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Atlanta BeltLine: Equitable development report amid concerns over citizen input

David Pendered

By David Pendered

The Atlanta BeltLine’s most dramatic influence on the city’s growth and decline appears in two areas of Northwest Atlanta. Since 2000, population has dropped by 16 percent south of the future Westside Park, and more than doubled west of Atlantic Station, according to an Oct. 14 report on equitable development along the BeltLine.

Ponce City Market is a former warehouse that has been retrofitted into a mixed use development and equipped with direct access to the Atlanta BeltLine. Credit: Kelly Jordan

The report arrives as a citizen advisory committee established in the original BeltLine legislation is questioning whether its recommendations make any difference in the city’s development of the BeltLine.

The process calls for this committee’s recommendations to be delivered to the city and Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm that in 2006 established Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. as a not-for-profit entity. The committee’s stated purpose is to: “monitor the effective and equitable implementation of the BeltLine Redevelopment Plan.”

At its July 14 meeting, the executive committee of the Tax Allocation District Advisory Committee was to take up an agenda that listed an item of “old business” as:

  • “Develop a scorecard to track whether our recommendations are implemented, and if they are implemented, what their impact was. Use this information to assess ourselves for changes in TADAC structure or processes at next year’s annual meeting.”

There’s no record of further discussion of the topic. The matter is not listed on the agenda of TADAC’s July 28 board meeting. An agenda does not appear to be posted for the most recent entry on TADAC’s website, an Aug. 25 board meeting. Minutes of meetings do not appear to be posted.

The Atlanta BeltLine was initially intended to induce developers to build apartments and commercial projects on land beside a planned trail and transit system. Credit: Kelly Jordan

The full report on the BeltLine’s Equitable Development Policy is slated for discussion at Wednesday’s meeting of Fulton County’s Board of Commissioners. Commissioner Lee Morris requested the discussion in his role as the commission’s only representative on the board that oversees Invest Atlanta. The Invest Atlanta board is chaired by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

The report is divided into six sections. Titles and highlights include:

  • A recap of the policy, adopted in 2013;
  • Internal operations, including “racial equity as a core competency in all job descriptions” and affirming compliance with the city’s 30 percent goal for participation of disadvantaged business enterprises;
  • Job creation and support for BeltLine businesses;
  • Stabilizing communities, to include land purchases, affordability goals and starting a tax fund for anti-displacement measures;
  • Funding, with a $150-plus million goal, with $32.5 million raised;
  • Next steps, including modifying the BeltLine TAD legislation.

The report includes demographic measurements on each of the 10 subareas in the BeltLine’s master plan. Categories include:

  • The Atlanta BeltLine has helped attract population growth to the areas shaded in blue. Areas that lost residents are marked in beige. Credit: Atlanta BeltLine, ‘Equitable Development Policy’

    Proportion of Black or African American residents – highest west of the Mercedes Benz Stadium (92.4%) lowest around Piedmont Park (11.3%);

  • Median household income – highest around Piedmont Park ($93,384); lowest west of the Mercedes Benz Stadium ($27,970);
  • Median residential sales price – highest around Piedmont Park ($426,250); lowest west of the Mercedes Benz Stadium ($92,500);
  • Population growth – greatest around Atlantic Station (127.3%);
  • Population loss – greatest south of the future Westside Park and MARTA’s Bankhead Station (-15.8%)
  • Proportion of residential owners paying more than 30% of income on housing – greatest west of Mercedes Benz Stadium (33.5%); lowest around Grant Park (18.5%);
  • Proportion of renters paying more than 30% of income on housing – greatest west of Mercedes Benz Stadium (64.9%); lowest around Piedmont Park (32.2%).

 

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David Pendered
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.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    J Lawrence Miller October 18, 2020 9:16 pm

    It’s outrageous and is clearly explained because the Beltline simply pays lip service to listening the neighborhoods and communities that are impacted by it. In SW the next big development is Murphy Crossing (1050 Murphy Ave). It was the NEIGHBORHOODS immediately impacted by this $200 million+ who reached out to the neighbors to see what they’d like to see there. ABI (the Beltline) is “checking a box” to say they are engaged.

    WE reached almost 1,000 residents. THEY reached about 130. WE have no money and little resources. THEY have plenty. This disparity in outreach is typical of ABI and explains why there is so little vision. Creating developments based on a 15 year old Master Plan and 5+ year old updates says they are checking the boxes.

    Oh. We’ve even shared 100% of the data we collected. ABI, like a vacuum, took it and gives ZERO feedback. What might this development look like? They are still creating the outline of the RFP, they say. Hell they selected a community Advisor who hasn’t participated in any community led meetings. Why isn’t the President of Oakland City on the RFP review panel? Why not any of the other residents of the impacted neighborhoods?

    This report shows how ABI is ineffective at taking real time information about demographic changes and planning around and inclusive of those changes. Homeownership is lower west? How about providing and promoting incentives for homeownership in this area? How about thinking outside the box and creating a truly engaging atmosphere so those of us who live, work, and play West can tell you what we know and convince us you’re actually listening to us about how to live, work, and play here.Report

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Roderick October 18, 2020 11:23 pm

    The City is holding development back due to concerns of Gentrification which i understand but keeping these areas in their blighted states is not the answer either. Stop chocking the development on the Southwest side of Atlanta. Improving the area involves the unpleasantness of uncertainty for some but this cannot be avoid if growth is to occur.Report

    Reply

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