Community members met for the fourth time on Monday night to hear about Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. plans to develop the Murphy Crossing area in southeast Atlanta.
ABI has bought the site of the former state farmer’s market and is exploring plans how to best stabilize and revitalize the 16-acre site. The site development is unlike anything ABI has attempted in the past and presents a set of challenges such as its economically challenged location and the lack of market potential.
As ABI CEO Paul Morris noted at a board meeting in August, “There is no there, there.”
Jerald Mitchell, ABI’s director of economic development, shared parts of a recently completed 141-page study on the Murphy Crossing site on Monday night. He also outlined suggestions for short-term and long-term development. The Westside Trail, which is expected to be finished next year, will border the site.
About 30 people attended the meeting and joined in the discussion, offering suggestions ranging from razing all the buildings to creating a park at one end to coming up with a “spiffy” name.
One audience member pointed out that the entire area needs to be cleaned up, not just the Murphy Crossing site. He asked why not more is being done to hold private property owners responsible for what he called “a destination for garbage.”
Joyce Shepard, Atlanta city council member for District 12, noted the area needs a shift in how the community views it. Cleaning up garbage every day would not be effective until development and improvements begin to change the area.
Another attendee suggested simply razing the entire site and starting with new development. Other audience members disagreed, as did Shepard.
“Atlanta has a history of tearing down old buildings,” she said, noting that the site has a history and a unique identity that would be destroyed.
Shepard said she sees Murphy Crossing as a jumping off point to fulfill the true purpose of the Beltline – to improve economic development and provide better neighborhoods for 45 neighborhoods across Atlanta, regardless of income level. Up to this point, that economic development has targeted towards areas that have higher income levels than the Murphy Crossing area.
The area has had a flat population growth for the last 15 years and has lower income levels and fewer working-age adults compared to most of Atlanta. However, home prices have started to rise recently, and the number of people making more than $40,000 a year has grown slowly.
Mitchell compared the site to Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market, but acknowledged there are differences. Both of those sites were developed by private developers and had more market potential before the development began.
The Murphy Crossing site has about 233,473 square feet of building space, but most of those buildings need at least moderate repairs. At least one building has been slated for demolition, but ABI is waiting for permitting approval. While there is some interest from outside developers, ABI expects to assume a significant part of the initial site development.
The first step in developing the site is to stabilize it, Mitchell said. Unstable buildings have to be removed and at least temporary roads and parking spaces created to allow access to the site. It also needs restrooms and green spaces for activities.
Once that has been completed, the space would be ready to use for pop-up markets, music festivals and food trucks. These activities would bring in much-needed revenue to the area and begin to develop a market and brand for the site. The interim improvement phase is expected to take from one to five years, with long-term plans taking up to 20 years.
To see the presentation from Monday evening’s meeting, click here.