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Bowen Homes: Catalyst project to revive swath of Northwest Atlanta

Northwest Library at Scotts Crossing. (Photo by David Pendered. 2019)

By David Pendered

Atlanta’s next Peachtree Street could emerge along the blighted neighborhoods around the former Bowen Homes if a master developer who’s to be selected Wednesday can fulfill a long list of expectations.

The Atlanta Housing Authority is slated to name a master developer to lead the rejuvenation of the 74-acre site of Bowen Homes. The former public housing project could become a focal point in the restoration of surrounding neighborhoods that extend north of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway — formerly named Bankhead Highway — according to the request for proposals issued Dec. 9 by Atlanta Housing.

One part of the dream is for the buildings along Hollowell Parkway to be retooled from a fairly gritty urban mix into a corridor of commercial and residential developments. The idea is for it to become a Northwest Atlanta version of Atlanta’s signature Peachtree Street. Peachtree Street, in Downtown Atlanta, changes names to Peachtree Road north of Midtown.

The RFP observes, “Bowen plays a major role… as a dense activity center surrounded by preserved urban forest, with Hollowell Parkway as the area equivalent to Atlanta’s major commercial street, Peachtree Street.”

Meanwhile, residents of neighborhoods around Bowen Homes have contributed their thoughts and preferences for revitalization to a master plan that provides a bigger-picture view of hopes for this part of Atlanta.

The Georgia Conservancy has supported long-range planning in the area for 12 years, according to the city-approved Community Master Plan Update, Summer 2021. The 2010 plan was updated with financial support from the Coca-Cola Foundation, the David, Helen and Mariam Woodward Fund, the Turner Foundation and the Wells Fargo Foundation.

Over a three-year period, according to the document, the aim was to “balance preservation of existing resources and character with new community amenities and opportunities. Additionally, three Georgia Tech design studios envisioned what new development in NPU-G could look like, integrating green infrastructure and improved connectivity into their designs.”

These visions are rooted in a vibrant redevelopment of the former Bowen Homes. Deadlines loom once Atlanta Housing names a developer.

By April 22, final terms are to be settled between Atlanta Housing and the developer. By September 2028, the final project in the first phase of redevelopment is to be completed, according to terms in the RFP.

The terms portray a complicated project. For starters, Atlanta Housing is to retain ownership of the land and provide ground leases for residential projects. The developer is to present a financial plan that generates tax revenues for the City of Atlanta, while also providing significant amounts of affordable housing.

The affordable housing requirements include a series of rental units with varying affordability criteria. Units reserved for low-income households must remain affordable for at least 40 years. Other groups of rental units are to be affordable for at least 30 years and for 20 years.

Development funds could include the federal Choice Neighborhood Initiative. A minimum of 250 housing units must be provided to qualify for the grant. Almost $50 million in CNIG funds could be available to the developer. If the project is funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, terms call for Atlanta Housing to take $450,000 in a planning grant, and the remaining $49,550,000 can go to help pay for the development.

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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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