MARTA is ready to see if it can benefit from a recent surge in mixed-use development.
The transit agency is getting ready to gauge developers’ interest in areas around and above several stations in the metro area, including Brookhaven and Buckhead.
In mid-July it will release a request for qualifications to develop about 12 acres on the east and west sides of the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe station.
In Buckhead, the agency is seeking to develop the space on top of the Lenox station, due to lack of undeveloped land around the station.
Looking at the big picture, Amanda Rhein, senior head of transit-oriented development at MARTA, said that such projects would hopefully increase MARTA ridership and generate revenue for the agency. They also help “support a thriving community; it’s a great economic development tool for them,” she said.
Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, agreed. “Vertical development is what you should pursue in an urban development,” said Durrett, who also serves on MARTA’s board.
The agency is planning to release a request for expressions of interest for “air rights” development at Lenox, Arts Center, Midtown and North Avenue this summer.
“We think there is interest,” said Rhein, who added that the agency meets with developers all the time. “We know it can be done.”
She explained that development above stations hasn’t occurred since the original building out of the transit system, so logistically it could be complicated. But she points to developments in Boston, Washington D.C. and San Francisco where those types of projects have been carried out successfully.
The city of Brookhaven has appeared reluctant to move too quickly on MARTA development as it works on its comprehensive plan and waits on the agency to find developers.
When a four-day workshop centered on the development was held in October, Southface, which led the workshop and later released a report on the findings, urged the city to go ahead and rezone the property for mixed-use before a developer was chosen.
City officials resisted the idea, saying they wanted to work on zoning after a developer presented plans.
“We’re waiting to see what MARTA comes back with,” said Brookhaven spokesperson Mike Hassinger. “Then we’ll run it through the zoning process.”
Brookhaven’s Public Works Director Richard Meehan said in May that his department would use the charrette report as a tool when developing the transportation plan, which will serve as an addendum to the comprehensive plan.
MARTA says it’s more than happy to work with city governments throughout the process.
“We rely on the city’s vision for itself,” said John Crocker, director of development at MARTA.
He said the Brookhaven station would likely have more of a town center feel to it, as opposed to the urban feel of areas like Lenox. “Each city has its own personality,” he said.