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Reynoldstown residents push back against proposed Beltline development

I don't think you understand that you're gonna build a wall and you're dividing this neighborhood...'

Like the minute hand of a clock, development continues ticking south along the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail from Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park, and sprouting up in Reynoldstown.
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? But a multistory residential building along the trail has left residents with a sour taste. Residents say they welcome density, but not at the scale this developer is proposing, especially if it is adjacent to single-family homes on a skinny street in the middle of the neighborhood in an area that won't be served by transit.
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? But Atlanta Beltline officials, who have taken an active role in making the project more appetizing to the community, say the proposed development is better than originally envisioned — and projects of its scope are needed if crews are to continue expanding the popular trail south to Memorial Drive.
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? ??? Marietta-based Metzger and Company wants to build a 143-unit residential development that would stand two to three stories above the adjacent Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail in Reynoldstown, and rising to five stories closer to the street. The first floor, which would be considered a basement, would front Mauldin and Holtzclaw streets.  
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? Residents say they’re not opposed to density — just density in the right places. Beltline planners have considered the possibility of running the project’s future transit line around Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown by going through Grant Street, east down Memorial Drive, and then south along Bill Kennedy Way, bypassing that portion of Reynoldstown. Community members also have concerns that allowing a five-story development on Mauldin could set a precedent and pave the way for future six-story — or seven- or eight-story — buildings on what's essentially a foot trail. 
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? Earlier this year, Metzger's Robert Venturi pitched residents on allowing an additional floor to, they claimed, help make the project more economically feasible. But residents ultimately gave the proposal a thumbs down over various concerns.
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? Beltline officials, however, have shown a level of enthusiasm for the project that has raised residents’ eyebrows. After Reynoldstown rebuffed the developer’s plans earlier this summer, ABI officials contacted neighborhood leaders to hold a design charrette and answer questions about the proposal. 
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? On Monday night at the Lang-Carson Community Center, those officials, including ABI President and CEO Paul Morris, got their chance to do so before a packed audience.
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? Before delving into the Metzger proposal, Morris outlined why he said ABI was involved. He said the nonprofit has two duties: to build the 22-mile loop of parks, trails, and (one day) transit, and to be good stewards of the overall plan and tax allocation district, the funding mechanism created to fund the majority of the Beltline. The TAD relies on condos, offices, and other buildings rising from the underutilized or vacant properties along the corridor. 
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? “Every project that does not happen in the areas where they were envisioned, means we receive less money,” Morris said, adding that ABI does not currently have cash to finish expanding the Eastside Trail all the way to Memorial Drive. “If we don’t get development, we don’t get the funds we need. If we don’t get the funds we need, we do not get the Beltline built.”
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? Since the earlier meetings, Morris said, ABI staff had worked with Metzger on the proposal but that the organization has no interest in the project other than to see it developed properly. Chris Kacena, the architect on the project, said he swapped the familiar box design that’s become all too familiar along the Eastside Trail for brick, giving a nod to the area’s history of factories and industries, and added more angles and sharp turns. A courtyard would open to the Beltline and the building would "step up" as it moves away from the parks-and-trails project. 
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? “Hopefully it doesn’t feel like, they could be anywhere, just dropped in the neighborhood,” Kacena said. “This is trying to contribute to the character and context of the neighborhood.”
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? If anyone was happy with the new design on Monday night, however, they did not speak up. Jeff Landers, a Reynoldstown resident, noted that the community was the only neighborhood that is bisected by the Beltline. With developers building so much density in the middle of the neighborhood, he said, "walls" were being built that would separate one side of the community from another.
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? "The Cabbagetown side of the Beltline might as well just incorporate Reynoldstown and we will be left on our side by ourselves," he said. "I don’t think you understand that you’re gonna build a wall and you’re dividing this neighborhood by this first building. And they’re going to ask for a second, and a third, and a fourth building."
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? Residents noted that, while the number of proposed floors had changed, the height of the building had not. One resident who lives in a single-family house located across the street feared the building could cast a shadow over his yard and kill his pecan trees — or, as another resident quickly added, potentially lower their property values. Concerns were also raised that, unlike some development being proposed adjacent to MARTA stations, the building would not “step up” at an appropriate angle. 
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? “I’m really disappointed,” said resident Clint Tomasino. “This is the same building, just with a different skin. I really expected more if y’all were going to bring this back to us.”
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? It's unclear what Metzger's next steps will be. Venturi did not respond to emailed questions. Before bringing its proposal to the city, Metzger would have to first present the plans to the Beltline Design Review Committee, a group of architects, planners, and government officials who work with developers and even homeowners who plan to build new developments or modify their houses. Residents would have an opportunity to continue pushing for changes. 
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? Speaking after the meeting, Morris said the project, in its current form, would jibe with the subarea master plan and Beltline Overlay District and said it was "likely that if they were able to provide high-quality design that we would likely send a recommendation to the city to adopt and approve. We believe they have made adjustments that fit with the intents of the master plan and the zoning of the site."



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