more Mixed Use

(warning: this is a long one)

back in December, the word got around that the corner of the Reynoldstown neighborhood directly across the street from the Edgewood Shopping Center was ripe for development and someone was interested.

parcel-GIS-layered data flat
the affected property outlined on the current GIS map

the Physical Details:
20 residential lots comprise approximately 5.4 acres and contain 12 houses with 1 apparently vacant (1150 Wade St). Historic properties and their date of construction (according to Zillow.com, so take as estimates) are in orange, occupied properties in yellow. The oldest properties date 1920 though this one looks like it may be older and all new construction is from the 1990s and seems like they may be Habitat houses (though not the original owners). Judging by the GIS records most of these houses are rentals and some empty lots are owned by neighboring owners while others, like those lots in the southeast corner, are owned by an LLC.

Historically:
parcel-1928-notes
1928 Atlanta City Map from Emory Library

parcel Pullen-aerial 1940 copy
1949 Aerial Atlas of Atlanta from GSU Special Collections.

You can tell by the above map from 1928 and aerial from around 1949, that the property has been in continuous use as single or two-family residential parcels since he 1920s. These houses once faced more homes across Moreland where Edgewood retail district now sits, although the majority of that parcel was an industrial brownfield.

from Edgewood Retail District

The buzz in December was oh-so-brief but the general consensus on the web seemed to be that this was super! residential and commercial development at an appropriate location, right next to Marta, TOD! and all that.

But I was appalled, in the name of development (yet another mixed-use multi-residential/commercial with plenty of parking complex) it’s ok to snatch up people’s homes, (historic homes), on lovely tree-filled lots??! also, I must admit, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the 1920s homes on Moreland Ave—particularly those sitting up above the street with a narrow staircase through their retaining wall, I can’t tell you how much I long to live in one…

On the other hand, proponents were right, proposals to build a high density residential development near a Marta station is positively, duh, brilliant. Despite my heartache at the loss of old houses and older trees, I can see the logic of a better transition from the single family neighborhood to the busy street and commercial hub, and as long as it’s done properly (without turning its back on the neighborhood or otherwise resulting in the deterioration of the next front line of single family properties) this could be perfect. Parking should not be centralized, neighborhood streets should not become congested (believe me, Rtown streets are too small to handle that, Wylie is bad enough), just, overall, it should be beneficial to and serve the existing community not just the young-up-and-coming it aims to attract. And of course, any development should position itself to take as much advantage of public transportation as possible. One person very soundly suggested a reworking of the MARTA entrance along Seaboard Ave. “When it was built,” they write, “there was no reason for [the entrance] to extend down the street toward Moreland but with this development in addition to the Edgewood development, there’s reason for MARTA riders to be coming and going in that direction.” Personally, after walking a quarter mile on elevated walkways in the opposite direction, the distance from where the Rtown entrance spits you out to Moreland is the only reason I don’t walk by the store on my way home. A long trek west just to go east is downright frustrating.

The thing is, it’s hard to believe any developer is going to do right by the community. My boyfriend welcomes the possibility of good restaurants right in our hood, but who’s to say there won’t just be more Willys’ and Subways (nothing wrong with that it’s just not what he has in mind)? and if there’s no improved access to the Marta station then residents and shoppers are just as unlikely to use public transit as they are now when accessing the Edgewood Retail District. And there are other concerns with affordable housing, will a flashy mixed use development like this speed the gentrification of Reynoldstown or will affordable housing be offered and neighborhood’s diversity maintained?

We might not have long to wonder.

The scoop:
An application (Z-13-53) was brought before the Zoning Review Board on February 20, 2014, to rezone the 20 contiguous parcels as Mixed Residential Commercial (MRC-3). Applicant: JW Homes, ℅ Jessica Hill Esq., 17 property owners were named in the application.

According to the Staff Report, the applicant included a conceptual site plan for a multifamily residential development comprising 285 units, 15,000 square feet of non-residential space and 467 parking spaces.

The Staff Report basically says what online commenters had indicated a few months ago:

    – that facilitating a mixed use development was suitable to this area and that “the zoning and site plan proposal are consistent with the recommendations of the Moreland Ave Corridor Study and goals and policy for the City for infill development near MARTA stations.”
    – the proposed development would have a positive influence on the quality of life and positive effect on adjacent properties, “filling an important gap in the urban fabric between the Edgewood Retail District and the MARTA Station.”
    – an MRC zoning for this area would allow for the best use of this site and much better use/opportunities than the current R-5 zoning allows for.

The staff recommendation was to approve the rezoning conditional that the development be conceptually consistent with the site plan and elevations submitted by The Preston Partnership, LLC, with this application and in compliance with any regulations of the Beltline Overlay District in which the property is located.
IMG_0746
While I look fondly at these houses hanging out on the busy avenue, with their long front yards full of mature hardwoods (a nice separation from the street), most people seem to see the 20 residential lots as blighted. Few can imagine living on Moreland. And so, though my heart aches at the thought of those houses being bulldozed and the trees being cut down, there is great promise for a more transit-oriented Atlanta here. Let’s hope it works out.

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