BeltLine working on Murphy Crossing developer to-do list, againOne of the existing buildings on the Murphy Crossing site (Photo by Kelly Jordan)
By Maggie Lee
Five months after backing out of a tentative deal with Place Properties, the BeltLine is starting to talk about what exactly it wants from the developer who will take on the southwest trail’s 20-plus acres at Murphy Crossing.
Some of the clues to the future plan came out in a public meeting Monday night, when the BeltLine made a public presentation to its Southwest Study Group on what the organization has heard from the community since this summer.
And what has the BeltLine heard?
For one, the new proposals from developers should be a lot more clear and specific than what folks say they’ve heard before.
Like, neighbors want an employment center where there are “living-wage, career-track jobs,” including for people from the surrounding neighborhoods who don’t have college degrees. Not some undefined “best efforts” or “deliberate attempts” at job creation.
And the new development should have affordable spaces for neighborhood businesses, a partnership plan for local and minority small businesses and entrepreneurs, and the developer needs to understand the community’s history and culture. The new development should not just comply with city environmental laws, but go beyond them in specific ways, like with a top-level sustainability certification.
The meeting was held to share the “draft scope of work for a new request for proposals for Murphy Crossing that reflects community input gathered through a series of public meetings and stakeholder advisory committee meetings,” said MaKara Rumley, CEO of the Hummingbird Firm, which is handling public outreach with the BeltLine staff.
The BeltLine hasn’t ruled out some things that get complaints, like some surface parking.
There’s liable to be some “transit-oriented development” language in the RFP, said BeltLine Vice President for Community Planning and Engagement Beth McMillan.
That is, some nod to integrating the site with the light rail line that’s planned along the BeltLine someday; or to any infill MARTA rail station that may ever be opened nearby.
“What were trying not to do is prescribe what we want to see,” McMillan said. “Instead … letting developers create an innovative design to the project that they will be putting forward.”
Murphy crossing isn’t a transit project, McMillan said. It should support the transit there or planned there.
And no city state law protects any of the buildings for historic reasons — though some buildings have some historic significance as part of an old state farmer’s market.
(Buildings that get a historic registry listing, however, are eligible for tax credits that make developers much more liable to want to keep them.)
The BeltLine plans to published a finalized request for proposals this winter.
Back in 2018, the BeltLine published an RFP for the site. But by June 2020, the BeltLine and Invest Atlanta terminated a memo of understanding that with the development team that had proposed investing $200 million at the site.
Place Properties proposed 552 multifamily units, of which 40 percent would have been affordable with no subsidy from the city, Atlanta Housing or Invest Atlanta. There would have been 14 townhomes, 40 percent would have been affordable with no subsidy.
The project would have included a modular manufacturing facility that would have provided 180 entry-level jobs at $19 an hour, according to Place. It also would have had an innovation center and maker space to encourage entrepreneurship. And, 57,000 square feet of retail, including a grocery store.
That plan had taken some heat from the neighborhood because one of Place’s partners was WRS, a developer that’s locally unpopular for making little visible progress on Underground for years and for being a big-box developer.
But WRS said it had been no part of the project since late 2019.
Finalizing a deal with Place was subject to the approval of Invest Atlanta, the city’s development authority. Back in May this year, Invest Atlanta sent a letter to the BeltLine suggesting that Place didn’t have financial capacity to do the development; claiming that someone on behalf of Place had wrongfully tried to contact Invest Atlanta; and that the changes wrought in the economy and markets by COVID-19 demanded a re-evaluation of Murphy’s Crossing.
Nov. 16 meeting video, via Facebook