Brookhaven, GA, February 2, 2016 – by Trey Benton – It was standing room only Tuesday evening at Brookhaven City Hall, as MARTA’s Amanda Rhein, Senior Head of Transit Oriented Development (TOD), walked approximately 150 attendees through a presentation of their plans for the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA Station. (Embedded below)
The multi-phase redevelopment of the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA Station is slated to include 126 senior affordable apartments, 560-580 market rate units, 120,000 to 400,000 square feet of office space, 40,000 to 60,000 square feet of retail space, 10,000 to 40,000 square feet of civic space and 150 hotel rooms. MARTA adds that 20% of the planned residential units will be affordable “Workforce Housing” to households whose incomes do not exceed 80% of the area median income.
MARTA says the redeveloped property will add over $200 million to the City’s tax digest, in an area that currently generates zero dollars for the City. They also said retail sales and occupational taxes will generate additional revenues for Brookhaven.
After the presentation, Rhein, along with Trent Germano, Senior Managing Director with development partner Transwestern Development Company, took questions from the audience, however, many of the questions were unable to be answered “at this stage of the process.”
The overwhelming majority of attendees were concerned with the density of the proposed development and how that density could pose a negative effect on their quality of life. “We as a City will always be a car city,” one man said. “I love the development, but this is the wrong site for this much density.”
That sentiment seemed unanimous throughout the room. So was the issue of traffic and how that will impact not only the main arteries around the Brookhaven MARTA station, but in the surrounding neighborhoods – in an area already gridlocked and becoming more so.
Rhein said there has been no traffic study performed yet, but Germano said one would be done. He said a meeting with the traffic engineer who will be conducting the study would occur on Wednesday, February 3.
The topic of tax abatements came up and whether MARTA would be asking for Brookhaven to supply tax incentives in return for any net tax gains. Rhein said they do not have an answer to that question presently.
Brookhaven Fields resident Chad Boles posed several questions regarding how MARTA will handle stormwater, sewer trunk lines and who will pay for any required upgrades necessary. Boles’ eventually supplied his questions to MARTA so they could take them home and provide the answers later. Rhein and Germano said they would get those answers and publish them on the project community comment and information website they launched a week or so ago.
Brookhaven resident Meagan Hanson asked whether MARTA has done any due diligence on how the new development would impact the Brookhaven Police force.
Rhein answered, “MARTA has its own Police force, the eighth largest in the State. We are looking at solutions such as a permanent Police presence on the property as well as the surrounding patron access points.” Germano said that “eyes on the street” is what they have found to be the best remedy in other similar projects.
“I don’t see anything in the plan that talks about the impact on neighborhoods,” resident Frank McCloskey said while stressing his concerns with the impact the MARTA project will have on the residential community. “There is not alot of trust in our City on how we handle zoning,” he added, “We need real, definitive specifics on how you are not going to strangle our neighborhoods.”
Rhein said one of the ideas is to have shared on-site parking. She said they are looking at ways the MARTA parking facilities can be reserved during peak hours – with some areas available to nearby residents for parking – and during other, off-peak hours, expanding the shared parking. “No additional parking will be added in the neighborhoods,” Rhein said.
Resident Andrea Botham asked about the impact the development would have on area schools and whether any studies have been requested of the DeKalb County School System. “The schools are already overcrowded,” she said.
Rhein said there has been no studies done at present on the impact the development would have on area schools. She said they would reach out the to school district, however. “We have not had a conversation with the School Board,” Rhein said.
Germano offered, “We are only building one and two bedroom apartments.” He suggested there should not be a significant impact. But Botham rebutted, “As long as there is even one bedroom, there is the possibility of families with children.”
Terrell Carstens, a Brookhaven Fields resident, told MARTA while they say there will be no added parking, there will be people circling the neighborhoods looking for places to park. Carstens explained the enormity of the project is what has most people concerned. “We want to cooperate, predominantly, but you are asking alot,” she said.
MARTA says 1-acre park is also included in their preliminary plans and a proposed roundabout at Apple Valley Rd. and North Druid Hills Rd. is still a possibility, but not definite.
As the question and answer part of the forum continued, attendees became more and more frustrated with the fact many of their questions were not being met with answers. Rhein said there will be more meetings coming up, the next round at Council District specific locations and they anticipate having more answers as their work through the planning phase progresses.
Drew Valley resident, Lissie Stahlman, pointed out, “I appreciate you all having these meetings. Most of us here work which makes it difficult to attend multiple meetings. What we have heard tonight are more questions that could not be answered than questions that could.” Stahlman said that MARTA needs to do their due diligence to be able to answer the questions before they schedule the District meetings.
Germano said they will be looking to ask the City for the necessary rezonings the first of April. Rhein said MARTA hopes to break ground in the 4th quarter of 2016 or the 1st quarter of 2017.
Germano said they expect the project to take about 20 months to complete.
The next round of MARTA community meetings (workshops) are scheduled as:
- District One Community Workshop
February 10, 2016 at 7:00 PM at the Lynwood Park Rec Center
- District Two Community Workshop
February 11, 2016 at 6:30 PM at the Briarwood Park Rec Center
- District Three Community Workshop
February 18, 2016 at 6:00 PM at the Capital City Club
- District Four is still TBD.
To learn more about the MARTA Brookhaven/Oglethorpe Transit Oriented Development and to comment on the project – as well as a timeline, FAQ’s and updates – go here.
Below is what Ms. Rhein presented Tuesday evening.