As eagle-eyed readers and neighborhood leaders have noticed lately, an eastside industrial property that’s been called “the Moby Dick of Atlanta development” has again been emptied out, its sun-bleached concrete like a taunting, gigantic white whale.

But don’t go sharpening harpoons, ye speculators of ATL.

In a scene reminiscent of 2019, CSX Transportation has removed almost all shipping containers—once stacked four to five high—at its sprawling Hulsey Yard freight facility, leaving only container carriages on internal rails. At 70 acres, the Atlanta BeltLine-adjacent facility is more than three times the size of Centennial Olympic Park, stretching for roughly a mile through several of the eastside’s hottest zones for real estate development.

Observers tell Urbanize Atlanta the CSX facility has been a ghost town for at least a month—or “dead flat empty” as one Reynoldstown businessperson put it.

Proximity of the Atlanta BeltLine's Eastside Trail (at middle right) to the massive shipping facility.

But alas, CSX spokesperson Sheriee Bowman, when asked via email this week for a status update and information on why the property’s empty, responded simply: “CSX Hulsey Yard is currently an active freight rail operated facility, and is not for sale.”

The last time Hulsey Yard went dormant for an extended period of time, CSX officials eventually divulged they’d temporarily migrated operations to another yard the company owns in Fairburn, south of Atlanta.

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic set in, CSX broke many-a ATL urbanist hearts in confirming Hulsey Yard would be reactivated in spring 2020, only as a quieter “TRANSFLO facility” that would shut down operations at 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Where the empty CSX facility begins to the west, near Cabbagetown's Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts.

Three years ago, the dearth of shipping activity at Hulsey Yard sent adjacent neighborhoods into a preemptive master-planning frenzy—though the train company never indicated the property would be for sale.

A community-led group called the Hulsey Yard Study Committee hired local architecture firm Lord Aeck Sargent to craft a framework for would-be developers, resulting in a utopian but potentially viable vision of affordable housing, parkland, and new transit options bordering adjacent neighborhoods Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, Inman Park, and Old Fourth Ward.

The Atlanta City Council even drafted legislation in early 2020 urging CSX to be mindful of community wishes and affordable housing needs if redevelopment moved forward.

When CSX squashed those ambitions by rolling trains back in, committee leaders kept their chins up, saying the masterplan would remain as “a guiding document of design principles should CSX decide to sell in the future, or should the property ever go through rezoning.”

The vastness of Hulsey Yard stretching east, ending near the Inman Park/Reynoldstown MARTA station.

The speculation—and deployment of imagination—wasn’t unwarranted.

CSX at the time was in the middle cutting back its operations, shedding more than 4,000 employees and closing eight other facilities, including the roughly 300-acre Tilford Yard in northwest Atlanta that’s been partially claimed by Amazon.

So, for what it’s worth, have a gander at the eastside’s idle leviathan of acreage in the gallery above. And just imagine what could be.


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Cabbagetown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)