Invest Atlanta, the City of Atlanta’s funding arm, has voted this week to contribute funding for an apartment development with two levels of parking deck next to Five Points MARTA, where no parking requirements exist. And they did so without required neighborhood notification.
If you haven’t seen this proposed apartment building for Underground Atlanta or any plans for it, not even at the latest public-engagement meeting from property owners WRS, you’re not alone. No one saw it until the July 20, 2017 Invest Atlanta meeting because it was never submitted to the local NPU, the city’s official Neighborhood Planning Unit, as is required by the application for public funding.
Atlanta is publicly funding the addition of parking literally on top of a section of the Five Points MARTA Station (the most heavily-used transit station in the southeastern U.S.) and we’re doing so in a part of the city that has no parking minimums – this is the wrong way to add density near transit. If the plan had been presented to the NPU, the public would have had a chance to speak up about this. We had no such chance.
Invest Atlanta isn’t following the rules
Why did Invest Atlanta approve this when it has NEVER been shown publicly? It doesn’t match any of the plans that WRS has shown, including their recent City Council and community updates.
The Avery apartment project was approved unanimously. City Councilmember Natalyn Archibong (who is on the IA board) asked what NPU engagement was required. The response she got what that the project was shared with the Eastside Tax Allocation District Advisory Committee (TADAC) and that was sufficient.
But the Eastside TAD application clearly states that an NPU presentation is a requirement. That did not happen. But the city’s investment arm decided to fund this anyway. The Eastside TAD Grant: $3,600,000. This is 9% of the cost of development for the 180-unit apartment building.
We need affordable Downtown housing, but not this way
Putting new residential in Downtown is very important. It’s a good thing to add housing here in general. And the fact that this is work-force housing is admirable. 150 units will be income restricted to households earning 60% AMI or below and 30 units will be market-rate.
But this is not the right way to make it happen. We need the city to follow its own procedures and to stop adding parking next to the biggest transit hub we have, where parking is already too plentiful of a land use, and where we have one of the only parts of Atlanta where there is not even any parking required for new developments.
The Twitter exchange with Mayor Kasim Reed
In this Twitter exchange from the day of the Invest Atlanta meeting, Mayor Kasim Reed addresses a question about the NPU-presentation requirement being circumvented with this Invest Atlanta approval of funding. He says that the IA attorney called the claim false.
But the application for Eastside TAD funding very clearly states that NPU presentation is a requirement. One has to wonder about the reading skills of the IA attorney.
Please know that this is much more than a “gotcha” matter or political watch-dogging. This is a concern about the city’s respect for public engagement on big developments that affect neighborhoods, and about using our limited Invest Atlanta funds the right way — for the kind of investment that supports great neighborhoods.
Engagement is important and it needs to be valued by our leaders. As Jane Jacobs said: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”