By David Pendered
MARTA is offering to provide significant assistance to the developer of a planned mixed use community at its Oakland City Station. The neighborhood has a high poverty rate, is losing residents, and has just seen most of Fort McPherson turn from a planned mixed use neighborhood into Tyler Perry’s next film studio.
On its face, the Oakland City project seems a tough nut to crack. Challenges appear greater than at MARTA’s Bookhaven and Chamblee stations, where MARTA recently has signed contracts for construction of transit oriented development.
The Oakland City neighborhood is in a state of flux. More people have moved out than moved in since 2000. Household income is $19,035 for homes within a half-mile of the station, according to an analysis conducted in 2014 that’s included in the request for proposals issued by MARTA.
These figures emphasize the need for the Oakland City project to provide homes and shops that are attractive to folks with money to spend. MARTA’s vision for the project calls for it to promote ridership on the transit system while creating a pleasant place to walk to homes, shops and offices.
MARTA is doing what it can to support the project so that it will be economically viable. The 3.7 acre site is a former park and ride lot that’s now behind a chain link fence.
For starters, MARTA has offered to work with the developer to generate neighborhood support for the project. As the RFP states:
- “MARTA strongly encourages Proponents to consider developing a detailed community outreach plan that provides a comprehensive strategy for community involvement.” The boldface type is in the RFP.
In addition, MARTA is in the process of requesting Atlanta to rezone the land as MRC, or mixed residential commercial. Buildings could be as high as 225 feet.
MRC zoning intends to promote a compatible mix of commercial and residential uses, in a development that includes minimum stands for sidewalks, street trees, shop fronts to be adjacent to sidewalks, and parking located to the rear or side of buildings, according to Atlanta’s zoning ordinance.
In addition, the RFP notes that Atlanta can provide the project with density bonuses if it meets criteria such as providing open space, affordable housing, ground floor commercial, or civic space.
MARTA also offers to help the developer apply for a wide array of funds from Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm.
Invest Atlanta can provide public financing for aspects of the job including structured replacement parking, relocation of existing utilities, streetscape improvements and other pedestrian-related access improvements, according to the RFP.
Invest Atlanta also provides public funds for multi-family housing and affordable housing. Invest Atlanta also can provide access to a federal program that provides money for developments in areas with high rates of poverty or unemployment, provided the development meet community needs such as providing health food options.
Six companies sent representatives to an on-site visit on Sept. 23.
They include Prestwick Co.; Sizemore Group; S.L. King; Jamarr Zellner, whose LinkedIn page lists his personal real estate firm and his commercial broker role at Coldwell Banker Commercial; and Patterson&Dewar Engineers.
Proponents have until Oct. 30 to deliver their proposals to MARTA.