MARTA’s plans to develop vacant land around its rail stations took another step forward Friday when the agency dedicated a $65 million commercial and residential complex at the King Memorial station.
The development includes 305 apartments and 11,000 square feet of office and retail space. It’s small by the standards of some other “transit-oriented developments” in Atlanta. But it’s part of a larger plan to help secure MARTA’s future by creating commercial and residential centers that generate passengers for its rail service and additional revenue for its budget.
Those plans will continue to unfold in 2022, with a third phase of development scheduled to open at the Edgewood-Candler Park station and construction to begin on similar developments at the Avondale and Kensington stations. Developments at numerous other stations are in various stages of planning.
“Over the next 10 years this area is going to see so much more (development),” MARTA interim CEO Collie Greenwood told dozens of people who attended Friday’s dedication of the King Memorial project.
MARTA stations have lured substantial commercial development in recent years. State Farm, Mercedes-Benz, IBM and NCR have located facilities near transit lines. Last year, Microsoft announced it would build a west Atlanta campus near the Bankhead station.
MARTA has encouraged the trend by leasing parking lots for development. The lots were built as MARTA courted suburban commuters who would drive to its stations. But many of the parking spaces went unused. By developing the property, MARTA hopes to generate new passengers as well as lease revenue.
MARTA has had some success with developments at its Arts Center, Avondale, Chamblee, Edgewood-Candler Park and Lindbergh stations. It’s also had some significant setbacks.
Five years ago, the agency canceled plans for a $200 million development at the Brookhaven station amid disagreements between city officials and the developer about its cost and appearance. Last fall it canceled plans for developments at the Arts Center and Peachtree Center stations.
MARTA officials hope to revive some of those plans. They will seek new proposals for the Arts Center station later this year.
The King Memorial development shows setbacks can be overcome. The agency first selected a developer in 2014, but it had to find a new one three years later. Place Properties and H.J. Russell & Co. completed the project that was unveiled Friday on 4.4 acres adjacent to the station and Oakland Cemetery.
A third of the apartments will be set aside as affordable units for local workers, thanks to a $6 million grant from Invest Atlanta, the city’s development agency. H. Jerome Russell of H.J. Russell said the company could not have built affordable housing without public participation.
“This type of housing is very expensive. In order to really keep it going, we’re going to have to have deeper subsidies,” Russell told public officials at Friday’s event. He also told private developers they’ll have to “leave some juice in the grape,” meaning they shouldn’t try to eke out every penny of profit on the projects.
“We can’t squeeze it all,” he said.
Other developments are in the works. Two years ago MARTA selected Portman Holdings to develop 480,000 square feet of office space, plus additional retail space and a hotel near its North Avenue station. The project is still under negotiation.
Construction will begin this year on developments at the Avondale and Kensington stations. MARTA also expects to solicit developers this year for projects at the Arts Center, Bankhead, Five Points, H.E. Holmes and Indian Creek stations.
Future projects are expected at the Ashby, Lakewood/Fort McPherson, Oakland City, Vine City and West End stations.
And rail stations may not be the only beneficiaries of development. Earlier this year MARTA won a $970,000 federal grant to study transit-oriented development at 12 stations along Clayton County’s proposed Southlake bus rapid transit line.
This is a big year for MARTA’s plans for commercial and residential development at its transit stations.
Opening in 2022: King Memorial, Edgewood-Candler Park Phase III.
Construction begins in 2022: Avondale Phase III, Kensington Housing Authority of DeKalb County site.
Proposals sought in 2022: Arts Center, Bankhead, Five Points, H.E. Holmes, Indian Creek.
Awarded and under negotiation: North Avenue station and Abernathy Road at Ga. 400.