BeltLine: Construction returns as advisory group ponders equity issues

By David Pendered

This story has been updated with the square footage of commercial uses being built in Ponce City Market, the correct name of Atlanta’s Office of Planning, and a corrected chart of construction activity.

A new report shows that construction activity along the Atlanta BeltLine is trending upward after a stark decline during the recession.

A new apartment complex is being built along Huff Road, near the iconic Forsyth Fabrics. Credit: David Pendered

A new apartment complex is being built along Huff Road, near the iconic Forsyth Fabrics. Credit: David Pendered

Fourteen projects were under construction in 2012. That compares to four projects in 2011, three in 2010, and nine in 2009. There were 31 projects being built in 2008, according to the new report from the city’s Office of Planning.

The concentration of development in northeast Atlanta – half the projects being built last year were in the Freedom Parkway subarea – speaks to the issue of equitable development, which is the subject of an advisory group that’s to meet Friday.

A total of 1,485 homes were under construction in 2012, according to the city’s new report. They were being built as townhomes and apartments, either free-standing or as part of cluster of residential and commercial uses on one site.

The projects ranged in size from 41 units, in Ansley Parkside Townhomes on Monroe Drive, to 305 units, in the AMLI Apartments development on North Avenue.

Five of the 14 projects include commercial space. They range from 11,005 square feet, on 14th Street, to about 50,000 square feet, at a medical office building near Piedmont Hospital.

The trend line is moving up for housing starts along the BeltLine. Credit: Atlanta Bureau of Planning

The trend line is moving up for housing starts along the BeltLine. Credit: Atlanta Office of Planning

In addition, Ponce City Market has 250 homes and about 750,000 square feet of commercial space in its planned renovation of the former City Hall East, according to the developer, Jamestown Properties. The commercial portion includes about 441,000 square feet of office space and about 310,000 square feet of retail space.

Ten of the projects were in the BeltLine tax allocation district. The others were just outside the TAD, but within the BeltLine’s planning area, which extends a half-mile on each side of the 22-mile rail corridor.

TADs are special tax districts where public improvements, such as parks, are paid for with the increment of property taxes collected on new development within the TAD.

The concentration of development in northeast Atlanta is a concern for some city policy makers. They want to ensure that the $20 billion in development expected along the BeltLine is spread across all of the BeltLine, and not concentrated in the northern areas of Atlanta.

Commercial construction along the BeltLine includes this medical office building, on Peachtree Street near Piedmont Hospital. Credit: David Pendered

Commercial construction along the BeltLine includes this medical office building, on Peachtree Street near Piedmont Hospital. Credit: David Pendered

An advisory group that’s devising an equitable development plan is slated to meet Friday. One main topic of conversation is to be the development of baseline materials that Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. can use in developing the BeltLine’s core amenities, recruiting economic development, leveraging existing neighborhood assets, and others, according to the 22-page economic development plan.

The group faces difficulties in gathering information to create the baseline report, according to a presentation prepared in January.

A central challenge is the lack of information that’s crunched down to the neighborhood level. The consulting group hired last autumn is preparing to recommend the baseline be drafted from sources such as the Census, research companies that work in the housing industry, National Community Stabilization Trust, Georgia Department of Public Health, and the U.S. departments of agriculture and labor.

New townhomes are being finished at Reserve at City Park, located off 26th Street in Buckhead. Credit: David Pendered

New townhomes are being finished at Reserve at City Park, located off 26th Street in Buckhead. Credit: David Pendered

Another of the group’s challenges is the lack of development along the BeltLine, according to one report. With only limited development to track, it’s hard to determine what constitutes equitable development.

The city’s new report on housing starts along the BeltLine suggests development is returning to the BeltLine corridor, as it is returning elsewhere in the region.

New home starts in metro Atlanta were up by 50 percent in 2012, compared to 2011, according to reports by Metrostudy, a research company that specializes in the housing industry.

Metrostudy’s recent reports put Atlanta – finally – in the basket of regions in which housing seems to have stabilized. Nationwise, starts are up almost 30 percent, and some regions recorded increases of 60 percent or more, including Boise; St. George, Utah; Phoenix; Las Vegas; and northern California, according to Metrostudy data cited in a story last week in buildineronline.com.

 

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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