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English Avenue residents say massive mixed-use designs don't gel with land plan

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Some Westside Atlantans complain Brock Built Homes wants to gentrify the area, while developer counters that density is a must

A conceptual rendering of the Echo Street Project.
This is what Echo Street Communities could look like.
Brock Built Homes, via Saporta Report

Some Westside Atlantans are up in arms over a development slated for English Avenue that, they say, isn’t being designed in line with the Westside Land Use Framework Plan.

That plan, designed over the course of some two years, was mapped out after thousands of residents provided input during what’s been called “an unprecedented number of community meetings,” according to Saporta Report.

The blueprint was adopted by the Atlanta City Council in December, which led people to believe they had a grasp of how the area would be redeveloped.

But during a May 24 community meeting, concerned residents took issue with plans for a major Brock Built Homes development that could rise at the intersection of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway and Northside Drive.

The intersection, just west of Midtown, as seen in November.
Google Maps

Dubbed “Echo Street Communities,” the project is substantial, as proposed. It was designed to bring 135,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, 302,000 square feet of office space, a 120-room hotel, 40 townhouses, and nearly 700 multifamily residences. (What Now Atlanta has gathered additional renderings over here, with an alternate possible title for the project, “Westside Yards.”)

At around 1.3 million square feet, that design is nearly two-times tighter than the land use plan had suggested for the 17-acre site, according to Saporta Report.

That means much more density could be coming to the area, which, combined with concerns of a lack of affordable housing in the project plans, has residents worried they won’t be able to stay in the neighborhood.

Jesse Wiles, CEO of APD Urban Planning and Management, which helped coordinate the planning effort, said at the meeting the land use plan recommended most of the site be developed as a medium-density project.

Adam Brock, of Brock Built Homes, countered that master planning and market conditions evolve over time, necessitating changes. He called the site a “catalyst corner,” per the website’s coverage.

Brock also said the company plans to keep its project within the city’s affordable housing guidelines, which call for 15 to 20 percent of units to be earmarked for housing attainable by people making 60 to 80 percent of the area median income, respectively.

The problem: Most English Avenue residents make a fraction of that (between 30 and 40 percent AMI). Brock voiced concerns that “it’s not economically possible to build a new single-family home at [40 percent AMI]. I’m not willing to do that,” per Saporta Report.

Some residents also expressed concerns that, if Brock can get away with changing its plans, it could set a dangerous precedent for other developers who say they’ll abide by land use plans but ultimately don’t.

Brock Built’s development plans aren’t the only ambitious changes planned for the area.

The vision for Quarry Yards put forth earlier this year by Urban Creek Partners and backed by former Braves player and budding developer Mark Teixeira.
Urban Creek Partners

Just over a mile away from the Echo Street Project, another major mixed-use is planned for development, aiming to capitalize on the largely underserved market near the forthcoming Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry.

Called “Quarry Yards,” the $400 million development could rise on some 70 acres next to the Bankhead MARTA station.