MARTA seeks developer to turn Arts Center station into mixed-use hub

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

The Midtown station is among several MARTA is trying to reimagine as community centers

MARTA is making another attempt at redeveloping property at its Arts Center station in Midtown Atlanta into a live-work-play hub after previous efforts failed to get off the ground.

The transit authority recently issued a request for proposals to find a developer that’s able to transform the train and bus terminal into a dense, mixed-use community. MARTA’s request also focuses on bringing affordable housing to the 6-acre property while bringing the transit hub up to date with modern, urban design.

“It could be the center of that area. It’s kind of a void,” Ryan Gravel, the visionary behind the Atlanta Beltline and co-founder of developer Elevator City Partners, said of the Arts Center station. “It could make that part of Midtown into a really special place if it’s designed well.”

MARTA has sought for years to expand its portfolio of transit-oriented development and build mixed-use projects on underused parking lots and other land near its stations as a means of generating revenue and ridership. The idea, which is to create demand generators and built-in customer bases for rail and bus services, is beginning to come fruition at a few stations, including a reimaging of the Edgewood/Candler Park station which was completed Thursday.

The station, located off West Peachtree Street near 15th and 16th streets, is adjacent to Woodruff Arts Center in an affluent part of the city. Several high-rise apartment buildings and office towers surround the transport center, so the station can get lost amid the ever-growing skyline.

“It’s been a red-hot real estate market,” said Kevin Green, president and CEO of the Midtown Alliance. He said roughly 4 million square feet of office space, 5,000 residential units and 1,000 hotel rooms will have opened in Midtown between 2021 and the end of 2022.

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But that expansive growth hasn’t stopped MARTA from trying to redevelop its property to match the surrounding area while increasing ridership — a long-term strategy the agency is implementing at roughly half a dozen stations across Atlanta.

For roughly five years, MARTA negotiated with Atlanta-based developers Cousins Properties and Integral Group on a 3-million-square-foot mixed-use development vision for the Arts Center station. But a final agreement was never signed, and MARTA rescinded the plan last October, leaving the station’s future in limbo.

MARTA envisions plans that will “convert a large portion of the property into a high-quality, mixed-use, transit-oriented development, consisting of residential, retail, office and/or hotel components,” according to the Sept. 23 request for proposals. Submitted plans must also take into account relocating an existing bus loop and figuring out how patrons will access buses and the train platform.

Gravel said MARTA needs to stay focused on promoting public transportation and should limit on-site parking at the Arts Center station. He said the area is walkable and interconnected in a way that lends itself to life without a car.

“There’s plenty of places to live with a car in Atlanta,” he said. “There should be places that really prioritize living without one.”

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Developers’ submissions must also include affordable and workforce housing. MARTA said its goal is for 20% of the new housing units to be reserved for residents who make 80% of the area median income, which is $54,000 for an individual and $77,120 for a family of four.

Similar transformative plans are underway at MARTA stations across its transportation network. MARTA held a grand opening celebration Thursday for the new mixed-use development at the Edgewood/Candler Park station, a 6.3-acre site that is now home to apartments, offices, retail space and a youth development project Moving in the Spirit. The development still has one more construction phase to add a new parking deck, art and a bus loop.

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There’s active construction taking place the King Memorial station, and MARTA’s central Five Points station is also set to undergo a major renovation that will include rehabilitating its train platforms, improving bus bays and removing the concrete canopy that covers the outdoor plaza.

Developments at numerous other stations are in various stages of planning. Green said many of MARTA’s stations — including Arts Center station — need to be changed to match what Atlanta has become over the past few decades.

“These transit stations were built as freestanding places to access buses and trains. The architecture was pretty brutal, and they were designed to be places to walk through to board a bus or go through a turnstile,” he said. “But as our city has grown up around these transit stations, especially in Midtown, they can now be hubs of activity and commerce.”

For the Arts Center station, MARTA will hold a pre-proposal conference Oct. 11, and all proposals must be submitted by Dec. 15.