By David Pendered
Instead of tearing down old structures along the Atlanta BeltLine and building an entirely new community at Murphy Crossing, BeltLine leaders seem to prefer to keep the old and add new units of affordable housing.
This notion of predicting the BeltLine’s preference for the site is based entirely on the outcomes described in the request for proposals the BeltLine has issued on the parcel. The outcomes are in line with recommendations made in 2010 by the Center for Leadership of the Atlanta chapter of Urban Land Institute.
The RFP invites consultants to recommend ways to attract jobs to the parcel and boost overall economic conditions at Murphy Crossing. The site is adjacent to the BeltLine’s Westside Trail, now under construction. It’s located about a mile south of the new Falcons stadium.
Specifically, the consultants’ recommendations are to create a, “prioritized list of actions for the short, intermediate and long term activation of Murphy Crossing and other strategic sites in close proximity to include the framework for horizontal development and marketing of Murphy Crossing.”
A BeltLine spokesperson said the organization cannot comment on its preferred outcomes because the RFP is pending.
“It’s an open procurement so we can’t comment,” BeltLine spokesperson Ericka Davis said in an email exchange. “It’s premature to make any comment right now.”
However, the RFP contains more than a few indications that the BeltLine aims to get something started soon and then build on whatever momentum is generated. The BeltLine is willing to begin with a smaller-scale renovation than the sort of sweeping new development MARTA wants to see on a former parking lot at its nearby Oakland City Station.
Here are a few of the tasks in the RFP that indicate the BeltLine’s preferences:
- “Assessment for the feasibility of a business campus inclusive of workforce housing;
- “Buildings analysis of the existing structures on the site to determine potential for interim and long-term adaptive re‐use scenarios that encourage job growth;
- “Identify infrastructure needs that should be addressed to activate interim uses and increase the likelihood of intermediate and long‐term redevelopment and job creation;
- “Model and make recommendations for a phased activation approach including definitive triggers that dictate the sale of parcels.
- Finally, the RFP instructs the consultants to review a number of existing plans in the area, including, “Urban Land Institute.”
In 2010, the Center for Leadership of the Atlanta chapter of Urban Land Institute produced an analysis of Murphy Crossing that recommended the adaptive reuse proposals that seem embedded in the RFP.
The ULI report suggested the parcel be adapted into an anchor of agricultural center/farmer’s market. This anchor would attract a collection of artisan markets, art galleries, and sustainably minded businesses.
The focus on food stemmed from the absence of food stores in the neighborhood. The area was a bona fide food desert in 2010, with the report showing zero grocery stores and zero limited service food stores in a half-mile radius. Even at a 5-mile radius, just 12.9 percent of businesses were full service food stores.
The smaller-scale renovation project also would be in keeping with market dynamics. These dynamics suggest developers and their funders have tepid interest in significant investments south of the new Falcons stadium.
For example, the deal for filmmaker Tyler Perry to purchase most of Fort McPherson came about only after the collapse of plans in 2012 to have a master developer oversee the redevelopment of a portion of the property. The state of Georgia also abandoned its plans to create a bio-science center on the property.
Over at MARTA’s Oakland Center Station, the lift to get a project started is so great that MARTA has offered to help a private developer navigate applications for funding from Invest Atlanta, the city’s redevelopment arm, and other such governmental relations that can gum-up a project. This assistance is part of an extensive package of aid MARTA is willing to offer in order to get a project started.
The BeltLine’s schedule for hiring consultants calls for proposals to be delivered by Nov. 13 at 3 p.m. Presentations and team interviews are tentatively scheduled to begin the week of Nov. 16. The BeltLine noted in the RFP that it can hire without conducting interviews or seeing presentations. The BeltLine also can choose not to award a contract.
Back in the 1940s, the site at Murphy Crossing housed the old Atlanta Farmers Market. The BeltLine purchased most of the 16.4-acre site from the State Properties Commission, a state spokesman said Monday.