The Georgia Department of Transportation has procured five acres of Doraville land that was slated to host high-density commercial office space at the upcoming Assembly mixed-use campus, according to Reporter Newspapers.
The land-grab happened about 18 months ago through a settlement with Assembly developer Integral Group but is coming to light now. It further calls into question how the state’s transportation agency is carrying out plans for a multi-billion-dollar toll lane project that could impact hundreds of other properties as it progresses.
The land GDOT bought from the Assembly site will be used for the I-285 Top End Express Lanes project, which would add two new barrier-separated toll lanes on either side of the highway.
An Integral Group rep told Reporter Newspapers the developer is “thrilled” with the express lanes plan, since it could help with traffic congestion, in part by providing semi-dedicated mass transit bus lanes, allowing easier access to the robust mixed-use development.
The toll lanes interchange would also link up with the Doraville MARTA Station.
The publication reported that Integral Group, like other property owners, had no choice in the matter, although GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale told Curbed Atlanta the developer had “every right to turn down GDOT’s offer, but that’s not what happened.”
“We are negotiating land purchases throughout the corridor just as if a developer was purchasing the property,” she said. “Eminent domain is a very last resort. All property owners have a choice in how they personally negotiate with the Department.”
GDOT’s projects could have such a significant impact on highway-adjacent properties that, last month, Brookhaven officials invited an eminent domain attorney to a community meeting to educate citizens about what to do if state officials try to claim some of their land.
GDOT has maintained that it’s being transparent about the express lanes projects—part of the state’s $11 billion “Major Mobility Investment Program”—but Reporter Newspapers has produced evidence to suggest the agency has been withholding important details from journalists and stakeholders.
Another part of the massive program aimed at curbing congestion is the Ga. Highway 400 express lanes project, which would create new express lanes along the highway between the North Springs MARTA Station and McFarland Parkway.
The 160-acre Assembly project—formerly 165 acres—is turning a shuttered General Motors plant’s land into 10 million square feet of multifamily housing, office space, restaurants, retail, and entertainment.
The development’s first phase welcomed Third Rail Studios, a film and TV production facility, and Serta Simmons Bedding has claimed 250,000 square feet for its new headquarters.
This story was updated on May 1, 2019 at 12:04 p.m. to include comments from GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale.