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Exclusive: CSX to reactivate Hulsey Yard, frustrating neighbors’ dreams for site

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Company officials say new operations, expected to start in April, should at least be quieter than previous activity

a picture of a wooden model of the yard and its surroundings
At a pop-up design workshop last year, neighbors built their own dream Hulsey Yard with wooden models—a grassroots effort that now appears to be for naught.
Sean Keenan, Curbed Atlanta

Just days after the Atlanta City Council proposed legislation that would urge CSX Transportation to be mindful of community wishes when mulling the possible sale of Hulsey Yard, the railroad giant says it will instead reactivate the massive site that’s been quiet since May.

After ceasing freight operations at the 70-acre property, which flanks the Atlanta Beltline, CSX migrated them to the company’s yard in Fairburn.

That move stirred speculation—and no shortage of imagination—about how the site, which borders parts of Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Cabbagetown, and Reynoldstown, could be repurposed to benefit its neighbors and the city at large.

But now, CSX officials tell Curbed Atlanta they aim to put Hulsey Yard back online in April—although with less banging and clanging than the intermodal activity there in years past.

“The type of operations that are going in there are going to be very different than folks were used to with the intermodal operations,” said CSX spokesman Bryan Tucker. “It will be what we call a TRANSFLO facility.”

Essentially, rather than hauling hefty shipping crates from truck to train—and vice versa—Hulsey Yard workers will be moving only the contents of the crates.

The cleared-out Hulsey Yard seems to stretch on for miles, looking like a concrete desert.
The immensity of Hulsey Yard, which bisects several eastside neighborhoods beside the Beltline.
Sean Keenan, Curbed Atlanta

With work slated to take place between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, the freight operations are expected to be less intrusive for neighbors, such as occupants of the adjacent Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts.

Additionally, Tucker said, traffic in the area should be decreased, with roughly 20 or 25 trucks traveling through Hulsey Yard daily—a significant dip from the hundreds of deliveries and pickups that had occurred each day with the intermodal operations.

Those trucks are expected to carry just dry goods, such as wheat, plastic pellets, and ground limestone, he added.

All that news aside, the decision to restart the site for freight operations has thrown a wrench in plans of the Hulsey Yard Study Committee, a community-led group that organized to draft a masterplan for the property’s potential redevelopment—despite the property not being offered for sale.

The organization hired local architecture firm Lord Aeck Sargent to help reimagine Hulsey Yard. Resulting plans crafted a framework for would-be developers that included affordable housing, parkland, and new transit options.

Nicole Seekely, head of the Hulsey Yard Study Committee and a Reynoldstown resident, told Curbed that while her group is disappointed, they aren’t surprised.

“The masterplan will still stay as we have it—as a guiding document of design principles should CSX decide to sell in the future, or should the property ever go through rezoning,” she said.

Tucker wasn’t able to specify exactly how much space the new operations might require. However, he said, CSX still has no plans to sell any of the property as of now.

“With this operation going in there, I don’t think it precludes us from doing anything else, but there are no other plans in place that we are prepared to announce,” he said.