopping Center was purchased by the city and will be undergoing redevelopment as a mixed-use concept. There are few other office condo units that can be purchased in the area.

The 3-building community includes:

  • Seven town homes from $539,000
    • 2400+ sq ft, w/garages
    • 5 already sold
  • Ten city homes (above) from $600’s
    • 3000+ sq ft, w/garages and elevators
  • Five commercial condos (street level)
    • 1100+ sq ft, from $300’s
    • 4 remain – just completed
  • One 2-story retail/office building
    • 2165+ sq ft total