New owner, new plan emerges for 18-acre English Avenue site
By Maggie Lee
A Dallas-based developer says it’s going to reactivate a mostly disused site in English Avenue along the future BeltLine, but with community in mind.
Lincoln seeks to bring development into an underserved area, but also create jobs and opportunities for folks who live there now, according to a company leader.
They want to “create something that’s … a gateway and shining opportunity in the Donald Lee Hollowell and English Avenue area,” said Tony Bartlett, executive vice president of the Lincoln Property Company, describing his company’s plans for a site bound roughly by Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, Northside Drive, Jefferson Street and James P. Brawley Way.
Echo Street West would include about 278,100 square feet of office space, 50,700 square feet of commercial space, underground parking with 644 spaces for those areas, plus 371 parking spaces for residents.
“I think the biggest concern that you hear throughout is just affordable housing being a component,” he told the board of the Development Authority of Fulton County on Tuesday.
The project will include about 285 residential units. About 57 of them will be priced below market rate to be affordable for a household making about 80% of the area median income.
(The formula for “affordability” varies with family size, but 80% AMI suggests rent of about $1,400 for a family of two who are making no more than $51,000.)
The company is set to get a property tax break worth $10 million over 10 years for the development, after a preliminary approval by the board of the county development authority board on Tuesday.
Bartlett told the board that problems on the site include out-of-date utilities and ground pollution.
Board member Steve Broadbent said part of why the development authority exists is to take former industrial sites in west and south Atlanta and support those sites rejoining the community.
“I think this is the perfect use of the power of the development authority,” Broadbent said.
Much of the 18 acres are unused now and aren’t worth much to the tax base or to neighbors.
Board member Kyle Lamont gave his preliminary OK for the property tax discount, but he had a challenge for Lincoln when they come back to ask for final approval.
“I’d like to see more concrete and equitable ways how you’re going to directly benefit English Avenue,” Lamont said.
Yes there are blights of crime and drugs exist in English Avenue, Lamont said. But there are also people who have been there as long as 40 and 50 years who love their community. He wants to know how the plan helps them.
Just one example he gave: if, say the site hosts a farmer’s market, what’s the price point going to be there?
English Avenue residents have spent countless hours over many years planning what they want to see in the neighborhood.
That’s especially important because investors and developers have been busy buying in the area for years. Few are interested in rents low enough to be affordable for folks in one of the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods.
The neighborhood’s plan does call for mixed-use and high-density residential on that block.
Lincoln’s plan replaces a 2018 plan from then-owner Brock Built Homes. The old Brock plan would have put 1.3 million square feet of retail, commercial and residential building on the site. That’s about twice as dense as called for in the locally crafted Westside Land Use Framework Plan. Some residents condemned the Brock plan as too dense and too pricey.
Lincoln plans to break ground on phase one this summer.
Correction: This story has been corrected to give the correct headquarters city for Lincoln Property Company. It’s based in Dallas.