Affordable Housing, The BeltLine, and Inman Park

Affordable Housing, The BeltLine, and Inman Park
By Regina Brewer

In 1999, a planning group Inman Park met to create a long- term vision for our residents. A survey was sent out and answered by well over half the neighborhood (quite a feat in those days). We wanted to live here as long as we could, protect our historic buildings, require reasonable, quality designed mixed- use development, and ensure that Inman Park remained affordable. Those goals were codified in the Inman Park local historic district regulations.

At the August IPNA meeting, we discussed the new development at 670 DeKalb Ave that straddles O4W and Inman Park with the Beltline Trail (and future transit) running through it. It is a critical juncture and must be designed and implemented so that it can safely go under the Hulsey Yard (CSX railroads loading and distribution facility) and come out onto Wylie Street. Concern was expressed over the lay out of the transit/trail and that the proposed development might prevent the future implementation of the transit. In regard to the development’s proposed mix of uses, quality of design, and requested height variance, the neighborhood expressed its support and noted that if the transit issues were addressed, the development had the neighborhood’s full support.

At the September meeting Atlanta Beltline Inc CEO Paul Morris and his engineers gave a very thorough presentation and we now know 1) Inman Park can and should express its preference for the ABI straight trail/transit corridor configuration 2) CSX has sovereign immunity and they have to agree to anything that crosses under or over their yard 3) The development as it is currently laid out, with our preferred path/transit configuration, can absolutely allow for future transit to be built. One issue remains. ABI and their engineers have confirmed that the proposed trail/transit tunnel width of 80 feet with the preferred straight configuration can meet all the goals. Ryan Gravel has stated that the trail/transit width should be 105 feet to allow for unforeseen circumstances and have less impact on the outdoor spaces adjacent to the development. It comes down to 25 feet.

At 105 feet, the development cannot be built as it is currently laid out and still be financially viable. Paul Morris made this very clear. Why? This development has a requirement of 20% affordable housing along the BeltLine. There will be thirty-six 1 and 2 bedroom units dedicated to families that earn less than 80% of the average median income (AMI) in Atlanta. Thirty-six families can have their children live in safe, affordable housing and attend the nationally ranked Grady Cluster schools. Can Inman Park really vote down a development that meets all of its goals, ensures trail and transit, and guarantees the continuation of the Eastside trail? ABI is very confident that they can deal with any construction issues that may arise and having worked in Decatur during the MARTA plaza reconstruction and lived in Washington DC during the construction of the Metro, I can tell you that while it can terribly inconvenient, businesses can and do survive being adjacent to a major infrastructure project.

Thirty-six families can live in safe, affordable housing that gives them access to great schools, a great neighborhood, and a world-class amenity. Everyone wins if Inman Park supports this project with the Beltline configuration it overwhelmingly prefers. We will have achieved all of our goals and to me that proves that Inman Park is the neighborhood that really can stop a road, demand great urban design, protect its historic resources, and ensure that we still have room in our neighborhood and in our hearts for families that need affordable housing.

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