MARTA’s North Avenue Station project delayed so developers can mull complex site constraints
By David Pendered
The competition for development rights at MARTA’s North Avenue Station is delayed by eight weeks to give companies time to digest additional technical information. Signature companies have assembled at the table to review a premier live-work-play site in Midtown.
Time will tell which of the companies submit a proposal, and which came to kick tires on the development MARTA wants to have built on its 1.6-acre site in Midtown.
MARTA released this one-sentence statement Nov. 7 to address the delay and supplemental information cited in a letter distributed to interested parties on Oct. 31:
- “MARTA has extended the deadline for proposals at the North Avenue TOD after providing additional technical and engineering information to the bidders.”
The deadline for responses to MARTA’s request for proposals was extended to Jan. 28, 2020, from the initial deadline of Dec. 3.
The technical and engineering information MARTA mentioned in the statement relates to constraints on the station in its densely developed urban location. The issues involve the underground heavy rail station and street-grade bus terminal – none of which may be disrupted. The matters include:
- Bus terminal – Six bays serve five MARTA routes, plus Ponce City Market Shuttle, Xpress, Cobblinc, and GCT;
- Rail station – Entrances and exits must remain in full operational service along North Avenue, West Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue. Any modifications have to be approved by each intermodal agency before work begins;
- Rail ventilation – Two systems exist: Near the North Avenue entrance and in the stretch of sidewalks along West Peachtree Street;
- Utilities – Service cannot be disrupted, meaning that temporary services must be installed during the relocation of utilities including water, sewer, storm, gas and fiber.
On Oct. 31, MARTA released to its potential partners confidential documents that show how the structures cited above were actually built, as shown in the “as built” documents. Confidentiality agreements had to be signed before MARTA released the documents.
These documents show what contractors actually built during construction, as opposed to drawings that show how architects and engineers intended a structure to be built.
To put these constraints into perspective, construction of the Atlanta Streetcar was delayed repeatedly because of a lack of information about site constraints. Construction workers knew what they were supposed to encounter, only to be surprised and waylaid when the “as built” environment beneath or alongside city streets was different from the construction drawings, according to periodic reports Atlanta’s former public works commissioner, Richard Mendoza, delivered to committees of the Atlanta City Council.
At least 10 companies interested in the project could be affected by the delay. The list of companies that sent top representatives to attend meetings on Sept. 23 with MARTA to review the project includes, in the general order of names signed on attendance sheets:
- Portman Holdings;
- Walter P. Moore;
- Lincoln Property Co.;
- HKS Architects;
- KDC Real Estate;
- Cooper Carry;
- Regent Partners;
- Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
MARTA’s objective is having the site developed is to create a revenue stream from the leasehold that can be used to supplement MARTA’s operational expenses. This is the purpose of MARTA’s transit oriented development program, which has seen mixed use communities built at other rail stations.
The North Avenue Station is in the white-hot real estate market located a block from the Fox Theatre. It is within walking distance of the medical campus Emory University is developing around Emory University Hospital Midtown, formerly Crawford Long Hospital.