Proposed ‘Gulch’ development designed to suppress car use, promote alternative transit

By David Pendered

The planned 27-acre development in the “Gulch” in Downtown Atlanta has won support from an array of governmental entities for its concept of building a mini city above the network of parking lots and a parking deck stretching between CNN Center and MARTA’s Five Points Station.

Gulch

The ‘Gulch’ in Downtown Atlanta has served as a homeless encampment and parking area for decades. A California-based company proposes to replace it with a mixed use development. Credit: David Pendered

California-based CIM Atlanta Developer, LLC has submitted a proposal to build and open in 2027 a massive live-work-play community at 30 Ted Turner Drive. The development is to provide:

  • 1,000 residential units;
  • 1,500-room hotel;
  • 9.35 million square feet of office space;
  • 1 million square feet of retail space;
  • About 8,000 parking spaces.

A fundamental principle of the proposed development is that its design and location will suppress the need for automobile trips and promote walking, bicycling and ridership on MARTA and the Atlanta Streetcar.

This alternative transit aspect caught the eye of planners with the Atlanta Regional Commission. Their state-mandated review of the project, because of its size, did not address whether the project is the best interest of the City of Atlanta. But the Dec. 21, 2017 review did mention a number of the project’s characteristics – including proximity to two MARTA rail stations – that appear to “manifest many aspects of regional policy.” Furthermore:

  • “Many of these characteristics will collectively offer the potential for site residents to work and shop on site, and for workers and visitors to park once or arrive via alternative transportation modes and conduct multiple trips on foot.”

For starters, plans call for about 8,000 parking spaces to be provided in parking decks, mainly below street level. The purpose of restricting the number of parking spaces is to encourage folks to use alternate forms of transportation to get to and from the development, according to the transportation analysis conducted by Atlanta-based Kimley-Horn:

  • “The intent is to provide minimal parking to promote use of alternative modes of transportation, reducing the need for single occupancy vehicle use.”

Atlantic Station provides more than 7,000 parking spaces spread across three levels, according to its website. The proposed development at Atlanta’s ‘Gulch’ would offer about 8,000 spaces, according to a transportation analysis. Credit: pinterest.com

In addition, access to these parking spaces will be competitive. The spaces are to be shared by residents, shoppers and office workers, according to the transportation analysis:

  • “The 30 Ted Turner Drive development is located in a Region Center area type and shared parking will be utilized on the project site where permitted.”

MARTA has enthusiastically endorsed the proposed development. In a Nov. 10, 2017 letter written to Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane by Elizabeth O’Neill, then MARTA’s interim CEO/general manager, O’Neill wrote:

  • “I would like to express my support for the proposed development by CIM in the south downtown Atlanta area, often referred to as ‘The Gulch.’”

O’Neill went on to describe particular improvements CIM has proposed to improve access to MARTA’s two nearby stations:

  • “The project is planned to fully integrate with MARTA’s heavy rail system at both the Dome/ GWCC/ Phillips Arena/ CNN Center and Five Points Stations. Two new access points have been proposed by CIM.
  • “Access to the Dome/GWCC/Phillips Arena/CNN Center Station would include a new ticketing concourse on the south side of the station beneath Centennial Olympic Park Drive with vertical circulation along a retailed concourse to provide direct ingress and egress along the northern boundaries of the project.
  • “The second new access point is proposed at the Five Points Station west of Forsyth Street with a direct connection beneath Forsyth Street for ingress and egress at the northwest corner of the Station.”

O’Neill concluded:

The proposed development at the ‘Gulch’ in Downtown Atlanta would replace surface and deck parking with a mini city including a hotel, apartments, and office and retail space. Credit: Kimley-Horn

  • “We look forward to working in partnership with CIM to maximize transit access to their project. I appreciate your consideration and ask for your expeditious support for advancement of this project.”

The focus on transit and compressed parking is expected to reduce vehicular traffic on streets that serve the site, according to the traffic analysis.

A traditional development of this magnitude would generate 88,460 vehicular trips a day, according to the analysis. That number is to be reduced to 46,692 vehicular trips a day. The lower number results from some bonuses the project received for alternative transportation mode reduction – of 31.1 percent for residential and retail uses, and 36.4 percent for office use.

These bonuses are in accord with the letter of understanding signed by GRTA, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, according to the analysis.

In addition, the project would benefit from Atlanta’s program to install intelligent street management tools in its vicinity that are being funded with proceeds of the Renew Atlanta transportation sales tax, according to a Nov. 30, 2017 letter to Keane from Faye DiMassimo, then general manager of Renew Atlanta.

After citing some of the planned upgrades, including wireless and fiber optic communications systems and connected vehicle technology, DeMassimo observed:

  • “The improvements noted above provide the capability for active traffic management, automated traffic signal performance measures, and real-time optimization of urban traffic flows for the differing types of mobility in the area.”

The state Department of Transportation observed that the project is more than seven miles from a civil airport and doesn’t impact any airport. At least, not if a new building isn’t higher than 200 feet. Some of the 27-acre parcel does have a zoning classification that would allow a building higher than 200 feet.

But there’s a process in place to handle that, according to a letter sent to an ARC planner. The Federal Aviation Authority requires a Form 7460-1 be submitted for review of a proposed obstruction that could affect navigable airspace, according to GDOT’s letter:

  • “The FAA must be in receipt of the notification, no later than 120 days prior to construction. The FAA will evaluate the potential impact of the project on protected airspace associated with any airport and advise the proponent if any action is necessary.”

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. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

11 replies
  1. atlman says:

    Since you appear to oppose all projects, development, actions and leaders in and related to the city of Atlanta, what do you propose? For the city’s government to be dismantled? OK then … in that scenario, what happens to the city’s population of 475,000 (and will be 500,000 in the next census with or without Amazon)? And its infrastructure/institutions such as Hartsfield, Georgia Tech, Georgia State etc.?

    All right, assuming that you do not wish for the city to be somehow dismantled, emptied out and paved over, would you prefer that it become stagnant? This means inevitably declining by the way as nearby competing metro areas such as Chattanooga, Nashville, Charlotte, Charleston (S.C.), Jacksonville, etc. are growing. Who would the city of Atlanta’s decline benefit?

    I get the ideological and partisan thing: Atlanta’s Democratic and liberal leadership is “on the other side.” But in a huge country with a two party system, that is inevitable. So hating half the country just to be doing it is ridiculous. Especially at the local level, as the people that the city of Atlanta choose to elect have nothing to do with, say, the composition of the United States Supreme Court, or truthfully this state’s uniformly Republican state leadership. Another thing: while Atlanta is liberal Democrat, they are actually generally moderate, pro-business and even pro-law enforcement. The Atlanta district attorney supports the death penalty, and the previous mayor and police chief prioritized increasing the size of the police force and the number of stations and patrols, and the result is crime in Atlanta being at their lowest levels since the 1960s. Yes, a lot of that had to do with dismantling quite a few public housing projects, but who do you think made the decision to do that and actually carried it out? A hint: it wasn’t the private sector and it certainly wasn’t the Bush or Trump administrations. The Atlanta Housing Authority and the mayor’s office/city council made the decision to dismantle those housing projects, a process that is still ongoing. This very same city government works to keep taxes and regulations on corporations as low as possible, and even gives tax rebates and incentives to companies willing to locate/relocate there. It’s why actual progressives like Vincent Fort despise city hall and have for decades.

    If you want to see what an actual, activist anti-law enforcement, anti-business and yes anti-first and second amendment city governments look like, then look at Washington D.C., Detroit and Chicago in the 70s and 80s. Look at San Francisco in the 90s. Look at Portland and Seattle today. A fun fact: Baltimore lost the Colts because the city tried to use eminent domain to take it over! Seriously. Baltimore tried to forcibly take ownership of the Colts and pay its private owner pennies on the dollar as market value for it. The team had to sneak away in the middle of the night without telling anyone in order to keep the mayor and city council from convening an emergency session to vote to take over the team. Now did the city of Atlanta even DISCUSS using such tactics to hold onto the Braves (who threatened to go to Jacksonville and Charlotte in the past before finally going to Cobb), the Falcons (who also have threatened to move to Jacksonville and Cobb in the past), the Hawks (ditto) or the Thrashers? Sometimes I wish that an actual Coleman Young, Marion Barry or Ted Wheeler would get elected in Atlanta – along with a bunch of fellow travelers on the city council – so the folks that are oh so aghast that a city that has like 80% Democratic voter registration has the unmitigated gall to elect Democratic leaders (to me it is an even bigger issue that Cobb, which is only about 52-55% GOP, has only 2 or 3 Democratic officeholders between the council and the school board and other county offices but no one talks about that, and the situation in Gwinnett is similar) would see what an actual ideological and partisan hard left city government looks like. Atlanta has never had one, or anything close, even when city politics was at its worst during the 80s and 90s.Report

    Reply
  2. Chris Johnston says:

    @ atlman
    I assume your comment is directed at me, so I will reply.

    I am 71 years and have lived in or near Atlanta City my entire life. I remember the City and its goings on since Hartsfield was Mayor. I had professional dealings with Atlanta City during 1988-2015, and may do so again.

    My opinion of Atlanta City government: City government is always corrupt because it spends other people’s money (see Buddy Fowlkes, for an example of corruption). Under the old mayors (Allen and Hartsfield), City government was corrupt but it worked. Under the later mayors (Massell, Jackson, Young, Campbell, Franklin, Reed, and Bottoms),City government is monumentally corrupt and it doesn’t work.

    I want City government to return to less corruption and more competence.Report

    Reply
  3. atlman says:

    “Under the later mayors (Massell, Jackson, Young, Campbell, Franklin, Reed, and Bottoms),City government is monumentally corrupt and it doesn’t work.”

    Atlanta “worked” back then because while the city had a bigger population, the metro area was much smaller, and Atlanta wasn’t a regional (and in some ways a national and global) hub. Back then Atlanta was essentially a large town in a small state in a region that was ignored economically and culturally. Now it is the hub and gateway to a booming southeast that has already surpassed the upper midwest and is gaining on the lower midwest (ahead only because of Texas) and northeast.

    Consider how this allegedly dysfunctional city has:
    A) a growing population
    B) tons of businesses and private investment locating and relocating to it (with virtually none moving away as they did from the 70s to the 00s)
    C) the lowest crime rates since the 1960s
    D) a lower unemployment rate than even during the Reagan, Clinton and Bush boom years
    E) a fiscal surplus with an improving bond rating
    F) improving infrastructure

    Problems? Yes. All large urban areas have problems. Including Cobb and Gwinnett by the way, it is just that the folks who love to point their fingers at the city tend to ignore them. But hey, pick a better large city south of Virginia or east of Texas. You can’t. (And yes, lots of the cities north of Virginia and west of Texas aren’t as good either.)

    If this were DeKalb we were talking about, then fine. Fire away. But if Atlanta were akin to DeKalb, then Emory and CDC wouldn’t have asked to be annexed by the city.Report

    Reply
  4. Chris Johnston says:

    I was referring to City of Atlanta government that is dysfunctional and monumentally corrupt.
    Those thus far indicted and convicted are a small part of the corruption problem.
    As far as dysfunction, look no farther than the AJC’s article today about the City spending $56,000 so far in defending Judge Terinee Gundy even though the City Attorney says doing so is improper.Report

    Reply
  5. Chris Johnston says:

    This proposed development is “intended to suppress car use” but will provide 8,000 car parking spaces.
    I am rolling on the floor, laughing!
    How many spaces would they provide if they were not trying to suppress car use?Report

    Reply
  6. Not playin says:

    @atlman

    Put down the Reed/Bottoms bullet points along with their Kool aid….

    The duo represent not of their own…instead they do the bidding of those who are not their own…

    Swindling churches into selling off for another dome for a “second rate team”…

    both are HBCU graduates who are taking Morris Brown and Clark Atlanta to the woodshed to be fleeced…

    an explosion of gentrification that changes Atlanta to a white Mecca vs what it once was….

    demanding those seeking to feed the homeless must now have a permit…

    closing homeless shelters by using notions, such as, Peachtree Pine Shelter building had tuberculosis…

    illegal annexations to ensure Mayor Black Girl Magic wins…

    intentionally attempting to sabotage the city of South Fulton….

    firing airport GM’s for “dirty bathrooms and the usual stuff….

    firing decorated Fire Chief Cochran because Heir Reed didn’t like the content of a book Cochran gave away at work…

    releasing govt. employees and schools in the midst of a snow storm when such never happened when Reed attended local public schools…

    turning off water to apartments, right before school started…because bill wasn’t paid….when Queen Quiche still owes 9 grand…but never allocated said apartment complex to be part of the water bill amnesty, that was created so Ga. Pacific (who hadn’t paid their water bill in 34 years) and other high rise apartments in Buckhead, could negotiate the principle owed, with the interest being forgiven….

    supposedly turning over evidence of corruption given to the FBI, to the media that included: school menus, pages with illegible print and my favorite….blank pages…

    threanteing the use of eminent domain to confiscate homes to build a Japanese Koi pond…a fake flood plane to subdue Ms.Mattie Brown’s (96 years old) property….only to back off in court, with the city’s position now being to sit back and wait for Ms. Brown to die……

    evidently, you came here and aren’t from here…

    if the former, you are more than welcome to return from whence you came…

    if the later, you should ashamed that you support such charlatans who tell citizens “for those of you so concerned with your community…. maybe you should just…..GET OUT THE WAY…” , Bottoms said to those not will to bow down to her…

    your Atlanta card
    (ghetto pass)
    is

    revoked

    “City hall was truly….open for business….”

    just not for the Atlantan citizenryReport

    Reply
  7. Not playin says:

    Further…atlman

    Reed used the threat of

    “LA wants the Falcons …”

    LA who

    LA Gear

    LA the city

    or

    LA Reid….

    the above is as unbelievable as Reed’s explanation of why he needed the blue lights in the basement on 75, 85, 285 and 20…

    because he’s been threatened 2500 times…

    Mmmmm

    “$2500.00…”

    is the same amount of a “bonus” given away at a closed door Christmas party….

    question

    If those were bonuses and not contest winnings…why did the members of Reed’s cabinet still have to participate in an ugly sweater contest, lip sync, sing, dance and
    shuck and jive to get the

    prizes

    I mean,

    bonuses

    Bolshevik !!!!!!Report

    Reply
  8. [email protected] says:

    Whatever gets built in the “gulch”, unless it includes a heavy rail(i.e. inter-city Amtrak-like servicing facilities(station/fueling/watering/cleaning/route interchange access) will have to be rebuilt(re-“gulch”itated?) to provide for same, as there is nowhere else in north Georgia where such route interchange can occur, unless Mr. Musk and his fantabulous tunneling machine can dig out such space for those facilities BELOW what has been(is being) proposed here, and elsewhere in recent media coverage of this subject. That should peg the cost at being merely doubly undo-able. Raleigh just rebuilt their version of such, but had the foresight to include the rail industry in discussions, and as a result now has a somewhat workable facility which accomplishes for that area multi-route rail routing options, which b-t-w happen to include High Speed Rail in the design plan. What say ye Governors wanna-be?Report

    Reply

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