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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pullman Yard redevelopment proposal gets nod of approval from NPU-O

Developers call for residential along 26-acres southern edge
  • Pullman Historic Development LLC
  • Developer's plan calls for residential along 26-acre's southern edge
The historic and graffiti-covered Pullman Yard in Kirkwood would find a second - or maybe fourth or fifth - life after years of neglect, should a developer's plan become reality.

Pullman Historic Development LLC, which is based in the neighborhood, is proposing a plan that it says would respect the property's history and create a mixed-use complex on the 26-acre state-owned property. Neighborhood Planning Unit O members voted 11-6, with one person abstaining, to give the developers' basic concept their blessing last night.

Under the developer's proposal - which hinges on whether the state would sell the property to the firm - Pullman Yard's "historically significant" buildings, including the iconic saw-toothed roof structures, would be preserved. The developer would also try to have those structures receive historic protections.

South of the assortment of existing buildings on what is now vacant land, approximately 165 townhomes with saw-toothed roofs would surround large courtyards. Building the residential units was necessary to preserving the former, Sugarman said, and would help make the project economically feasible. It's not yet decided whether any of the units would be considered affordable. A surface parking lot would line the northern edge of the property along Rogers Street. An organic farm would be located adjacent to the residential component. The project would also feature office spaces, a restaurant, public event space with a restored rail car, a dog park, and a fitness and recreation center, in addition to other features. It's worth noting that the designs are not final.

Stan Sugarman of Pullman Historic Development LLC said the team, which includes the architects who worked on adaptive reuse projects such as the Stove Works in Inman Park and former CL Westside home Northyards, wanted to respect the Kirkwood neighborhood's vision for the property.

"We really crafted this plan to hit all those bullet-points" outlined in a 2008 development plan, Sugarman told the crowd of approximately 60 residents of Kirkwood, Edgewood, East Lake, and other NPU-O neighborhoods. It also jibes with the city's 2011 comprehensive development plan.

Should the state decide to put the property on the market and the developers' submit the winning bid, it'd be the latest chapter in a property that has roots stretching back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. First used by Pratt Engineering, the facility manufactured munitions used in World War I. The Chicago-based Pullman Company purchased the plant in the 1920s to serve as one of its six hubs across the country to maintain its passenger rail coaches. Various businesses occupied the plant over the years and added to the hodgepodge of buildings. (Charles Lawrence, a historic preservation specialist working with the firm, has an excellent history here.)

Since the state bought the property in the 1990s, several ideas have been proposed, including residential developments and, most recently, a community center and athletic complex. But for the most part, the former industrial hub has sat vacant and become one of Atlanta's modern ruins. In addition to serving as a canvas for graffiti artists and occasional shelter for the homeless, it's become popular as a film set for such movie productions as the Hunger Games and Fast and Furious.

Last night's vote was merely to receive basic support for the project. Incoming NPU-O Chair Dana Blankenhorn reminded residents in attendance that the Georgia Building Authority, which maintains and technically owns the land, had no obligation to sell the property to the firm. If the state agreed to part with the land, the property would need to be rezoned. The parcel would also need to undergo additional environmental testing and clean-up, as parts of the land could be home to some good ole fashioned heavy metals. Lawrence notes that the state performed environmental testing in 2007 and 2008 and received a "no further action" letter from the Environmental Protection Agency. It's not listed on Georgia's hazardous site inventory. "Though we expect there to be some environmental cleanup necessary, the extent is not known at this time," Lawrence said in an email.

We've asked the GBA if there are any plans to put the property back on the market. We'll update if we hear back.

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