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Beltline neighborhoods are crafting their own plan for massive rail yard dividing them

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One problem: Railroad giant CSX isn’t actually selling the active 70-acre site

a picture of the property, behind the MARTA lines
One view of the roughly 70-acre Hulsey Yard site bordering DeKalb Avenue.
Google Maps

A collective of neighborhood organizations is raising tens of thousands of dollars to enlist an architecture firm to help draft a redevelopment plan for Hulsey Yard, a colossal chunk of intown railroad property that isn’t even for sale.

Talk about community pro-activism.

But to some, this initiative, spearheaded by residents from Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, Old Fourth Ward, and Inman Park—the neighborhoods lining the roughly 70-acre CSX Transportation property stretched along DeKalb Avenue—is little more than a pipe dream.

Local leaders backing the plan, however, believe the land containing the active rail yard, which bisects part of the Beltline’s Eastside Trail, will one day be more valuable than the activity happening upon it, and that CSX will want to sell.

Officials from neighborhood groups representing those adjacent communities have launched a fundraising campaign to reel in $40,000 for a prominent intown architecture firm to draw their vision for the massive site.

All those freight cars are sitting on Hulsey Yard. It divides Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park (top) and Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown (bottom).
Hulsey Yard Study Committee, via Google Maps

Thus far, the Hulsey Yard Study Committee—a group that’s been kicking Hulsey Yard’s proverbial tires for about two years—has collected at least $34,000, which will go to architecture firm Lord Aeck Sargent.

Committee Chairwoman Nicole Seekely, a Cabbagetown resident, told Curbed Atlanta that Lord Aeck Sargent is on board with the mission and even willing to provide some pro-bono work.

Committee leaders expect the envisioning project could eventually cost around $75,000.

Lord Aeck Sargent urban designer Matt Cherry said the firm began working on the project last week and plans to host pop-up studios to help inform the four neighborhoods’ vision for the site.

He understands this approach to urban planning isn’t exactly traditional.

“Is it unorthodox? Yes. Is it something Atlanta needs? Undoubtedly,” Cherry said, noting that starting a community-led conversation now is better for neighborhoods than waiting for a major developer to conjure its own vision for the site.

The property, which sits between the King Memorial and Inman Park-Reynoldstown MARTA stations, supports a sizable leg of the transit agency’s eastbound-westbound heavy rail lines in Atlanta.

What changes would come to the neighboring MARTA line, if any, is unclear—an infill MARTA station, perhaps. But observers say the CSX lines running underneath would likely remain active if a multi-million-dollar (or billion-dollar) mixed-use development arose on the current rail yard. (CSX has yet to respond to our inquiries.)

MARTA rail hangs over the freight railroad property.
Google Maps

Seekely stressed that, although the land is not currently for sale, neighbors want to be proactive about the potential project site.

The freight train lines’ current site would need to be rezoned in order to accommodate the kind of redevelopment some neighbors are hoping for—increased density with plenty of new green space.

The fundraising and design initiative is still in its infancy, Seekely said, and residents should have ample time to weigh in on the tentative plans.