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Neighborhood group publishes ambitious masterplan for Hulsey Yard redevelopment

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But the mammoth, eastside Atlanta rail car depot is still not for sale, CSX Transportation officials say

The cleared-out Hulsey Yard seems to stretch on for miles, looking like a concrete desert.
What could become of the massive, Beltline-adjacent rail yard remains to be seen.
Sean Keenan, Curbed Atlanta

“The local and regional implications of redeveloping this massive railroad yard are almost too numerous to conceive.”

That’s a standout statement from the Hulsey Yard Study Committee’s masterplan, which was officially released last week.

Crafted by neighborhood groups who live near the gargantuan rail yard, with the help of architecture firm Lord Aeck Sargent, the masterplan lays out an ambitious vision for the site’s potential redevelopment. It outlines recommendations about zoning, regulations, and design for a project that could inform future development at the now-inactive rail depot and its environs.

Thousands of stakeholders were involved in the committee and Lord Aeck Sargent’s months of community engagement efforts, and the results illustrate an interest in design dictated by density, connectivity, and inclusivity.

A list of “common stakeholder themes” from the report. Images: Hulsey Yard Study Committee

Per the new report: “The plan represents a consensual vision for Hulsey Yard’s redevelopment that is grounded in the realities of current real estate and market trends, yet pushes the envelope in terms of interconnectedness, build quality, affordability, and architecture.”

Affordability and connectivity, while staples of smart urbanist design, aren’t always centerpieces of traditional development in metro Atlanta; but Hulsey Yard’s neighbors appear to be swinging for the fences, in part to preempt development that might have its way with the site without regard for adequate community input.

But still, the fate of Hulsey Yard remains up in the air.

In May, property owner CSX Transportation cleared the nearly 80-acre rail depot—once a bustling, industrial neighbor of Cabbagetown’s Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts—of its countless shipping crates. The company has relocated freight operations to a yard in Fairburn.

Since then, though, CSX has shown no interest in unloading the colossal swath of land, which sprawls through Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Cabbagetown, and Reynoldstown. That’s much to the chagrin of neighbors pining for the redevelopment of what’s now a concrete desert

A CSX representative said the company isn’t interested in selling the site in a recent email to Curbed Atlanta.

That hasn’t stopped the grassroots planning, though, in what could be the most organized example of preemptive neighborhood input Atlanta’s seen in this long real estate boom cycle.

Here’s a few takeaways from the published masterplan, starting with the issue of connectivity.

Today, there’s just one link between DeKalb Avenue, the northern border of the yard, and the neighborhoods to the south, Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown: The Krog Street tunnel.

Should the suggestions from the masterplan materialize, though, there could be four connections, per the report:

  • Powell Street Tunnel, connecting to and ending at DeKalb Avenue (present in both 1911 and 1927 maps)
  • Krog Street Tunnel, connecting Estoria Street to Krog Street (not present in 1911, but shows up in a 1927 map)
  • Pearl Street, an at-grade railroad crossing connecting to and ending at DeKalb Avenue (present in 1911 map, but not present in 1927 map)
  • Delta Place, an at-grade railroad crossing connecting current Delta Place to current Chester Street

The project would also embrace early plans for Beltline transit, which call for a light rail line running alongside the trail.

Some neighbors even suggested, “I want the entire thing to be a park,” according to the report, although that’s a pipe dream, since a public-sector land purchase is “highly unlikely.” (All proposed plans do include at least one new park, though.)

They did, however, form a general consensus regarding how they’d like to see Hulsey Yard chunked up into three main parcels: Areas A, B, and C for the west, center, and eastern parts of the site, respectively.

Per the report:

  • Area A: Intown Village
  • Area B: General consensus fell between Intown Village and Intown Mixed-Use Center
  • Area C: General consensus was squarely on Intown Mixed-Use Center with some support for Regional Destination
Diagrams show examples of “residential neighborhood” and “intown village” plans.
Plans show images of “intown mixed-use center” and “regional destination” designs.

Among the biggest questions asked by architects and the study committee: How dense should the project should be—and exactly where? Also: What kinds of transportation connections are possible and acceptable?

One sentiment seemed to ring true among stakeholders: “Do not design based on cars,” wrote one commenter, whose assertion was echoed by others.

There was mention of an infill MARTA station at Krog Street, although some planning wonks have in the past noted that’s easier said than done, due in part to the curvature of the existing track.

A list of goals for the project site.

Additionally, among the many street styles weighed during the community engagement process, stakeholders selected “multi-use” designs as a top priority.

The masterplan also reiterated proposals for three broad plans for developing the site.

Those proposals are:

The Green Ribbon plan would entail creating a “ribbon” of green space from the east side of Hulsey Yard to the west side—the entire length of what some neighbors are calling the “new neighborhood.”

Hulsey Squares would include pocket parks peppered throughout the site.

And the Roundhouse—named for the former rail car turntable that once operated on the property—would feature one large park just south of DeKalb Avenue between Inman Park and Reynoldstown.

As has been the case since the Hulsey Yard Study Committee was assembled last year, though, these ideas are all just... ideas.

A rendering of the “Linear Ribbon.”
A description of one overarching idea: “Concept sketch of Hulsey Yard redevelopment similar to that shown in the ‘Linear Ribbon’ Framework Plan. This view is looking west towards the Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts (left background) and Downtown Atlanta (right background). New development is shown transitioning from lower density abutting Cabbagetown/Reynoldstown (foreground left) to higher density along the MARTA line (foreground right), organized along a new linear park with integrated Beltline transit. Light rail transit is shown (based on ABI studies) connecting via a new tunnel under Dekalb Avenue, MARTA line, and CSX line, and “daylighting” within Hulsey Yard roughly 300 to 400 feet west of the Krog Tunnel.”
A rendering of the proposed “Roundhouse Park” project.
“Sketch illustrating a large park and adjacent development similar to the ‘Roundhouse Park’ Framework Plan. This ‘birds eye’ view over Reynoldstown (foreground) looks north towards Inman Park.”