In case you missed it, MARTA is officially in the real estate development business. And last Wednesday, it hosted the groundbreaking for its latest project called Trackside, a four-story office/retail development alongside its Chamblee rail station.
MARTA CEO Keith Parker has worked hard over the last three years. Since taking over, he has improved the transit authority’s customer experience, streamlined its operating costs and polished its image.
The organization is operating in the black, riders will soon have uninterrupted Wifi on all rail lines, and developers are vying for its undeveloped property.
For years, MARTA rail stations have been no-man’s land spaces devoid of any sort of economic life. There was a clear separation between MARTA and everything else.
The new philosophy is to be the opposite. As the corporate elite have decided that they need to cater to the millennial market, which seems to want to be near mass transit, MARTA stations have become more popular. And developers are looking for ways to incorporate projects on and around them.
State Farm is almost midway through building it’s four 20-plus story high rises across from the Dunwoody station. And lots on either side of that same station are slated for high-rise development.
Mercedes-Benz located its North American headquarters near the Sandy Springs MARTA station, and other companies are moving intown to be near mass transit opportunities.
So MARTA stations are in hot demand, and it just so happens that MARTA owns undeveloped property around many of the stations. So it seems that it’s time to deal.
The new project will be in Chamblee at the Chamblee MARTA station. Parkside Partners will build two buildings on MARTA’s 2.16-acre site that will be four stories and include 70,000 square feet of office space, 10,000 square-feet of retail space and 4,300 square feet of greenspace.
The new development will go nicely with other developments going on around the station that include Peachtree Station, an 11-acre project that will include a Whole Foods Market and several other restaurants.
Another is called Parkview on Peachtree and is scheduled to open this year with:
40,000 square feet of boutique shops
cafes and restaurants
14,000 square feet of loft office space
503 multi-family units
With all of this new development going on well within an easy walking distance to each other, it’s easy to see that the MARTA station is the center of its gravity.
MARTA is working with developers on several other stations offering its vacant land and unused parking lots as spaces to build new and creative projects that blend with surrounding development.
This particular project went through several public forums that resulted in several iterations. MARTA spent a lot of time working with the city of Chamblee and its residents.
MARTA spent a lot of time working with residents of Brookhaven too. MARTA intended to develop a fairly massive project that included an eight-story office building, a 125-room hotel, 340 apartments, 107 condos, senior housing units and 56,000 square feet of restaurants and retail. After almost a year of working with the city, the developer and MARTA withdrew their application.
It seemed the residents and council were not pleased with the project. They were actually looking for a more significant development.
Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst was quoted in Brookhaven’s, The Post, as saying that the new development needs to be a city center that not only includes the immediate area around the MARTA station, but a much larger area.
It is taking a lot of work to retro-fit these existing stations into new communities. It will be exciting to see what can be done once MARTA starts expanding and building new stations.