An Atlanta developers’ plan to replace a surface parking lot near Marietta’s famed square with a stack of rental housing is ruffling feathers in high places.

Helmed by former Paces Properties exec Merritt Lancaster, who was integral in creating Krog Street Market, Bridger Properties has proposed building a 135-unit apartment venture next to seven properties it purchased for $17.3 million last year. Those include the Marietta Square Market food hall, office buildings at the historic Marietta Station complex, numerous retail spaces along nearby Church Street, and a tall pedestrian bridge over railroad tracks linking it all together.

The only missing component, as Bridger Properties heads see it, is high-quality multifamily housing. But on that point, the developers don’t see eye-to-eye with some city leaders, including the mayor, who recently decried the proposal for resembling New York.  

The Polk Street site in question spans 1.25 acres immediately north of the food hall, a few blocks from Marietta Square.

The Polk Street parking lot/development site in question, in relation to Marietta Square and other landmarks around Cobb's county seat. Google Maps

From this angle, Bridger Properties' planned apartments would rise to the left of Marietta Square Market, one of the first KSM-style food halls to pop up OTP. Google Maps

According to the Marietta Daily Journal, Bridger Properties’ plans call for a 145,000-square-foot building standing 84 feet tall with 135 rentals—a modest apartment count by intown standards, or that of suburban developments like Avalon or The Battery Atlanta. Brick-clad “modern industrial” designs would aim to echo historic 19th century buildings in the area such as Brumby Lofts.

The surface parking lot would make way for two stories of podium parking (the first open to the public, the second for residents) with 186 spaces total. Five stories of rentals would rise above that.

Bridger Properties submitted its plans to Marietta’s Historic Board of Review last week, just before the city council convened for a meeting. The council immediately launched into discussion of how the apartment proposal could be quashed. “We’re Marietta, not New York,” Marietta Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin opined, according to the newspaper. Added councilmember Grif Chalfant: “And not Buckhead.”

The parking lot in question, along with Church Street commercial properties Bridger Properties also owns and plans to renovate. Bridger Properties

The proposal falls within a central business district zoning that doesn’t require the council’s approval of plan details (only its exterior design) and doesn’t limit the number of apartments that could be built.

Accordingly, a council committee voted unanimously in favor of advancing a six-month moratorium on new multifamily housing while it considers zoning changes. The mayor also proposed a new rule, in light of recent train derailments, that would outlaw new apartments within 50 feet of railroad easements, but that motion died.

Any efforts to block the apartments could be toothless and too late, the MDJ reports, because applicants are entitled to the law as it stands on the day they submit a project for review.  

How the brick-clad, 135-unit project would relate to the food hall next door. Bridger Properties; via City of Marietta/MDJ/Skyscraperpage

Closer to Atlanta’s core, Bridger Properties is handling retail and restaurant leasing efforts at the forthcoming Westside Paper project in Howell Station, while developing the restaurant component of Empire Stein Steel in Reynoldstown, among other projects. The company has also signed on as a consultant with Buckhead’s new food-and-beverage district Oxton.   

Bridger Properties estimates the Marietta apartments could be built and open by Christmas in 2024. Marietta’s historic board is expected to vote on the building’s appearance during its meeting in early May. That would be followed by the council’s ruling on the building’s appearance—but not how it would be used. Should the project’s aesthetics pass both boards, it could be green-lit for groundbreaking, as its current zoning allows for apartments. (Find more context and visuals in the gallery above.)

In unrelated news, Marietta earned enough nominations to make the recent Best OTP Downtown tournament on these pages—but was ousted by lower-seeded Suwanee in the Elite Eight. 


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