MARTA lands Coral Gables’ Peebles Corp. to develop Bankhead project
MARTA has tapped several developers to bring housing to its Bankhead rail station, close to the site where Microsoft plans to build a 90-acre campus with thousands of jobs.
On Thursday, MARTA’s board of directors chose Peebles Corp. – run by one of the nation’s most prominent Black developers – to lead efforts to build on top of 5.5 acres at the station. The firm specializes in office, residential, hospitality and mixed-use projects, with ambitions to construct Manhattan’s largest skyscraper to provide opportunities to minority- and women-owned businesses.
New York-based Exact Capital, along with local firms Third & Urban and Bolster Real Estate Partners, will serve as co-developers on the project. The team plans to add 495 apartments, offices, co-working space, retail space, a hotel and more than 1 acre of open space to the site near the Bankhead station at 1335 Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway.
The project is part of MARTA’s push to bring “transit-oriented development” anchored by affordable housing on top of its rail stations. In addition to bringing in short-term revenue, the agency sees it as a way to boost ridership by putting residents and workers at the doorstep of its network.
Nearly 30% of all units built on the site by the Bankhead station will be reserved at prices deemed affordable for people who earn 80% to 120% of the area median income by zip code. The station is close to the Atlanta BeltLine’s Westside Trail, as well as the Proctor Creek Greenway in the historic Grove Park neighborhood.
“It’s an opportunity to make an investment in an area that is definitely changing and to be on the forefront of allowing that change to be in a way that is reflective of the needs of the community,” Debbie Frank, TOD director at MARTA, previously told Atlanta Business Chronicle in January when the agency sent out a request for proposals for the Bankhead project.
In response to the growth pouring into Westside Atlanta, MARTA plans to quadruple the train capacity for the Bankhead station, the final stop on the green rail line. The upgrade will extend the train platform from 150 feet to 600 feet, allowing the agency to run eight trains to the station instead of two. The station, connected to two bus routes, sees about 1,500 riders each day.
Grove Park residents have raised alarms over rising rents and potential displacement from the influx of development in Westside Atlanta. In the wake of Microsoft announcing plans for its campus, 95% of Grove Park homes on the market went under contract, according to a report released last year by the Urban Land Institute.
The global tech giant has stated it plans to set aside about one-fourth of its campus for community services and affordable housing. Those components will likely come before developing the campus with office space, said Michael Shelton, director of real estate for the Eastern U.S. and Canada at Microsoft, at an April meeting.
“Our biggest fear is to go really fast and get it wrong,” Shelton said.
In 2019, MARTA’s board gave the agency the go-ahead to pursue affordable housing around all its rail stations located within federal opportunity zones: Ashby, Bankhead, Five Points, H.E. Holmes, Lakewood/Fort McPherson and Vine City. Bankhead is the first station to go through the TOD process.