A South Downtown property where a large residential development was recently envisioned will instead become a temporary village of housing for the homeless, designed to quickly help people get off the street and back on their feet.

That’s the word today from Mayor Andre Dickens’ office, which has issued an executive order to begin development of a new Rapid Housing initiative at 184 Forsyth Street, an underused parking lot in downtown’s southernmost blocks next to the Garnett MARTA station.

The publicly owned property is located near supportive services and key amenities for people experiencing homelessness, in addition to mass transit, the mayor’s office noted.

Plans call for using shipping containers—many of them donated by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, or GEMA—as a relatively cheap and quick means of delivering housing as part of the city’s first phase of Rapid Housing efforts.

Officials called the need for such housing “pressing” in Atlanta.

The 1.01-acre Forsyth Street property's location (in red) in relation to downtown landmarks such as Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Georgia State Capitol. Invest Atlanta

According to a city-issued announcement today, the State of Georgia is in the process of decommissioning multiple, temporary hospitals used during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic that were built from shipping containers. State officials are working with the city to repurpose the containers as housing that can be relocated to different sites in the future.

“These containers will serve as a cost-effective and innovative housing option and set a new architectural standard for future groundbreaking projects,” according to a press release from Dickens’ office.

Dickens’ executive order directs the city’s chief financial officer to allocate $4 million to begin phase one of the Rapid Housing program, which involves acquiring the GEMA shipping containers, relocating them, and installing the units on city-owned land.   

Dickens plans to work with the Atlanta City Council to ratify the order and other logistics to allocate funding to the city’s Continuum of Care—Partners for HOME.

The Forsyth Street property in question and its downtown context. Invest Atlanta

According to the mayor’s office, people participating in the Rapid Housing initiative will receive wraparound assistance. Those services will help them connect with support services such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, access jobs and education opportunities, obtain documents such as Georgia IDs, and find permanent housing.

An implementation team is expected to begin community engagement efforts regarding the Rapid Housing project soon.

Officials specified the long-term goal for the 184 Forsyth Street property is to develop permanent housing for mixed-income residents. 

“Each and every Atlantan deserves a place to call home, and our administration understands the sense of urgency to stabilize individuals and families experiencing homelessness in our city,” Dickens said in a prepared statement. “[W]e will swiftly deploy these resources to give folks the support they need and deserve.”

Earlier this year, the city’s economic development arm, Invest Atlanta, received no responses from developers to a request for proposals involving the 1-acre 184 Forsyth Street site.

Invest Atlanta had asked in January for ideas from development firms capable of turning the underused parking lot and a small plaza next to the MARTA station into a dense mix of both affordable and market-rate apartments (at least 200 units total), in an area where few residential options currently exist. But nobody came forward—a rarity for intown properties dangled by the agency in recent years.

Invest Atlanta officials have told Urbanize Atlanta their eventual goals for the property are unchanged and that a revised RFP will be issued in the future.


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