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BeltLine moves to buy 8.8 acres in Oakland City

Maggie Lee
1150 Murphy Ave via Google street view 1150 Murphy Ave via Google street view

By Maggie Lee

The BeltLine is looking to become the owner of 8.8 acres of land steps from its corridor in Oakland City.

The property, 1150 Murphy Avenue, includes a disused state office building. The sale price on the table is $5.25 million dollars and the seller is the state of Georgia.

The transaction isn’t finished yet and the BeltLine doesn’t have plans to discuss anything about it in detail until it is. A closing date isn’t settled yet.

But after that, a community engagement process will start, according to a statement sent Friday by the BeltLine.

“As with all Atlanta BeltLine projects, we are committed to a robust community engagement process to inform the community and understand the input and insights from the neighborhoods,” the statement reads in part. “This will allow us to shape the future activation of this property in a way that directly responds to current and future community needs for housing, job creation economic development.”

From the project’s beginning, the city has expected the BeltLine to create not just a trail-and-transit path, but also to create affordable housing and jobs along that trail.

And the BeltLine acknowledged years ago it has catching up to do.

In part, it was hamstrung by the Great Recession of 2008, which deflated the property taxes around the corridor that were supposed to pay for BeltLine development. And to help pay for for job centers and some below-market-rate homes.

Since then, property values have more than recovered — enough that the BeltLine gets accused of driving gentrification.  But the very robust property market also gives the BeltLine some cash to work on community development.

Buying land — rather subsidizing a private development — means the BeltLine can ensure that land is used for a deep and abiding public good of some kind. (Just as an example, the city regularly subsidizes below-market-rate apartments inside new private developments, but those arrangements tend to last only 10 or maybe 15 years.)

Clyde Higgs, BeltLine CEO since early 2019, has said plenty of times that buying land has to be part of the BeltLine’s strategy so that it can support deep, permanent affordability along the trail.

The BeltLine’s Friday statement echoes as much.

“Pivoting to focus more intently on acquiring land sites provides a tremendous opportunity for scaling job creation centers, workforce development, affordable housing, and transit-oriented development along the corridor,” it says.

The deal-in-progress became public Thursday when the board of Invest Atlanta, an entity to which the BeltLine is legally tied, voted to approve an acquisition.

The state of Georgia’s property office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Documents:

Invest Atlanta board meeting notes August 20, 2020

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Maggie Lee
Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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