Atlanta BeltLine’s plans for Murphy Crossing aim to get something started ASAP

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.

Murphy Crossing, Building 11

The structures at Murphy Crossing, which once housed the old Atlanta Farmers Market, could be redeveloped into spaces for a new farmers market, artisan market, and art galleries, according to a 2010 proposal from ULI Atlanta Chapter that is to factor into in a pending redevelopment plan for the site. Credit: David Pendered

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.

Murphy Crossing, artisan market

An artisan market could open in one of the old buildings at the former Atlanta Farmers Market if developers decide to keep some of the exisiting buildings, according to a 2010 report by ULI Atlanta Chapter. Credit: ULI Atlanta Chapter

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.

Murphy Crossing, agriculture concept

The establishment of an agriculture center at Murphy Crossing could serve a variety of projects that would benefit the neighborhood. Credit: ULI Atlanta Chapter

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.

Murphy Crossing, potential attractions

The creation of an agriculture center to anchor Murphy Crossing could attract a variety of like-minded businesses and programs. Credit: ULI Atlanta Chapter

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.

Oakland City MARTA Station, potential development site

MARTA has offered to provide extensive assistance to any developer willing to tackle a proposed mixed use development on a former parking lot at the Oakland City Station. Credit: David Pendered

Murphy Crossing, train

CSX freight trains travel across Murphy Avenue from the site the Atlanta BeltLine wants help in planning for redevelopment and job creation. File/Credit: David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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