Beltline buys Westside land near Microsoft for affordable housing

The Atlanta Beltline will run behind Westside Paper in Atlanta’s Knight Park/Howell Station industrial community. File photo from Tuesday, January 12, 2021.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
The Atlanta Beltline will run behind Westside Paper in Atlanta’s Knight Park/Howell Station industrial community. File photo from Tuesday, January 12, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

City pays $25.6M for 31-acre site owned by Brock Built

The city of Atlanta has secured its largest property yet for affordable housing along the Beltline, and about half a mile south from where Microsoft plans to build a corporate campus.

Atlanta Beltline paid $25.6 million for a 31-acre site bounded by Chappell Road and North Avenue in the booming Westside. The Beltline walking and biking trail passes on the east border of the property.

Microsoft’s February announcement confirming its Atlanta plans prompted Brock Built to sell, said executive Adam Brock. He knew Microsoft’s entrance would lead to even more rapid spikes in nearby housing values, threatening longtime residents’ abilities to stay in the neighborhood.

If the city wants to encourage more affordable housing, it needs to own property, Brock said. Ownership allows the city to dictate what happens on the property.

“When Atlanta Beltline owns the land, they have the ability to sit on it and not have to make an immediate decision,” Brock said. “I can’t wait around. I have a duty to my investors to deliver a return on their investments.”

Community advocates have criticized Beltline planners for falling short of affordable-housing goals. But private development companies say government grants and subsidies aren’t enough to make affordable housing profitable.

The property Brock sold is located just outside the area governed by a moratorium on new construction permits that Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms approved in early 2020 to prevent the displacement of longtime residents.

Brock Built has developed residential communities throughout the Westside, including Main Street Commons. The company had planned to put 375 luxury apartments and condos on the Chappell Road site.

The Chappell Road site is the largest property Atlanta Beltline has acquired for housing development, said Jenny Odom, a spokeswoman for the city agency, which manages planning, land acquisition and construction of the trail.

Atlanta Beltline plans to issue requests for proposals to private companies, at an undetermined date, to develop the Chappell Road site. The agency has not said how many housing units it expects will be developed there. The city last month issued bid requests to develop the Murphy Crossing site on the Beltline’s southern half.

Bottoms has made affordable housing development a priority and recently started a program to develop city-owned land for affordable units.

Atlanta Beltline has also accelerated affordable-housing development, recently buying land at a discount near the Lindbergh Center MARTA rail station.

Brock said he could have gotten a better price — he estimated the price tag is a discount of at least 30% to its market value. But the city presented the idea of buying it at a discount for the Beltline, and Brock said he decided to sell.

Brock Built will record the discounted sale as a donation and receive some tax benefits, though it won’t close the gap entirely, he said. It was more important, he said, to help encourage affordable housing.

Brock Built acquired the Chappell Road site in 2017 from multiple owners, including the City of Refuge ministry and Bottoms’ mother, Brown said. The property includes the site of the former Chappell Forest apartment complex, which has been vacant for at least a decade.

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