By Dyana Bagby
City Council members responded with excitement—and a few concerns—to the proposed Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA Station redevelopment at a Dec. 1 council presentation.
Amanda Rhein, Senior Director of Transit Oriented Development and Real Estate at MARTA, reviewed the agency’s vision of a town-center-style station in the project, which was unveiled in September and slated to begin construction in 2017. Representatives from development partners The Integral Group and Transwestern Development Company attended the meeting, but did not speak.
“This is very exciting, a lot of years in the making,” said Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams.
Rhein said the goal of MARTA’s plans for the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe station is to make it a destination station and “create a vibrant street level experience” including a park, shops, offices and also apartments and condos.
A planned park from Peachtree Road to Apple Valley Road could be the “heart of the community, with retail on both sides,” Rhein said. There would be programming for the green spaces as well with an emphasis on creating a pedestrian friendly environment.
Council members have discussed relocating Brookhaven City Hall to the site and there is even talk of possibly moving the Brookhaven library here. However, nothing is finalized at this point, Rhein said.
The Brookhaven/Oglethorpe station area is about 15 acres. MARTA would be meeting with city officials to have the area rezoned to allow affordable senior living spaces, condominiums and apartments. There are also plans for 70,000 square-feet of retail space; 120,000 square-feet of office space; and a 150-room hotel as well as plenty of civic and public space, Rhein said.
“I recently met with other mayors in the north suburbs and they are a little more negative about MARTA,” Williams said. “They were trying to say MARTA didn’t need to go through rezoning and contribute to property taxes.”
“That is a common misconception we have been made aware of,” Rhein said. “We are fully subject to all local zoning and do that with the local jurisdictions.”
The MARTA land will not be taxable, she explained, but the improvements to the property will be taxable by the city.
Whether or not MARTA will come to the city to ask for tax incentives is still being discussed, Rhein said.
One traffic calming measure MARTA is proposing is a roundabout at the North Druid Hills and Apple Valley Road intersection, she added.
Councilwoman Linley Jones raised concerns about parking and wanted assurance there would be adequate parking for those who would drive to the MARTA station. There are about 560 parking spaces at the station and Rhein said MARTA is looking to develop plans for shared parking with private uses.
Councilman Bates Mattison said he had spoken with the president of Oglethorpe University, who told him that the distance between the school and the station is a problem for students. “This last-mile connectivity is an important part with a campus such as Oglethorpe and a community like Brookhaven,” he said.
Rhein agreed and mentioned MARTA recently developed an agreement with Uber to help riders who didn’t want to wait for the bus or were uncomfortable riding a bus to get to their final destinations.