As the Connector sweeps around the Grady Curve high above Sweet Auburn, the illuminated blue lettering on Big Bethel's steeple proclaims to the stream of commuters "Jesus Saves." Soon, the proselytizing edifice may be surrounded by new high-rise development as the church, in partnership with Central Atlanta Progress, seeks to turn four acres of parking lots and derelict structures into apartments and commercial space. Big Bethel, which predates the City of Atlanta, occupies a seven-acre site on Auburn Avenue, and with the Atlanta Streetcar soon slated to carry more than just sandbags through the neighborhood, development along the corridor has picked up pace. The project comes on the heels of more than $650 million worth of investments in projects under construction or slated for the neighborhood, according to City Council member Kwanza Hall.
A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was released last month, with responses due back by Nov. 21. The RFQ outlines three required components:
· Residential space of both market rate and subsidized housing, up to 288 units. The proposals may either incorporate the existing 45-year-old Bethel Towers development, or propose demolition of the existing structure and replacement with a new building.
· Commercial space along the Auburn Avenue Corridor.
· A parking garage to accommodate the new uses.
In addition to the requirements, the RFQ gives the option to propose a "family life center" and alterations to the church space on the site. Nowhere in the 30-page RFQ is the church's most prominent feature mentioned, though from the conceptual renderings it seems that the intent is to not obstruct the view of the sign from the interstate. Hallelujah!
— Michael Kahn