Neighbors of Hulsey Yard know what they want the colossal, deserted train depot to become in the future, generally speaking.
The 70-acre rail yard, stretching through parts of Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Cabbagetown, and Reynoldstown, was deactivated by owner CSX Transportation in May, prompting neighbors to launch a proactive, grassroots effort to craft a plan for its potential redevelopment.
Now, after weeks of community engagement events—and years of neighbors dreaming about the property’s potential—local architecture firm Lord Aeck Sargent is getting close to creating a masterplan for Hulsey Yard, a document the Atlanta City Council could adopt and use to guide future construction.
(Bear in mind, however, that Hulsey Yard is still not for sale.)
Input from hundreds of locals has enabled Lord Aeck Sargent, which the Hulsey Yard Study Committee has enlisted to help create a vision, to narrow down tentative development wishlists to three choices: “The Green Ribbon,” “Hulsey Squares,” and “The Roundhouse.”
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.
All of the above options would incorporate a mix of varying levels of density, and they would each include the same amount of green space.
“The point we were really trying to drive home is there’s not one plan; there’s not one way to do this,” said Lord Aeck Sargent urban designer Matt Cherry. “There’s probably 100 ways to do it.”
Cherry said the three plans presented to neighbors during an open house held Saturday in Reynoldstown would, in theory, provide the framework for a “regulating plan”—something the city could urge developers to abide by if CSX decides to sell.
“We’ve been more focused on the ‘what’ than the ‘how,’” Cherry added. “Big ideas.”
Lord Aeck Sargent has been meeting with officials from the City of Atlanta, MARTA, and the Atlanta Beltline, in an attempt to communicate neighbors’ wants and needs for Hulsey Yard, Cherry said.
CSX, however, has been playing cards close to the vest, and multiple inquiries from Curbed Atlanta—regarding future plans, the property’s value, and more—have gone unanswered from the freight transportation giant.
The company’s silence hasn’t discouraged the architecture firm or Hulsey Yard neighbors from gearing up for prospective developer interest.
Said Cherry: “The first question a developer’s going to ask is ‘What kind of density can we do on the site?’”
He said his firm has been pulling out all the stops in anticipation of such a question and helping neighbors grasp what’s feasible.
“We worked really hard to get people to understand the complexities of development and density and the trade-offs of affordability,” Cherry said.
Neighbors have made clear they don’t want to see Atlantic Station 2.0 built. They’d prefer new green space, better connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists, a new MARTA train station, and “aggressive parking maximums,” according to previous community input.
Another component of the dream blueprint neighbors are piecing together is a light rail line to accompany the Beltline’s Eastside Trail section that snakes beside Hulsey Yard.
Beltline leaders are looking at updating the subarea masterplan for that area so it would gel with ideas cooked up by the community, Cherry said.
Another goal of the three devised plans is to relieve high-traffic corridors like the Krog Street Tunnel and Carroll Street of congestion, said Cabbagetown resident Kyle Bidlack in a Facebook post on the neighborhood page.
If the plans are realized, he wrote, there could be new channels to cross the still-active CSX rail lines at Pearl and Chester streets.
Cherry said the plans should be more fleshed out on the Hulsey Yard Study Committee’s website later this week, and a first draft of the “masterplan summary book” should be available in August.