Visions for downtown transportation terminal released - and yes, they include plenty of car parking

Let’s get wonkish!


  • Forest City Enterprises/Cousins/Integral
  • One of three ‘alternatives’ planners are considering for the proposed downtown train terminal. Don’t get hung up on the glass and steel, developers say; think about how trains, buses, taxis, streetcars, cars and, ya know, people will interact with the transformative transportation hub.

Developers hoping to build a long-discussed transportation hub in downtown Atlanta’s “Gulch,” a vast parking lot and railyard near the heart of the city, unveiled three visions last night for where the massive project might be located.

Planners presented three “alternatives” for the terminal to a packed crowd in the former Marietta Street headquarters of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. All transportation modes would be served by the terminal: trains, streetcars, buses, bicycles, pedestrians, taxis. And, you guessed it, cars. (Here’s a PDF of renderings which includes a look at the different levels.)

The project, if built, would be mammoth. Planners are envisioning retail and restaurants located inside the terminal. They anticipate having to accomodate up to 80 bus bays and five rail platforms, plus leaving room for existing and future freight rail lines that also pass through the 120-acre planning area. There would also be platforms to serve the street car, a taxi/shuttle/drop-off car parking, and motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian facilities. A car-rental facility would most likely be located on site and there’s the potential for a location to rent, store, and repair bikes.

Each option includes a grand “main hall” or atrium similar to what you’d find in Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, and other train terminals around the world. (“The heart of great public spaces is a main hall,” John Schuyler of FXFOWLE, one of the project planners, said last night. “There’s a movement to them. There’s a sense of arrival.”)

What disappointed me and a few downtown residents who attended last night’s meeting was how much attention was given to car parking — so much so that it’s even shaping some of the terminal’s designs. (“All these renderings are parking garages with a train station below,” said one downtowner.)

According to some of the proposals, several levels of the project — which, remember, is supposed to help get metro Atlantans out of their cars — would be dedicated to... parking cars. Sure, part of that decision is because the transportation hub and new nearby commercial towers would displace a lot of existing parking areas in the Gulch, which serve Philips Arena, CNN, and the Richard B. Russell Federal Building. And maybe it makes sense when you consider that the proposed commuter rail and high-speed rail networks that would connect to the terminal don’t even exist yet. But it’s still frustrating. (Take a look at the levels here.)

The plan has a long way to go before becoming a reality. The project’s developers, Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc. and Atlanta-based Cousins Properties and The Integral Group, stress that they’re still in the early stages of designing the public-private project, the estimated costs of which are not yet known. The plans are likely to change as times passes and public comment — and which you can provide here — is gathered.

Some takeaways from last night’s event:

  • Each option calls for building a new street running north and south west of the terminal that would connect to Spring Street in south downtown near the Garnett MARTA Station. Some options also call for extending Alabama, Wall, Nelson and Mitchell streets, which run east to west. (Click here and scroll down for a PDF map.)

  • Preservationists and architecture buffs might be pleased to hear that each option aims to preserve the former Atlanta Constitution building located at the corner of Alabama and Forsyth streets. The building, — which, according to DOCOMOMO’s Georgia chapter, is the “only surviving, intact Art Moderne style building of its size and scale in Atlanta” — had been tagged for demolition during earlier discussions about the train terminal. According to a Forest City executive, environmental consultants are currently analyzing the historic building’s bones and determining the costs of renovation.

  • What most fascinates me about this proposal is not so much the train terminal. Yes, the hub’s hugely important. But the new street grid that would cap the Gulch and create a new “ground level” has the potential to stitch together neighborhoods that are currently separated by the Gulch. Throw in the proposed bike and pedestrian facilities proposed for the area and new greenspaces and you have what could become a fascinating part of town. That is, whenever it gets built.

  • And what about the potential new Atlanta Falcons stadium? As you’ve probably read, state officials and team executives are considering two locations for the new arena. One site is located along Northside Drive near Ivan Allen Boulevard. The other is in a fuzzy area “south of the Georgia Dome near the Gulch.” We’re awaiting comment from the developers about how the possibility of the latter — and the demolition of the Georgia Dome — are factoring into their design and development plans. We will update when we hear word.

Here’s last night’s presentation:

Downtown Atlanta Multimodal Passenger Terminal - July 2012

After the jump, additional renderings of the three options, plus a side-by-side comparison. Designers, wonks, residents, developers: we welcome your ideas, input, and criticisms. We’ve also surely missed some other issues, so please chime in. Find much more information about the project, including documents and renderings, here.