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Thursday, October 10, 2013

UPDATE: BZA denies neighborhood association appeal over Fuqua's Glenwood Park project

DINE OR DASH: Jeff Fuqua believes Glenwood Place could transform southeast Atlanta, but some nearby residents are fighting it at all costs.
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • DINE OR DASH: Jeff Fuqua believes Glenwood Place could transform southeast Atlanta, but some nearby residents are fighting it at all costs.
Atlanta's Board of Zoning Adjustment is planning to take a close look at whether developer Jeff Fuqua's proposed Glenwood Park project should move forward.

The BZA will hear an appeal this afternoon to overturn a special permit issued by the city, which effectively allows Fuqua Development to move forward with his mammoth suburban-style project along the Atlanta Beltline.

Back in July, the firm received the permit from the city's Office of Planning after applying three separate times for special exemptions. If the BZA rules against Fuqua, the decision would effectively halt the shopping center, which would boast a 143,000 square-foot anchor tenant that's rumored to be a Walmart.

Some residents in Grant Park, Ormewood Park, and other southeast Atlanta communities think the proposed Glenwood Park project conflicts with the Beltline's plans for smarter development along the 22-mile loop. Their recent efforts sparked the rezoning of the property and a pair of subsequent lawsuits.

But a new argument has emerged about the development - this one aimed at the project's opponents and whether they're stifling economic development. The Rev. Joe Beasley, the Rainbow Push Coalition's southeast director, thinks some parts of the Beltline's master plan need to be closely re-examined. And he's worried the Beltline could stimulate gentrification in the area. Fuqua's shopping center, he says, could help many low-income residents who may otherwise be pushed out of the area.

Beasley's perspective is unlike most others publicly expressed about the Glenwood Park project and is worth a full read over at East Atlanta Patch. Here's an excerpt:

Now comes an opportunity for the creation of jobs through this proposed development and a few are railing against it - not because it's a bad plan but because it's what their new constituents in a majority black district oppose. But who are they, really? And what do they know about economic depression? Soon a meeting of the City's Board of Zoning Adjustment will address the issues related to allowing this already-city-approved progressive development to take place. The opposition factors are well-organized behind their "good intentions" but they are so tragically misinformed about what this opportunity can mean to their neighbors and the urban communities.

New Atlantans will be the first to boast of the diversity that makes intown living so special. Yet, they may find themselves in an economically homogenous society once their neighbors are unable to bear the cost of having to travel far to find employment. Perhaps they are unaware that bringing business back to the city is one way to empower their less-well-off neighbors. The bucolic benefits of the BeltLine's plan may need to be re-examined closely for signs of discrimination against anyone who cannot afford the lifestyle it supports. Fortunately, some elected officials understand how creating jobs inside the Perimeter portends positive outcomes for the entire metro area.

Beasley also argues that Fuqua's project could help bring economic opportunities to "ordinary folks" who need jobs. Whether you agree with him or not, the longtime activist's remarks bring a perspective that hasn't been heard yet.

But today's appeal could go a long way in deciding whether the project - with all his perceived advantages and disadvantages - moves forward. It'll take place at City Hall at noon.

UPDATE, 3:15 p.m.: The BZA unanimously denied Grant Park Neighborhood Association's appeal to overturn the permit that the Office of Planning issued to Fuqua Development.

Representatives for the neighborhood group, Fuqua Development, and the Office of Planning presented their respective arguments for more than two hours at the meeting. Several neighborhoods said the proposed Glenwood Park project's would have a detrimental impact on the surrounding communities. But the BZA's five members ultimately agreed that the GPNA's lawyer and reps failed to show proper standing in the case. They instead sided with John Bell, a former 28-year Office of Planning employee that spoke on Fuqua's behalf, who said he felt the application had been "thoroughly and adequately reviewed by the city."

The decision effectively allows Fuqua Development to keep pushing forward with the 800 Glenwood Ave. retail center. We've reach out to both GPNA and Fuqua for their responses. If we hear back, we'll post an update.

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