MARTA development program aims to boost usage

Reilly Blum

If you build around it, they will ride.

MARTA is working to develop areas around many Atlanta-area stations through transit-oriented development programs, or TODs, by leasing vacant or ill-purposed land adjacent to the stations.

MARTA has partnered with Walton Communities and Columbia Ventures to develop around the King Memorial and Edgewood/Candler Park stations.

Though the type of development will vary depending on the character and density of the area, MARTA has the same ultimate goal for all of its stations.

“Big picture, what we’re trying to accomplish with our transit-oriented development program is to increase MARTA ridership, generate revenue for operations and support regional economic development,” said Amanda Rhein, MARTA’s senior director of transit-oriented development.

Work to create the TODs is already underway. In the Edgewood/Candler Park station, for example, Columbia Ventures plans to develop what is currently being used as a parking lot adjacent to the station.

Dillon Baynes, a managing partner for Columbia Ventures, said that development of the Edgewood/Candler Park station will occur in two phases.

“In the first phase … the major building will have about 210 apartments and about 10,000 feet of commercial space,” Baynes said. “We have two significant features to the first phase. … It will have a major urban plaza in the middle, two-thirds of which will be park and one-third of that will be a restaurant area.”   

Rhein said that in the past, similar development in close proximity to MARTA stations have attracted new riders.

“A great example of how a TOD has impacted ridership is at our Buckhead station,” Rhein said. “We opened a new bridge … which provides connectivity to areas that were previously difficult to get to from the station. As a result of that [connectivity], last quarter saw a 26 percent increase in ridership at the station, and the quarter before that we saw a 27 percent increase in ridership.”

Walton Communities partner David Knight explained in an email to The Southerner that he is planning a mixed-use, mixed-income community for the area around the King Memorial MARTA station. A parking lot across from the station will be the site of development. Approximately 300 apartment homes, as well as retail stores, coffee shops and other commercial ventures will be included in the King Memorial TOD. Knight indicated that construction for the King Memorial TOD is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2016 and will take approximately two years to complete.

To ensure these developments benefit a wide variety of Atlantans, MARTA requires that at least 20 percent of all housing created in the TODs be workforce housing. This ensures affordable housing in the midst of TODs for individuals or families whose incomes fall below a certain level.

“We will have options for a wide variety of folks,” Baynes said. “[With the units we are currently proposing], we’ll be able to include parents or a parent who has one or two children, but we may be able to include even larger [families] than that, depending on what we do with [a potential] three-bedroom unit.”

Both Rhein and Baynes also indicated that MARTA will partner with RideShare to accommodate cyclists in areas near the stations.

“If you have a bike and a MARTA Breeze Card, you’ve got a lot of mobility in Atlanta,” Baynes said. “You don’t have it if you just have the Breeze Card, so we will add bike share to the MARTA station. … We want people to have as many different options as possible.”

To ensure that these developments are accepted by the community, Rhein said that each project involves some platform for community input.

We’ve had 15 neighborhood meetings, and we’ve presented plans along the way to see if [people] have any input,” Baynes said on Feb. 21. “All of the meetings have been open to the public. We just , and both neighborhoods voted unanimously in support of the plan.”

Baynes projects that construction on the Edgewood/Candler Park TOD will begin at the beginning of next year and will finish by late 2016 or early 2017.

Midtown’s Art Center station will also be the site of a TOD, although the type of development is yet to be decided. MARTA and the Woodruff Arts Center once discussed builing a new symphony hall, but the plan failed to come to fruition. Rhein indicated, however, that increased ridership would be a byproduct of this TOD.

“If you make it easy for people to do things by the station, that increases the likelihood that they’ll use trains,” Rhein said.