By David Pendered
Public interest in a fresh Georgia Tech study of the Northside Drive corridor in Midtown is being fueled by the proposed sale of state-owned land at Atlantic Station that was purchased as the site of a major transit station to serve northwest metro Atlanta.
The 6.5-acre site was put on the block by the State Road and Tollway Authority, according to several officials who spoke Monday. Gov. Nathan Deal serves as SRTA’s chair. SRTA bought the site when then-Gov. Roy Barnes envisioned it as a transfer hub for future buses to and from Cobb County, commuter rail service, and possibly an Amtrak station.
Tech’s study of Northside Drive may already have influenced city policy. Moments before preliminary results were presented Monday to a crowded room, Atlanta’s transportation planner, Josh Mello, announced the city has decided to include Northside Drive as a transit corridor in the soon-to-be-concluded update of the comprehensive transportation program, Connect Atlanta.
Tech’s study encompasses several significant land plays that could dramatically alter the fabric of Northside Drive:
- The sale of the women’s softball field on the north side of Georgia Tech, overlooking Atlantic Station. The deal with a developer who plans to build a few hundred apartments is expected to close within two months, according to several speakers at the Monday event;
- The new mini city to be built downtown near MARTA’S Five Points Station, the so-called Multi Modal Passenger Terminal to be built around an area called the Gulch;
- The proposed football stadium;
- The SRTA site, located on the IKEA side of Atlantic Station at the corner of Northside Drive and 17th Street.
Discussions of all these potential developments unfolded in a scenario that typically generates scant public attention – a student studio in Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning.
The class is taught by Michael Dobbins, a Tech professor of practice and former Atlanta planning commissioner. Dobbins’ last Atlanta studio won state and national awards for its insights into redeveloping Fort McPherson.
Instead of attracting a handful of listeners, the presentation Monday attracted a crowd that included development lawyers, GRTA and GDOT staff officials, Clark Atlanta University representatives, civic leaders, and two state policy makers – Rep.-elect “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta), and Emory McClinton, who represents the Fifth District on the state transportation board.
McClinton and Dobbins have talked for more years than either cares to remember about retooling the section of Northside Drive from I-75 to I-20.
Dobbins describes Northside Drive in terms of its potential for reconnecting the city’s historic neighborhoods on the east and west sides of the central business district.
These communities have been separated by construction of the Downtown Connector and institutions such as the Georgia World Congress Center, Philips Arena, Georgia Dome – and the large parking structures built to accommodate passenger vehicles.
McClinton has tended to speak more forcefully about Northside Drive as a potential reliever for the traffic congestion that hounds the Downtown Connector. A revived Northside Drive also could be connected to I-20, which would ease gridlock near Turner Field while improving the economic viability of neighborhoods near a possible interchange.