Avondale MARTA Station Project Featured in Local Newspaper

The Community Review recently published an article on the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) project slated for the light industrial area around the Avondale MARTA station. Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates is working on a master plan for a parking deck, apartments and condominiums.

Makeover for Decatur-Avondale LCI Area To Begin in September

By Mary Swint
Community Review

The light industrial area around the Avondale MARTA station, now dubbed Columbia Park, will undergo an extreme makeover beginning this fall, with streetscapes and the construction of lofts, a parking deck, an apartment building and multi-story condominiums.

After two years of planning and public input, Decatur officials revealed the time line of Phase I of Decatur-Avondale Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) redevelopment program at a public hearing on June 3 at the Friends School on Sams Street in Decatur.

Construction of the loft condominiums at the intersection of Talley Street and Sams Street in a light industrial area southwest of the Avondale MARTA station will begin in September and will take 12 months, according to Paul Pierce, executive director of the Decatur Housing Authority.

The Talley Street loft condos will be across the street from the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) offices and the Decatur maintenance facility, according to development manager Mike Maschmeyer.

“There will be 91 units with 10 foot ceilings,” he said of the condos. “They will have flex space for home offices and guest bedrooms.” The lofts will have 758 to 1,176 square feet with private gated patios or balconies. There will be a sun deck, a fitness center, and a pool. A two-level parking deck in back will be accessed by two driveways on Sams Street and Talley Street. The building will be oriented towards Decatur and the Midtown skyline, Maschmeyer said, adding that it is designed for the 25- to 45-year-old market.

“Twenty percent of the units will be affordable housing,” Maschmeyer said. The lofts will sell for $112,000 to about $196,000. Maschmeyer said the units offered at full market rate will start at $129,000.

In late January or February 2005, work will get underway on a new parking deck with four or five levels on the northern end of the current MARTA parking lot on E. College Avenue and streetscape “along College Avenue, down Sams Street, around the corner to Talley,” Pierce said. Construction of the parking deck, with 300 to 350 parking spaces, will take 12 months. There are 505 spaces in the E. College Avenue parking lot but only 52 percent are used, according to the LCI final report. The DFCS parking lot on the southern border of the MARTA parking lot will not be affected. The parking deck will have security and an elevator and will be free for MARTA riders.

Construction of the four-story Columbia Apartments, which will wrap around the parking deck, will start between February and April 2005 and will take 12 to 18 months, Pierce predicted. There will be 180 to 220 apartments, with one and two bedrooms, some balconies, a fitness center, a pool, and 15,000 to 22,000 square feet of retail space at the bottom. The apartments will have parking spaces in the deck separated from those spaces used by MARTA patrons, he explained. The estimated rent will range from $720 to $1200 a month, with about 40 percent of the apartments designated as affordable housing.

After the MARTA parking deck is completed, the southern third of the current parking lot will become the construction site for the Columbia Condominiums, which are expected to take 14 months to build, Pierce said. Phase I of the project is scheduled to be done by April 2007.

Columbia Park Condominiums will have 120 to 140 units with 750 to 1,200 square feet, according to Pierce. The four or five story building will house one and two bedroom units, most with balconies, as well as a parking facility, a pool and a fitness center. There will be 7,000 square feet of retail space. The estimated prices for the condos will be in the $112,000 to $200,000 range.

Some buyers of the condos may qualify for special mortgages offered by Fannie Mae for homes within half-mile of a MARTA station, Pierce pointed out. A portion of the borrower’s potential transportation savings could be used in calculating income and can be used to qualify the borrower for a larger mortgage, and MARTA provides the borrower a free monthly pass for six months, according to a Jan. 26 Fannie Mae press release.

Planning for the Livable Center Initiative (LCI) project was kicked off two years ago. Participants in a series of public input meetings in 2002 voted to name what will be the new residential/commercial neighborhood on the eastern edge of Decatur Columbia Park and offered suggestions about retail and housing for the study area, which is centered at the Avondale MARTA station’s south parking lot on E. College Avenue. The final concept plan, which has five phases, was crafted in December 2002. Decatur annexed the south parking lot this spring, Lynn Menne of the Decatur Community and Economic Development Authority said. Decatur has received a $3 million implementation grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission for the parking deck and streetscape.

The Columbia Park neighborhood will have medium density housing and retail like Oakhurst business district and “life cycle housing, apartments for students, single-family homes for young families and condos for empty nesters,” Menne said. “Without a plan, the old industrial park of Decatur would have developed into strip shopping centers and fast food restaurants.”

Phase III was supposed to begin in 2012, but Menne pointed out, “Phase III is already underway with the development of the old BioLab property.”

Jack Honderd, one of the developers of East Decatur Station on the old BioLab site, described the renovations underway at the former administrative building on E. College Avenue.

“We are disassembling the building,” Honderd said, which consists of a common roof over several smaller buildings built from the late 1800s to 1982. “It will have a village feel. It will have an interior plaza where the test pools were. It will be a Zen-like plaza.” Renovations will add more light and air to the complex and a pedestrian street. “The red brick on the front is staying,” he said, but they are cutting openings and installing a flying canopy at the entrance. “The front will not be dramatically different.”

Pat Murphy, another developer of East Decatur Station, said Figo Pasta, an Italian restaurant in Atlanta, will open a restaurant at the old Biolab site soon. Other new tenants, he said, will be an advertising company and Brown Manufacturing, which prints logos on its patented cast iron bottle openers manufactured in Germany. They are also recruiting a second restaurant for a 2,000 to 3,000 square foot area and a new tenant for the laboratory building on New Street, which BioLab will use through August. Current tenants at East Decatur Station include Decatur Healing Arts, PushPush Theater and All Souls Presbyterian Church.

“Retail design is important,” said Caleb Racicot of the Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh planning firm, who is working on the master plan for the parking deck, apartments and condominiums. “Retail is the glue that holds the community together. Vibrant retail generates street life.” He said the area will be bike friendly and will have unique street lights.

The LCI study area is bound on the west by Commerce Drive/S. Columbia Drive, on the north by E. College Avenue, and on the east and south by Arcadia Avenue/Katie Kerr Drive.

Avondale MARTA Station Project Featured in Local Newspaper

Avondale MARTA Station Project Featured in Local Newspaper