Beltline chooses developer for Murphy Crossing project

Credit: Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

Credit: Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

The plan for former State Farmers Market includes residences, co-working space, retailers and fresh food options along Westside Trail

One of the largest projects along the southern half of the Atlanta Beltline could soon take form.

Beltline officials announced Thursday that Culdesac, Inc., is the selected finalist to develop the 20-acre Murphy Crossing site into a destination along the Westside Trail. The mixed-use project, which is in its early design phases, aims to create new affordable and market-rate housing and retail space in the area.

The site, located within the Oakland City neighborhood, is among several large tracts where development could reshape the area. Community groups say they hope developer interest won’t erase the character of the historic — albeit often overlooked — portion of Atlanta.

“The revitalization of Murphy Crossing has long been a part of the vision of Atlanta Beltline and represents many of the aspirations we have for sustainable, equitable redevelopment along our 22-mile corridor,” Clyde Higgs, Beltline president and CEO, said in a news release.

The industrial site at 1050 Murphy Ave. used to be home to the State Farmers Market. Now, it’s a sea of rusted and mostly vacant warehouses and buildings that once featured as a post-apocalyptic setting in the “Hunger Games” series.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Murphy Crossing is one of the most coveted redevelopment opportunities south of downtown and it took several years for Beltline officials to acquire all the parcels and a public call to find a developer.

The Beltline issued its first request for proposals for the site in 2018 and later withdrew it. The agency shelved the effort blaming the pandemic, but neighborhood groups said community pushback helped scuttle it. Last year, the Beltline issued another request for proposals.

Based on the request for proposal, the plan includes an estimated 800 residential units, 150,000 square feet of office and light industrial space and 180,000 square feet of retail space.

Kyle Lamont, a member of the Development Authority of Fulton County board and former president of the Oakland City Community Organization, fought against prior proposals. But he said he’s pleased with the current proposal by Culdesac, which is based in Tempe, Arizona.

“I hope we’re at the table every step of the way,” Lamont said.

Wave of private investment

Located less than three miles southwest of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Oakland City’s history runs deep.

The area, which was briefly its own city in the late 1800s, was annexed into Atlanta in 1910. Some of Atlanta’s oldest bungalows still stand in Oakland City and the adjacent Adair Park, West End and Capitol View neighborhoods. The southwest segment of Atlanta, once a majority white community, would become predominately Black in the middle part of the last century.

The area faced rampant real estate speculation and mortgage fraud during the housing bubble, and the neighborhoods became some of the hardest hit during the foreclosure crisis. But in recent years, speculators returned and the neighborhoods have become some of Atlanta’s most sought-after, spurred in part by the Beltline. The Murphy Crossing project and others within the one-mile radius around it have attracted $800 million worth of private investment, according to Beltline officials.

Joel Dixon, a principal at Urban Oasis Development, is among the team helping Culdesac realize its vision. Dixon, an Adair Park resident who was raised in nearby Castleberry Hill, said it’s a “watershed moment” for him to participate in reimagining his neighborhood.

The development team also includes Kronberg Urbanists + Architects, LDG Consulting and T. Dallas Smith and Co.

ExploreT. Dallas Smith reflects as he hands over reins of Atlanta firm

The site is within walking distance of several other new developments. Pittsburgh Yards, a 31-acre mixed-use development, MET Atlanta’s business park and the Lee + White restaurant and brewery district all border the Beltline.

About a mile north of the Murphy Crossing is the struggling Mall West End where two New York-based developers are currently pursuing a plan to redevelop the mall.

Nick Hess, the chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit S which includes Oakland City, said his neighborhood is equally protective of their long-term residents and culture.

“Our residents are sort of allergic to the feeling of having things done to them and not done with them,” he said

Hess said he’s pleased the current plan incorporates many community recommendations from a 2020 survey.

“It feels like they read the recommendations, they internalized the recommendations and this is almost a proof of concept of a lot of those ideas,” he said.

Credit: Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

Credit: Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

Transit and affordability

Titled Murphy Crossing by Culdesac, the project’s preliminary vision includes apartments, co-working spaces, a grocery store and a farmers’ market in addition to restaurant and retail options.

The development team said 25% of the residential units will be designated as “permanently affordable,” while an additional 5% will be kept at below-market rent rates for the next 30 years. Affordable units are generally kept as a certain percentage of the area median income, and Murphy Crossings’ target is between 60 and 80% of that figure — meaning an individual can’t make more than $40,500 to $54,000 in today’s dollars to qualify for the units.

Lamont, the former community president, said he wants the project team to maximize density to build as many apartments as possible.

“Some number in the thousands would have a more significant impact in safeguarding this community,” he said.

The project will mix new construction and adapt existing industrial buildings. Some of the retail and light industrial spaces will be offered to retail tenants at “an affordable rate,” the release said.

The plan, which is set to go through multiple public meetings, will prioritize high density and transit-oriented development with a focus on pedestrian and cyclist access, the release said. The on-site farmers’ market will pay tribute to the State Farmers Market, which first took place on the property in the 1940s.

Credit: Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

Credit: Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

Matt Garbett, a co-founder of Thread ATL and land use chair for neighboring Adair Park said he’s “cautiously optimistic.”

“All I’ve seen is renderings, and I always say I never trust anything in pastel. Until I actually see the site plan, I’m really just going on a level of trust and reputation,” he said. “These people have pretty good reputations.”


Murphy Crossing public meetings

The first public meeting will take place Monday, Sept. 26, at 6:30 p.m. with both virtual and in-person attendance options. More information is available on beltline.org/meetings.