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Atlanta - December 2017

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Atlanta — MARTA Backs Gulch Development

December 2017

The Atlanta Business Journal reports that MARTA is expressing support for the 27-acre development of “The Gulch,” saying the project could form an important connection with the proposed expansion of the Atlanta Streetcar.

In a Nov. 10 letter to Commissioner of City Planning Tim Keane, MARTA Interim GM and CEO Elizabeth O’Neill said the transit agency looks forward to working in partnership with The Gulch’s developer CIM Group. It’s proposing to build 9.3 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of retail, 1,000 residential units and a 1,500-room hotel in The Gulch, a collection of railroad lines and vacant parking lots that once formed an important railway hub for the Southeast. Some of its land has been owned by the railroads since the 1800s.

The Gulch has also emerged as a potential site to land Amazon’s HQ2 project.

Even without Amazon, Los Angeles-based CIM Group may also use the project to create a new entertainment district outside Philips Arena. A key principal of CIM Group is Richard Ressler, the brother of Tony Ressler, the majority owner of the Atlanta Hawks.

“The development has the potential to increase MARTA ridership through improved rail station connections as well as connections to the existing bus system and proposed Atlanta Streetcar expansion,” O’Neill said.

The Streetcar angle is intriguing. Atlanta voters approved a new sales tax in support of transit expansion. It includes a voter-approved project list that features a significant expansion of the Atlanta Streetcar through the city. It’s thought that initial investments may be allocated for expanding the Streetcar east and west, which could offer greater connectivity across south downtown, where more than $1 billion of new projects are in planning.

Because of its location, The Gulch could form a dense, transit-and-pedestrian-focused connection that may one day feature the Streetcar.

“The planned western extension of the Atlanta Streetcar is proposed to run along the northern edge of the property along Centennial Olympic Park Drive, providing a variety of opportunities for connections to the (Gulch) project,” O’Neill said in the letter.

Strategically, that’s important. Developing The Gulch has been a quest for years, but out of reach because of the large amount of funding it may take. CIM, and potentially Amazon, may change the equation. If so, a developed Gulch could link the western edge of south downtown, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the MARTA station at CNN Center and Philips Arena to the Five Points Station, Underground Atlanta, and the Newport U.S. redevelopment along Peachtree and Broad streets.


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