By David Pendered
MARTA wants to engage a developer to build a live-work-play community in the 2-year-old city of Brookhaven, where a proposed 30-year plan appears to embrace dense urban development.
MARTA is seeking developers for its Brookhaven Station. MARTA intends to develop homes, offices and shops on almost half the station’s sparsely used lot, and replace those parking spaces in structured parking.
The project may not be easy, according to a MARTA report that states: “The positive involvement of [Brookhaven and DeKalb County] could be a challenge to bring about. It will take careful negotiation and cooperation, of which ARC [Atlanta Regional Commission] could help facilitate. The largest hurdle, however, could be the participation of private money lenders.”
Brookhaven’s proposed Comprehensive Plan 2034 seems to support MARTA’s development concept. The proposed plan speaks in positive terms of three recently built mixed-use communities that embody the planners’ vision for dense developments in Brookhaven:
- Town Brookhaven, which the Brookhaven plan describes as, “a 48 acre pedestrian-friendly urban village, which includes 460,000 sq. ft. of retail, 950 residential units, 20,000 sq. ft. of office, and 20 restaurants”;
Brookhaven Village, along the Dresden Drive corridor north of the Brookhaven Station, which the Brookhaven plan says is, “transforming into an urban boulevard with multi-family residential above street-lined retail. This development form provides retail, services, restaurants, and offices within walking distance of surrounding neighborhoods”;
The Brookhaven City Council is slated to adopt Comprehensive Plan 2034 at its Nov. 18 meeting, following a final public hearing on Sept. 9. The plan was unveiled at a council meeting on Aug. 12.
Jacobs is serving as the project manager and lead consultant. Sycamore Consulting is coordinating public engagement and Market Street Services is overseeing economic development and demographics analysis.
For its part, MARTA has asked developers that are interested in the project to submit their qualifications by Sept. 18. MARTA will screen the responses and invite those that pass muster to submit their proposals at a later date.
The proposed Brookhaven Station development represents MARTA’s efforts to move forward with a two-fold plan to increase its revenues by developing land near a transit station. MARTA has long identified its Brookhaven Station as a candidate for development.
First, MARTA will make money through long-term leases on the ground beneath the planned development. A report prepared for MARTA says MARTA could expect to collect $640,000 a year by leasing 10 acres. The price presumes land values in the area of $1.6 million an acre, according to the report by Bleakly Advisory Group.
For developers, the benefit of entering a 99-year ground lease with MARTA is the lower cost of land. The lease rate of the ground lease would be 4 percent, compared to a debt rate of 6 percent if the developer were to finance a property purchase.
Second, MARTA expects a boost in ridership of its trains and buses once the development opens. That’s because a portion of the individuals who live in the homes, and work in or visit the commercial spaces, are expected to become transit passengers.
MARTA commissioned a market analysis in 2013 of potential development sites including the Brookhaven Station. The report determined the station could support the following components:
- “Up to 10,000 square feet of retail and/or up to 15,000 square feet of office space;
- “Up to 300 residential units, including apartments and condominiums; and
- “62,000 square feet civic use.”