Back in February, optimism was high that a South Downtown parking lot in the shadow of MARTA might soon be transformed into needed housing, sending a jolt of life into relatively sleepy and sparse blocks far removed from downtown’s tourism zones.
And then came… crickets.
According to sources close to the matter, Invest Atlanta received no responses from developers to an official request for proposals pertaining to a 1-acre site at 184 Forsyth Street issued in January.
Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, asked for ideas from development firms capable of turning an underused parking lot and small plaza next to the MARTA Garnett station into a dense mix of both affordable and market-rate apartments, in an area where few residential options currently exist.
Responses to the RFP were due by March 31, but none came, sources tell Urbanize Atlanta.
What steps the city might take from this point with the 184 Forsyth Street property aren’t clear; inquiries to Invest Atlanta this week haven’t been returned. [UPDATE: 2:34 p.m., June 16: Invest Atlanta media reps send the following comment today: "Our goal stands to help revitalize this core area of downtown and provide long-term affordable housing, infusing a diverse mix of incomes into the area and providing easy MARTA access from Forsyth Street. We intend to reissue the RFP in the future to realize the development opportunity this site can bring to the city."]
The 184 Forsyth Street site, totaling 1.01 acres, is owned by the City of Atlanta and zoned to allow for a wide range of residential and commercial uses.
Sources indicate the market-rate aspect of the RFP could have been a hang-up for developers, and that a revised request for ideas could soon be republished.
The Garnett TOD Project (as it’s being called, in reference to “transit-oriented development”) would claim a gated, surface parking lot currently used by Atlanta Department of Corrections employees.
The smaller piece is a pedestrian plaza that leads to a closed and fenced-off concrete MARTA staircase, rendering the space a relative ghost town, apart from construction of a new Greyhound terminal next door to the south.
Invest Atlanta’s schedule called for moving relatively fast—notifying the selected project team in April, followed by contract negotiations and closing.
Requirements of the initial RFP stipulated that developers would build at least 200 housing units—although there was no cap on how many, and maximum density was encouraged—with at least 100 of them reserved as affordable by HUD standards.
At least half of income-restricted units would be offered to households earning at most 60 percent of the median income (or $40,500 for an individual), with the others capped at 80 percent AMI. At least 5 percent of the apartments were required to offer three bedrooms, per the RFP.
The neighboring bus hub means the site would remain intermodal, linking future residents to thousands of jobs around the metro and destinations beyond state lines. As Invest Atlanta noted, MARTA has also budgeted $20 million for a Garnett station rehab and renovation that’s expected to start with planning and design next year.
The broader district is hardly a dead zone, as to the north and west, the Forsyth Street site is surrounded by shoots of mixed-use development activity.
Centennial Yards’ first apartments opened in 2021, and more are underway nearby; Newport’s Hotel Row and 222 Mitchell projects remain in the pipeline, and the groundbreaking for that company’s first two apartment towers is expected to come soon.
The overarching goal, per Invest Atlanta’s RFP, was to help “revitalize a core area of downtown [and] provide long-term affordable housing, [infusing] a diverse mix of incomes into the area” and reestablishing easy MARTA access from Forsyth Street. Sounds feasible, but is it?
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