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With Parking Spaces Sitting Vacant, Atlanta Has a Bold Plan to Merge Communities With Transit

July 29, 2014
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With Parking Spaces Sitting Vacant, Atlanta Has a Bold Plan to Merge Communities With Transit
Marta Station in Atlanta, GA. Gene/Flickr Creative Commons
MARTA is going to turn empty railroad station lots into vibrant housing areas.

Everyone who lives near a city knows all too well how much location – specifically, proximity to the commuter rail — matters. The shorter the drive is to the station, the better. And the ability to walk there trumps just about everything.

Such convenience is about to come to thousands in Atlanta. That city’s metro system MARTA has started making real estate deals to build housing to unused transit parking lots. MARTA plans to turn the space at the King Memorial, Edgewood, and Edgewood/Chandler Park stations into combination residential and retail developments.

“People have been looking at these parking lots for decades wondering why they were just sitting there,” Amanda Rhein, senior director of transit-oriented development at MARTA, told City Lab.

Now, that is finally changing — and it’s not only helping commuters, but also the railroad itself. Without state funding, MARTA’s bottom line is very easily impacted by the ups and downs of the economy. So, when Keith Parker took over the agency in 2012, he decided that a bold project like this is what was required to keep it competitive. The development will not only produce revenue from all the train riders, but also with each unit sold, will raise money for the transit system that it can use for improvements.

And so far, Parker’s decision is looking like a good one. MARTA has successfully leased land to developers for mixed-use buildings that are focused on the adjacent transit opportunities, including a project on a four-acre unused parking lot that features 13,000 square feet of retails space and 386 housing units.

The boon does not only belong to the railroads, though; it is the entire community’s as these projects could decrease traffic on the roads. And on top of that, there is more to the new spaces then one might think. Beyond all the great new housing and shops, each development will also feature a public park as well as have at least 20 percent of the units dedicated to affordable housing.

While construction has yet to start, there’s already hope for more in the future since this model is good for both the city of Atlanta, its citizens and the transit system itself.

“We’re going to make the stations themselves and the surrounding areas more pleasant and more easily accessible, and we’ll be providing amenities to our riders and to the surrounding community. So I think people will realize that and give MARTA a chance,” says Rhein.

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