East Lake MARTA plan approved, but redeveloping the site could take yearsThe entrance to the East Lake MARTA station. Photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons
This story has been updated.
Decatur City Commissioners at their Aug. 20 meeting signed off on a preliminary plan for redevelopment of the East Lake MARTA station, but it’s unlikely the project will move forward anytime soon.
A Livable Centers Initiative Study suggested there would be space for 430 multifamily housing units and 43,600 square feet of space for commercial businesses on the ground floor. At least 20 percent of the units will have to be “affordable” housing. There will be almost three acres of green space.
That study and accompanying plan, approved by the commission on Aug. 20, may gather dust before it is ever put to use.
For comparison purpose, the Livable Centers Initiative Study for the Avondale MARTA Station Transit Oriented Development currently under construction was developed in 2002.
Before any dirt moves on that property, MARTA will have to develop a Request for Proposal and will need to identify a developer. The project would need various levels of approval from the city of Decatur, the city of Atlanta and DeKalb County. There will also be some federal approval required.
Debbie Frank, Acting Director of Transit Oriented Development for MARTA, said Decatur is not its priority right now.
“It’s likely years before we will begin strongly considering a TOD at this station, and community engagement would be a strong part of the process,” she said. “Our agency needs to ensure equity as far as where TODs are being located, right now we are focusing on our south and west lines.”
The benefit of completing the study now is making the project eligible for grant funds if it ever moves forward, Planning Director Angela Threadgill said.
“With the adoption of the East Lake MARTA Station LCI Study, the city of Atlanta and city of Decatur become eligible for LCI fund grants to assist in the implementation of the study’s recommendations,” she said. “The LCI (Livable Centers Initiative) program is administered by the Atlanta Regional Commission and offers competitive grant funding for the region’s communities.”
The plan received mixed reviews during public comments at the Aug. 20 meeting. One group, the Coalition for a Diverse Decatur, spoke in favor of the project because of its affordable housing components.
Another group of residents from the Oakhurst and Lenox Place neighborhoods, the Green East Lake Station Coalition, said in a press release that the city had, “failed to hear or address their concerns that the proposed ‘vision plan’ for the East Lake MARTA parking lot site is inconsistent with the existing single-family community within 1/2 mile of the proposed development, and will intensify existing environmental and traffic concerns in surrounding communities.”
The group also said the study does not take into account the project’s impact on the school system.
City Commissioners acknowledged the concerns, but said those can be addressed if and when redevelopment of the East Lake MARTA station happens. The project will require approval and input during every phase of the development and there will be more opportunities for the public to weigh in.
“I support this idea,” Commissioner Scott Drake said. “I’ve lived here. I think those reservations are valid. If I didn’t feel like I trusted our staff and this board and [our] commission, I would feel pretty nervous, too.”
Editor’s note: This story was reported by viewing a live video stream of the City Commission meeting.