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Invest Atlanta launches $15M transit-oriented development fund, but is it enough?

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Renovating the Hotel Clermont cost twice as much

The Spoke apartment community in Edgewood, MARTA’s first completed foray into transit-connected development in recent years.
Jonathan Phillips, Curbed Atlanta

Atlanta’s economic development agency is making an effort to boost the city’s transit-linked development stock, but at $15 million, is the budget big enough to make a dent in chronic traffic problems?

Invest Atlanta announced Wednesday it was launching the city’s first-ever transit-oriented development fund, which will provide “below-market, patient capital to support the acquisition and predevelopment of workforce housing near MARTA stations, the Atlanta Streetcar, the Atlanta Beltline, and other modes of transit,” according to an agency news release.

Roughly 70 percent of metro Atlanta residents commute to a different county for work, according to Invest Atlanta. If they could lop off an hour each week from those trips—and save on travel costs—the agency reports, workers could save nearly $1,000 annually.

“If we can achieve this with just 20 percent of our workforce through investments like the transition-oriented development fund, we can inject an extra $460 million into our local economy,” according to the news release.

But let’s pause for a bit of context.

When a single redevelopment project like the Hotel Clermont, as just one example, costs nearly twice as much as the transit-oriented development fund is worth, some might wonder if Invest Atlanta’s new initiative is but a stepping stone.

A little more context: One of Atlanta’s most anticipated transit-oriented development projects, a long-planned, 297-unit complex at the King Memorial MARTA Station, is expected to cost upwards of $51 million. (About 80 of those units are earmarked for affordable housing, according to the latest news on progress from March; construction was scheduled to start a year ago.)

Near the Edgewood-Candler Park MARTA stop, the 224-apartment Spoke—with 34 workforce housing units—cost around $43 million.

That’s not to say there’s no other financial help coming from the city. The Eastside Tax Allocation District is funneling millions of dollars toward transit-centric projects, too.

A $6 million Eastside TAD grant has helped with Place Properties’s plans for the aforementioned King Memorial development. Some $9 million from the TAD has supported plans for a 14-story, 345-unit residential tower on Peachtree Center Avenue.

And at Underground Atlanta, the 180-unit multifamily workforce housing complex The Avery received a TAD grant worth just under $4 million.

Some OTP cities, such as Dunwoody, have wholeheartedly embraced transit-focused development, too. On Hammond Drive, Trammell Crow’s Twelve24 seeks to bring more than 300,000 square feet of office space next to the local MARTA train station, as just the latest example.

Additionally, College Park is considering adopting what’s called “transit-oriented zoning,” which would encourage higher-density development close to the city’s MARTA station.

Of course, with MARTA’s board of directors recently approving a major plan of action for upwards of $2.5 billion worth of transit expansion, logic says transit-adjacent developments could be cropping up more and more.

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