A mostly skeptical crowd packed the City Council chambers at Brookhaven City Hall Feb. 2 to listen to MARTA’s plans for development around the MARTA/Oglethorpe station that officials said could bring $200 million to the city.
Questions about traffic, density, safety, storm water and sewers resulting from the planned transit oriented development (TOD), to include affordable senior housing and street-level retail, were asked but most could not be answered by MARTA’s representatives or the development partners on hand for the first of many community meetings.
More due diligence, including a traffic study, is set to take place soon, explained MARTA Senior Director of Transit Oriented Development and Real Estate Amanda Rhein.
“We want to get feedback before getting too much along in the process,” Rhein said. The traffic study many people wanted to know about will be done in partnership with the city, Rhein added.
The first formal step in creating a TOD, also dubbed by MARTA as a “town center,” at the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe station is to apply for rezoning of the approximate 15-acre site to allow for multi-use development. That request is set to take place the first of April, said Trent Germano, senior managing director with Transwestern Development Company.
Transwestern and The Integral Group have joined forces as the Brookhaven City Center Partners to plan the project with MARTA.
More community meetings are planned throughout February and there will also be meetings with the local Chamber of Commerce and Citizen Review Board. Groundbreaking is expected in early 2017, Germano said.
Rhein said the development is projected to bring in $200 million to the city on a site where there is currently no revenue being made. MARTA owns the land and will not pay property taxes, she explained, but the developments to the property, including retail space, means more sales tax revenue.
Also planned are mid-rise towers, no more than seven-stories high, to include nearly 600 one and two-bedroom residences, such as condominiums, Germano said.
“We’re looking at young urban professionals and empty nesters. These places will be fairly expensive,” he said.
Plans are to also have 126 affordable apartments for seniors, he said.
A 1-acre park is also planned within the development to connect Peachtree Road and Apple Valley Way.
The new demand for TODs and multi-use property comes from millenials who want to walk to restaurants and work and have ready access to public transportation, Germano added. “They want to be in an urban area,” he said.
One resident, who said he was a commercial Realtor, dismissed the plans for urban development in Brookhaven.
“We’re not trying to become Midtown,” he said. “We are a car city and are always going to be a car city. This is the wrong site. I’m not looking to revitalize the Capitol City Country Club.”
Another person said there would be no way the small two-lane roads leading into the MARTA station site could handle a major increase in traffic. Terrell Carstens said MARTA’s plans to have off-street parking on Apple Valley Way was a mistake because it would lead to people circling neighborhoods while waiting for a space to come open.
Frank McCloskey said he was concerned about the lack of trust he perceived there to be between residents and the city government when it came to ensuring transparent development.
“I hear what you’re saying about the city being a kind of backstop, a firewall … and I think this is fair, but there’s not a lot of trust at this moment with the city and how it is approving things,” he said to applause.
Despite the overwhelmingly doubtful crowd, there were a few people who supported the project.
“I think this is a spectacular project here,” said Bill Roberts. “This could change everything about Brookhaven. Make it your A-game and make it something we can be excited about and I think we will all get behind it and be supportive of it.”
Upcoming district community workshops:
Feb. 10, 7-9 p.m.
Lynwood Park Recreation Center
Feb. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Briarwood Park Recreation Center
Feb. 18, 6-8 p.m.
Capital City Club