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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Should AGL's truck maintenance facility be located near the Beltline? Raise your hands if yes!

For many, many years, the former Parmalat site on Memorial Drive has sat vacant. Back in 2008, developers proposed turning the 10-acre site on Reynoldstown's southern edge, which was envisioned as a major part of the rough-and-tumble road's revitalization, into a mixed-use development that would include a much-needed grocery store. But like so many other projects proposed right before the Great Recession, the plans never took off.

But it turns out there's once again interest in the site located a few blocks from the Atlanta Beltline. Only it's probably not what you'd expect or what neighbors hoped for.

Atlanta Gas Light is eyeing the property to potentially serve as a... truck maintenance facility. Yep.

Carl Westmoreland, the high-powered zoning attorney hired by the utility company to help find a potential site, confirmed that the property was one of several parcels around town that was under consideration by AGL. But he stressed that the process is in the preliminary stages.

"They don't have the property under contract," Westmoreland said. "They're just looking at other sites. They wanted us to check with the city about the feasibility about using it. And we don't really have a response from them."

Should AGL purchase the site and push forward with its plan, it's possible the proposal could spark an uproar over appropriate development similar to the one that took place just on the other side of I-20 at 800 Glenwood Avenue, Jeff Fuqua's controversial big-box project.

In both instances, you have two large parcels that are adjacent to the Beltline. And you also have hundreds of, if not more, nearby residents and businesses that spent months in public meetings trying to envision what should happen with the area's properties. And from what we can gather, the Beltline master plan, which is the result of those meetings and planning sessions, recommends a five- to nine-story mixed-use development where the Parmalat parcel now stands. And as regular CL readers know, the city never rezoned the properties to require future developers to stick to what's on paper.

Surely AGL understands this could become an issue. John Somerhalder, its CEO, serves as the chairman of the board of Atlanta Beltline Inc., the nonprofit that's tasked with developing and planning the 22-mile loop of parks, trails, and transit.

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