Midtown residents still aren’t sold on development near Piedmont Park

They say it will make the beltline for all of Atlanta.

In the four months since a proposed development at 10th Street and Monroe Drive drew the ire of Atlanta residents concerned about adding more density to a busy corner near Piedmont Park and the Beltline, residents say there have been no updates to the plans that would assuage their concerns.

The project, by Fuqua Development and 10th & Monroe LLC, would put a hotel, a grocery store, a food hall and about 300 residences on four acres next to Park Tavern and adjacent to a planned extension of the Beltline. The project would add some much-needed affordable housing to the area —about 100 units — but even residents who say they appreciate the additional affordability are concerned about the extent of the plans.

“I think it’s a really bad idea,” said Holice Wolf, a Midtown resident of 13 years who was walking near the intersection Tuesday. “I feel like we have enough going on here. We don’t need more.”

A project of that scope, she said, would take away “the whole neighborhood feel” of the area and make traffic at an already-dangerous intersection worse. Jenifer Keenan, co-chair of the planning committee of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association, said the project as-is is “unworkable.”

Jeff Fuqua and Jim Kegley, the developers on the project, know that they have a long way to go to bring residents on board. But they posit that the triangular piece of property would be the right place for a mixed-use project, and would add amenities to the neighborhood. Additionally, they said, the $2.5 to $3 million in property taxes the development could bring to the Beltline’s tax allocation district each year would help pay for the transit expansion that is eventually planned for the area.

Bike riders enter the intersection at 10th and Monroe Drive from the Beltline. A new development has been proposed near the intersection. JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM AJC FILE PHOTO

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While the rough sketch of the plan has been known for months, Fuqua said there are details that need to be worked out, and residents’ input will be taken throughout the process, which will go until at least July.

“We’re certainly sensitive to neighbors’ concerns,” said Kegley, who said he’s already reached out to Grady High School and the Atlanta Public Schools.

The first community meeting on the project was held Tuesday night, and Heather Correa, a partner with Fuqua Development, said the developers intended to spend a lot of time listening to residents’ concerns and collecting their thoughts. Fuqua said an agreement with neighbors would be reached before any plan moved forward.

“If not here, then where?” Kegley said of the development. “This should be Main and Main for ground-up, new development on the Beltline.”

Matt Fogt, with Invest Atlanta, declined to comment on the proposal, but sent an email with details about what that group was looking for in a partner before selling Beltline frontage. Invest Atlanta wanted between 20 percent and 40 percent of any residential units to be considered affordable housing; the Fuqua plan calls for 30 percent to be affordable. The group said it wanted a project that created long-term affordability, in excess of 50 years; the Fuqua plan calls for those affordable units to be available for 15 years, the minimum term.

Kegley said he thought the city might want the affordable housing component more than residents do, but Debbie Skopczynski, chair of the Atlanta Neighborhood Planning Unit F, which the development falls in, said that’s the most exciting part of the proposal. In fact, she and others wouldn’t mind more affordable housing, for longer terms.

What she worries about is necessity of a hotel and a grocery store, how the project would integrate with the neighborhood and why there is a plan for parking at the site, when the Beltline is meant to be walkable. Already, she said, the intersection is a dangerous oneAlexia Hyneman, a Grady freshman, was killed there while riding her bicycle in 2016.

“It’s a great piece of property in a terrific location; there are a lot of opportunities around Piedmont Park to create spaces for people to congregate,” Skopczynski said. “Somewhere along the line, we’ll find a concept that works both for the developer and the community.”

Kegley said the developers will do traffic studies before they solidify any plans, and suggested the new construction could be a catalyst for change in areas that need work, like the crossing.

Janet Callum and Irving Penso, who were walking on the Beltline Tuesday, said they think there is a need for more density, but that where it is should be carefully considered.

“When developers are at this stage of the process, they’ll promise the moon,” Callum said. “Bait and switch is a big danger with this stage of the development process.”

Kaylyn Roi and Michelle Vazquez, Grady seniors, were more optimistic about the jobs the project might bring. But they also said the area didn’t need any more traffic and they wondered how many more students the project might mean for Grady.

“It’s good, but it’s going to cause a lot of commotion,” Vazquez said.

Fuqua is sure that by the time the project is built, he will have won over the neighborhood.

“I’m convinced it’s going to be a great amenity for the neighbors here,” he said.

Upcoming community meetings

The developers will hold community meetings to discuss the proposal May 17 and June 28 at 6 p.m. The location of the meetings has yet to be determined.

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