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Kensington Station plans include 525 apartments, 104 townhomes and retail space

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Kensington Station plans include 525 apartments, 104 townhomes and retail space

DeKalb County and MARTA are working together to create a master plan for the Kensington MARTA station. Photo courtesy of DeKalb County and MARTA.

Avondale Estates, GA — The Avondale Estates City Commission had a chance to discuss plans for the Kensington MARTA Station with a representative from the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority during its work session on Aug. 9.

The redevelopment project will bring hundreds of housing units and thousands of square feet of retail space.

MARTA recently adopted a master plan for the station, and the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved the rezoning of the property in April.

The station is located at 3350 Kensington Road at the crossroads of Covington Highway and Memorial Drive. The study area includes 35 acres that currently house 1,912 surface parking spaces. The station is located just outside the Avondale Estates city limits.

The property was rezoned from R-75 (residential medium lot-75), MR-2 (Medium Density Residential-2), and C-1 (Local Commercial) zoning districts to MU-5 (Mixed Use Very High Density) zoning district to allow a future mix of land uses to implement the Livable Centers Initiative plan and transit-oriented development goals at the Kensington Station.

The Kensington TOD Master Plan includes affordable senior and workforce housing and a new headquarters for the Housing Authority of DeKalb County (HADC).

Debbie Frank, director of transit-oriented development at MARTA, shared the agency’s goals and frameworks for the project. The redevelopment has the potential to add 525 multifamily rental units, 104 townhomes, 22,000 square feet of traditional retail space, and 30,000 square feet of service-oriented office and retail space.

The housing types would be a mix of affordable and market-rate units. Frank said MARTA has a goal of making 20% of the units affordable at 60-80% of the area median income. For this project, about 100 units would be affordable. The Housing Authority of DeKalb County is planning to build additional affordable units near the station as well.

The goals include encouraging a mixed-use, walkable environment with housing, retail, office, and a new approach to parking; offering a variety of housing choices; increasing ridership and generating revenue for MARTA; improving multimodal access and safety; and rezoning the property to allow for the housing density and mix of uses.

MARTA held various public input sessions and walked away with five top themes that the agency and the community would like to see in a transit-oriented development.

“Making it walkable and bikable, easier in and out around the station was one,” Frank said. “Adding public greenspace, offering a variety of housing options, adding quality retail – some of those daily essentials – and then building a more walkable, mixed-use community destination.”

The agency has also set several design parameters for the project.

Photo courtesy of MARTA.

Photo courtesy of MARTA.

The master plan includes three frameworks for what development could look like.

For the first option, the north part of the property is arranged around a more square town green. Station Soccer would overlook the stormwater park in the northwest corner, and a series of multifamily and mixed-use buildings would overlook the town green.

The second option is more organized according to the surrounding street network. One continuous street would connect Memorial Drive to Kensington Road through the property, using the existing bridge over the MARTA tracks. Station Soccer would overlook the stormwater park.

Option two features a town green on the north side of the station, fronted with small-scale mixed-use buildings and larger apartments.

The third option uses more of the current layout for the parking lots to organize the street network. The town green would be fronted with large apartments with ground-floor retail. Streets around the town green could be closed for events to expand the size of the park. Station Soccer would remain in its current location and there would also be a stormwater park on the north side of the property.

This option also features new streets, pedestrian and bike paths connecting the site from the corner of Mountain Drive and Covington Highway on both sides of the tracks. Some sort of MARTA signage or monument would identify the station, and adding sidewalks or multi-use paths on all new streets.

All three options have a few things in common, which include parking decks and on-street parking would accommodate parking needs.

To read more about the master plan, click here and here.

Avondale Estates City Commissioner Dee Merriam encouraged MARTA to provide an open field “where children have space to play running games,” and “to just pick up and play.” She also suggested that the city look at opportunities to provide greenspace within the city limits near the station.

Frank added there may be the opportunity to have more than just soccer fields at Kensington Station.

In terms of parking, MARTA will reintroduce patron parking as a part of the project.

“We’ve programmed the potential replacement, this gets worked out as the projects come online, anywhere from 50-75% of the parking could be replaced,” Frank said. “That’s because what we learned through this process is that some people use this as an end-of-the-line station.”

The agency is working to bring back patron parking early in the redevelopment process. In the master plan, some areas would be a dedicated MARTA parking deck and rideshare zones. There would also be opportunities to have parking decks shared by residents, retail customers and MARTA users, as well as on-street parking. The parking decks will include electric vehicle charging stations, Frank said.

The bus bays will be expanded as well. MARTA is going to increase from six bays to 10 or 11 bays.

“[It will be] a new whole look and feel for our bus operations team,” Frank said. “Currently, you may know that the bus loop has a roundabout. We’re creating the opportunity where it’s a two-way situation, so there are two ways for the bus operators to get into the bus loop area and to exit, which will create more efficiency.”

Commissioner Lisa Shortell also asked if MARTA would be incentivizing future residents to use the transit system and use cars less if they are living on top of the station.

Frank said that was a struggle MARTA has when planning for the Kensington Station. She added that MARTA wants to create parking options at end-of-the-line stations, especially for long-term parking since that’s where people enter the transit system.

Mayor Jonathan Elmore said he’s happy to see MARTA creating development around the station.

“I know you’re trying to increase ridership and revenue, but you’re also creating good development,” Elmore said. “The soccer field, the path, that just makes me happy because you’re creating things for kids, future generations. I think that’s really important.”

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