5 things to do today August 05 2016

Board gives OK to start negotiations with Cousins and Integral Group

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MARTA’s board of directors today gave staff the go-ahead to begin talks with developers about building up to four towers at Midtown’s Arts Center station. If completed, the project would be one of MARTA’s most ambitious transit-oriented development projects to date and breathe new life into the northern edge of Midtown.

Amanda Rhein, MARTA’s senior director of transit-oriented development and real estate, says Cousins Properties and Integral Group came forward with a proposal to bring a mix of uses — office, residential, retail, and maybe a hotel — to the 6-acre lot located between the Woodruff Arts Center and West Peachtree Street.

Transit officials said they’re limited in what information they can share — for example, the height of the towers and square footage — because the deal is an active real-estate transaction and plans could change. The basic vision calls for four towers that would be built on a podium covering the station that handles bus and rail service. The specific uses will be based on market conditions, Rhein says.

If both sides can strike a deal that passes muster with MARTA’s board, the team could break ground in roughly two years.

It is an opportunity to do something really creative,” Parker says. “We don’t want this to look like a cooke-cutter TOD.”

If the deal moves ahead, Parker thinks it would satisfy MARTA’s goals when it comes to TODs: it could help improve the neighborhood, bring new amenities, and provide additional revenue for MARTA. Plus, it helps build and keep  ridership. 

“It is a built-in customer base, it gives another destination for our customers, and it’s the easiest group of people for us to service,” he says. “We no longer have to provide parking to them, marketing to them. They’re there.”

Several years ago, MARTA made a strong push to partner with developers and turn parking lots and vacant land near some stations into mixed-use developments. The Arts Center station attracted the most initial interest from developers, Rhein says. The Cousins-Integral joint venture was the only developer to ultimately submit a formal proposal. 

“This is a complex project,” Parker says. “It requires a significant amount of experience in this space. It’s not a project that just anyone can take on. It’s not a project that you as a brand-new developer could go out and effectively do.”