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Georgia Building Authority plans ‘ridiculous’ parking deck near Underground Atlanta

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The proposed 500-space structure could cost up to $9 million, but it’s been put on hold (for now)

a rendering of the proposed parking deck
It’s okay to cringe.
Georgia Building Authority

While activists that include high school students lobby Atlanta leaders to make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, some Georgia officials appear to be missing the urban development mark.

Until Monday, the Georgia Building Authority was shopping around for a design-build team to develop a 500-plus-space visitor parking deck in front of the historic Georgia Freight Depot. The brick structure was built in 1869, making it one of the oldest structures downtown.

The Depot is fronted by Steve Polk Plaza—the proposed project site—and it functions as a popular event space.

The GBA currently operates more than 5,800 parking spaces downtown, as Capitol Hill Neighborhood Development Corporation Chairman Jerry Hill pointed out to Curbed Atlanta.

“Clearly, we need to do something that—both from a design standpoint and from the standpoint of the utility of the site—honors the Capitol and honors the historic buildings around it,” he said.

Thankfully for fans of good urbanism, the Request for Proposals process has been put on hold, according to an email sent Monday by GBA Procurement Services Director Rey Palma to prospective development teams.

But that doesn’t mean plans for the potential five-story parking deck, which could cost up to $9 million, have fizzled.

A map shows the proposed project site
A rough outline of where the proposed parking deck could go.
Google Maps

Scribes at urbanist blog ThreadATL have called the GBA’s new parking ambitions “ridiculous,” especially since the deck could obscure views of historic architecture.

“Putting a new parking deck in downtown is bad enough,” the publication posited. “Putting it at the facade of this piece of history is awful.”

The possible price tag doesn’t enthuse urbanism advocates, either.

“That’s a $9 million subsidy for driving, and it’s happening in an area where we should not increase car trips—where we should instead encourage transit use, and make streets very inviting for walking,” reads the ThreadATL post.

The proposed project site isn’t exactly inaccessible by foot. Steve Polk Plaza is less than a 20-minute walk from five major transit stations—the Five Points, Peachtree Center, Georgia State, Garnett, and King Memorial MARTA stops.

Additionally, according to ThreadATL, the plaza, which already hosts a surface parking lot, charges just $20 to $30 per month for motorists—pretty cheap for downtown.

Miller’s organization represents longstanding churches neighboring the proposed site: Central Presbyterian Church, the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and Trinity United Methodist Church. He’s not sure why the RFP process came to an abrupt halt, he said, but he’s grateful.

“Somebody hit the right button, and we were able to throw a wrench in [the parking deck plans],” Miller said.

The RFP process was initially supposed to wrap last Friday and result in a February 22 decision. Regarding its suspension, ThreadATL’s cofounder and downtown resident Darin Givens told Curbed, “It’s a step in the right direction, [but] this project needs to die.”

Georgia Building Authority representatives could not be reached as of press time, likely due to Presidents Day. This story will be updated should they respond to inquiries.