Portman leaders said they will not apply for rezoning until residents provide feedback on the mixed-use concept. It’s a mirror of the strategy they used for Ponce & Ponce, a large project poised to transform a strip bars and nightclubs near Ponce City Market.
“It is definitely not imminently happening,” Mike Greene, Portman’s vice president of development, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The project’s details are fluid at this stage, but Greene said he’d like it to mostly consist of new housing.
Last month, Portman went under control for more than 2 acres of city-owned property abutting the Beltline and Amsterdam Walk, with the contingency that the developer meets affordable housing and commercial space requirements. Portman also has an agreement with Halpern Enterprises, the developer and owner of Amsterdam Walk, to partner on redeveloping the site.
“We decided that what exists there doesn’t reflect the highest and best use of the property,” said Jack Halpern, chairman of Halpern Enterprises.
More than 1 million square feet of commercial space could be built on the site under its current zoning without neighborhood approval. Don Campbell, president of the Morningside-Lenox Park Association, said he’s encouraged Portman is seeking feedback before clearing the red tape required to build the envisioned mixed-use project.
“If we say no to Portman and become such an annoyance that they wash their hands of it and go somewhere else, somebody else will come in who doesn’t have the same kind of community and civic spirit,” he said.
Beltline’s continued boom
The project adds to the wave of investment spurred by the 22-mile Beltline multi-use trail.
According to a recent report by real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, the Beltline has already attracted up to $8 billion in economic development, which will increase to $10 billion by 2030. In recent years, the Beltline has made significant progress towards meeting its goal of 5,600 new affordable housing units by the end of this decade.
The rush to locate near the Beltline has sent rental rates soaring. Since 2012, the Eastside trail has seen asking office rents increase 189%, according to the report. For the Westside trail, that figure is 378%. Both vastly outpace the increase for Midtown, the city’s most expensive high-end office submarket.
In a statement, the Beltline emphasized that the redevelopment of Amsterdam Walk “is conditioned with the inclusion of significant affordable housing and commercial components.” Greene said Portman agreed for 30% of the commercial space to be reserved for qualifying disadvantaged business, including those owned by minorities and women.
“(The space is) basically for folks that can’t afford what Beltline rent has gotten to for retail space,” he said.
Halpern said current Amsterdam Walk tenants will be given priority for the new commercial space, as long as they meet the disadvantage business qualification. Tenants were provided a letter Monday to formally notify them of the potential redevelopment.
Rad Slough, owner of Urban Body Fitness, said he’s known redevelopment was on the table for years.
“When your owner walks through the parking lot with a whole bunch of plans about four or five people following him around... you know what’s going on,” he said.
However, Slough welcomes the change around his business. He said the current buildings, which are adapted warehouses built more than 50 years ago, don’t fit the area anymore. He said it’s underutilized and most of the tenants knew they wouldn’t be here forever.
Harris Botnick, owner of Worthmore Jewelers, said he’d rather not leave, but he hopes to stay in the Midtown area. He added that he hopes residents will get some control over what is built.
“As an Atlanta native, I don’t really understand how another high-rise can function in that area,” he said. “The amount of traffic is out of control.”
Amsterdam Walk is divided between the Morningside-Lenox Park and Virginia-Highland neighborhoods. On Monday, Campbell’s association will discuss the potential project, and he expects traffic to be residents’ primary concern.
Greene said it’ll take months before a plan forms and a rezoning application could be filed and community input will be essential.