Atlanta likes to have pride in its neighborhoods. ITP vs. OTP. Virginia-Highland vs. Buckhead. Midtown vs. Brookhaven. For years, VaHi was known as the trendy neighborhood for singles, with its many restaurants and bars within walking distance.
In the past few years, Old Fourth Ward (O4W) has replaced VaHi as the hip hood. Largely fueled by the Atlanta BeltLine, one restaurant after another has opened on or near the trail. Apartment buildings cannot go up fast enough. Townhouses are selling for more than $1.5 million, a hefty price for Atlanta. Empty nesters who live OTP are buying up weekend apartments to avoid the drive home after dark, making the city their playground. And tourists from around the world are parading down the BeltLine, contributing to its annual 2 million+ head count.
All of this amounts to an estimated $10 billion (in 2019 numbers) pumped into the neighborhoods surrounding the BeltLine (largely O4W + Poncey Highland + Inman Park). And now comes a development to beat them all. A massive complex going up on Ralph McGill Boulevard, fronting Historic Fourth Ward Park.
When finished in about a decade, it is supposed to have a hotel, 1,100 residences - including affordable housing - office buildings, and retail (my bet is on some pretty good restaurants). Two mid-rise glass towers will dwarf the other buildings around it, probably obscuring the skyline view from New Realm Brewing. With the new Murder Kroger building and these new ones, the developer of both, New City Properties, is creating a new skyline in a neighborhood where Atlantans actually live, and don't cede to tourists. The project is both enormous and beautiful. To see renderings, check out this recent article from Urbanize Atlanta.
New City Properties acquired the prime space a few years ago from Georgia Power, who was using it mostly to store trucks. Construction has been visible behind chain link fences since the middle of last year, as convoys of dump trucks cart dirt away to wherever dirt goes.
According to an article in Atlanta Magazine last summer, Jim Irwin, the owner of New City Properties, talks of creating a giant plaza like you see in major cities like New York. Which would be awesome. We can already see that vision with the Kroger plaza.
It is an ambitious project for sure, but even more spectacular in its relatively small space. Ralph McGill Boulevard is a residential tree-lined street, frequently used as a cut through from John Lewis Freedom Parkway. It has become more gentrified, safer and undoubtedly busier in the past 5 years. People looking for free parking for the BeltLine already cram its curbs on weekends. So the question is: Where will all this traffic go?
The city/GA DOT have some time to figure it out, but not much. Two office buildings facing the BeltLine are expected to be completed first, in about 2 years once construction begins, according to the same Atlanta Magazine article.
And even before that, a glass-enclosed elevator and stairs will reconnect the park and the BeltLine, opening in April, according to Urbanize Atlanta. They replace the former ramp that wound down to the park, across from Two Urban Licks. The ramp was shut down last year to make more room for buildings, and a plywood fence went up on the BeltLine that became a canvas for the Black Lives Matter movement. The new staircase will have a bike runnel (roll your bike on it as you walk the stairs).
After that, we will see the rest of the buildings roll out in phases. The development, gorgeous and aspirational, will certainly change the neighborhood. But if it keeps progressing as it has, O4W might be different by then anyway.
February is Black History Month. Read, learn or contribute in some way. Here are some ideas.
An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the founder & CEO of BiteLines. She considers the Atlanta BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. The BiteLines blog features art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness on the Atlanta BeltLine. Share story ideas and pics at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow on Instagram @bitelinesatl.February is Black History Month. Read, learn or contribute in some way. Here are some ideas.