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Dear Decaturish – East Lake MARTA station development presents historic opportunity

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Dear Decaturish – East Lake MARTA station development presents historic opportunity

The entrance to the East Lake MARTA station. Photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons
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The entrance to the East Lake MARTA station. Photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons

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Dear Decaturish:

My wife and I have lived on Winter Avenue, next to the East Lake MARTA station, since 1983. We raised our kids here. They’re grown now. We’re hoping that, when they have kids of their own, they will visit, as the people I first moved next to were visited, 30 years ago.

After spending a recent Saturday morning with the consultants looking at the future of the East Lake MARTA station, that dream clouded over.

Let’s be clear. MARTA wants money. MARTA is going to develop this property. Arguing against that is useless. The only question is how they do it, and what goes in there.

The proposal consultants offered was a mishmash of mid-rise apartments and townhomes, “workforce housing” that will put hundreds of new kids into overburdened schools.

Meanwhile, what about the people who transformed Oakhurst and Kirkwood, just since the millennium, into some of the most desirable real estate in the region? When you no longer have kids at home, and your house becomes a financial burden, will you support even-higher school taxes?

No. Most empty nesters will move out of our community. Others will age in place and reject higher school costs.

This doesn’t have to be a problem. This can be an historic opportunity.

Aging boomers want to stay here. Why not use the East Lake station to give people 50 and over the freedom to enjoy the city? These are the best customers our restaurants and shops have. Why should Decatur and Atlanta lose its best city volunteers and civic leaders to other cities? Diversity isn’t just about income or race, you know. It’s also about age.

I’m thinking of one and two-bedroom apartments with amenities like handicap bars in the bathroom, and elevators to the street. I’m thinking about a drug store with a clinic, a food store filled with prepared goodies, 24-hour day care for working parents and grandparents, and a concierge to help connect with night life, volunteer opportunities, and (eventually) long-term care solutions. There are companies that specialize in this product. MARTA should bring them in.

This is not old-age housing. It’s prime of life housing. East Lake is two miles from Emory Hospital, it’s a quick ride to the city’s best entertainment venues, and you’re 40 minutes from the Airport, which can take you to far-flung grandchildren or anywhere in the world.

Parents of young children need to consider this. If your youngest is 8-years old today, you are going to be sending that kid to college 10 years from now. Do you want to be forced out then, by taxes and college costs? Or do you want to continue to love Decatur?

East Lake offers a way to make that happen. MARTA is already building two giant projects for younger buyers, at the Edgewood and Avondale stations. We don’t need a third.

– Dana Blankenhorn

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