Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nonprofit 'absolutely committed' to 31-acre parcel along the Atlanta Beltline

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Efforts to develop the 31-acre University Avenue property, which could stitch together several southwest Atlanta neighborhoods, were blocked by economic downturn
  • Thomas Wheatley/CL File
  • Efforts to develop the 31-acre University Avenue property, which could stitch together several southwest Atlanta neighborhoods, were blocked by economic downturn
In 2006, the Annie E. Casey Foundation purchased a 31-acre piece of property along the Atlanta Beltline near Capitol View with plans to build a development that would stitch together - and potentially help stabilize - several southwest Atlanta neighborhoods, especially Pittsburgh. But the asphalt expanse on University Avenue in southwest Atlanta has not changed much. Local residents hoped for a mixed-use development that includes the basics - a grocery store, for example - but it never happened. CL in 2011 named the property's eventual development as being vital to the Beltline's success.

Well, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that the Baltimore-based foundation, which has made a mission of filling Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, and Pittsburgh's glut of vacant homes and helping its children excel in school, has not yet partnered with a developer to build on the former UPS-owned site. But the nonprofit, which focuses on boosting families and children living on low incomes, says it's "absolutely committed" to the project.

At a Capitol View Manor Neighborhood Association meeting on Jan. 14, Moki Macias, the Casey Foundation's director of community building at the Atlanta Civic Site, a project focusing on the neighborhoods in NPU-V, briefed skeptical residents on the property. Over the years, a variety of uses have been discussed, including light-industrial and a commercial and residential complex. But those plans failed to materialize when the economy tanked. In addition, the foundation's effort to stabilize the adjacent neighborhoods is still in the works. Since then the foundation has assessed the former trucking company site's environmental issues - it's a brownfield - and tore down 60 percent of the buildings to make the property more attractive and prepared for development.

Macias said the nonprofit has been studying the property's potential. On Jan. 23 at 5:30 p.m., nonprofit officials will share a market feasibility study about the property at Gideons Elementary School. They'll also ask for residents' ideas. The study will help create a "calling card" that the foundation could use to attract developers. They're focusing first and foremost on attracting proposals that could bring jobs - preferably ones that could be filled by residents from nearby communities.

Landing the right development is a classic chicken-or-egg scenario. Developers might hesitate to move somewhere with high unemployment and low job skills. However, those woes might not be fixed until a company locates nearby or jobs open up. A developer partner is leading the Casey foundation's effort to purchase, rehab, and sell once-vacant homes to help repopulate Pittsburgh, which was one of several southwest Atlanta neighborhoods hard hit by mortgage fraud during the housing boom.

In the meantime, Macias wants residents' ideas for how to be a better neighbor. That could include anything from public art on the fence running along University Avenue - it's partnered with Wonderroot on a project - or some other interim use of the property. To attend the Jan. 23 meeting, call 404-222-3675 or email Macias.

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