Atlanta Out Loud

Politics and rantings and just stuff that catches my attention.

Monday, September 18, 2006

This was no way to run a Beltline |

Wayne & Keith Mason are none too happy about the way they've been treated by the City of Atlanta. The signs are beginning to show of my cynicism coming true -- the City of Atlanta will find a way to screw this thing up.
Two years ago, the Northeast Atlanta Beltline Group bought 72 acres from Norfolk Southern Railroad, five miles of what is now commonly referred to as the Beltline.

This was the first and only private-sector purchase of a key segment of Atlanta's proposed 22-mile Beltline. The Beltline was the centerpiece of Mayor Shirley Franklin's 21st century economic development vision. It was viewed as a public-private partnership. We believed in that vision.

For nearly two years, since we filed arguably one of the city's longest-running zoning applications, we have shared with city staff nine alternative plans for development along the Beltline. We have reduced density, created smaller building footprints, expanded transit right of way, identified access opportunities and conducted an independent traffic study.

We compromised our plans by proposing to donate more than half of our property to serve the Beltline:

~ 24 acres for transit to accommodate a double-track streetcar/trolley system;

~ A minimum of 15-foot-wide pedestrian/bike trails; and

~ 18 acres for 11 new parks.

Our projects would produce $100 million in tax allocation district revenues for the city to invest elsewhere along the Beltline for affordable housing, other land, transit and infrastructure.

We have had more than 80 meetings with neighborhood groups and civic leaders, and met with more than 100 business leaders during the past two years. The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and Atlanta Regional Commission concluded that our proposal is in the best interests of the region.

Some neighborhood groups near the 10th and Monroe site mistakenly continue to believe that the Beltline is public property. The two high-rises at that seven-acre site represent only 20 percent of developed area, leaving the rest for open space.

The Atlanta Development Authority and the Beltline Partnership (a "public-private partnership"), to build support for the Beltline, crafted a plan calling for open space on our private property with no plan to pay for it. Their plan was developed without any meaningful input from us. At the same time, other nearby Beltline-interested developers were invited to sit at the table. Strangely, we were not invited to that table. This was no way to run a Beltline.

The community was misled to believe that our Beltline corridor had no development value. This was a huge disservice to Atlanta, and confused the residents.

This was no way to run a Beltline.

Our proposal consists of nearly 3,000 residential units of low, medium and high-rise buildings, including affordable work force housing, and 140,000 square feet of retail space throughout our five-mile corridor (the equivalent of driving from Turner Field to Piedmont Hospital along Peachtree Street). The ADA Redevelopment Plan calls for 11,500 units of residential density in the same area within a mile of our property. The ADA density levels would be more intrusive into the neighborhoods than our plan.

This was no way to run a Beltline.

We remain hopeful that responsible city leadership will look at the Beltline's impact and opportunities throughout the city. We remain ready to help make the vision a reality.
This was no way to run a Beltline. I couldn't agree more.


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