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Spat between English Avenue residents, developer, and now media heats up

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Veteran Atlanta journalist says the city needs to take its time in vetting a substantial mixed-use proposal

A conceptual rendering of the Echo Street Project.
The city needs to take a good, hard look at this before breaking ground, Maria Saporta insists.
Brock Built Homes, via Saporta Report

A prominent Atlanta politics and business pundit has officially stepped into the ring of a tussle between a real estate developer and Westside residents.

Maria Saporta, founder and editor of Saporta Report, posted a story (op-ed?) this week to the blog entitled “City needs to hit pause on Brock English Ave. project.”

She’s referring to the mixed-use development ambitions of Brock Built Homes, a company aiming to build retail and office space, a hotel, and residences on a 17-acre site at the corner of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway and Northside Drive.

But English Avenue neighbors have taken issue with the project, called “Echo Street Communities” (or maybe “Westside Yards”), because, they argue, the blueprints aren’t in keeping with the Westside Land Use Framework Plan—a community-designed document aimed at ensuring equitable development in Westside neighborhoods.

“The project has been sailing though the Atlanta City Council’s committee meetings,” Saporta writes, adding that the city needs to hit the pause button before it ushers along a development that could severely impact English Avenue and surrounding neighborhoods.

The first issue raised by Saporta and some Westside residents involves density. Brock Built’s initial plans called for 1.3 million square feet of development—about two times more than the land use plan suggests.

The development, as proposed, would count 135,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, more than 300,000 square feet of office space, a 120-room hotel, 40 townhouses, and almost 700 multifamily residences.

Building all of that on 17 acres—coupled with the fact that early plans don’t include a level of affordable housing that some would like—has neighbors worried they won’t be able to live in the area much longer. (Brock Built leaders have said the project will abide by 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.)

“Until an acceptable plan for housing affordability has been reached for the Brock development, the city should hold off approving the project,” Saporta writes, later noting that once the city gives the all-clear, it loses its position to negotiate with the developer.

The project was originally supposed to be discussed at a full Atlanta City Council meeting this week, but those talks have been bumped to next month.

Councilman Ivory Young, Saporta reports, said he’s been in touch with Brock Built leaders who tell him the plans have been amended to better abide by the land use plan.

“Even in a best-case scenario, the revised project should go back to the various community stakeholders so they can see what changes have been made—before it gets a green light,” Saporta contends.

Stay tuned.