“We want our neighbors to know and understand us—who we are and what we do. Equally, we want to understand who they are and their concerns.”
It took nearly two years, but in early 2017, North American Properties was finally ready to begin work transforming a 4.4-acre assemblage of post-industrial properties directly on the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, within the Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward neighborhoods. The plans would entail a retail, loft office and residential mixed-used development, including an element of affordable housing.
“We spend as much time up front as possible on these really challenging but equally valuable opportunities, working closely with the neighborhoods and their governing agencies,” NAP Partner and Vice President of Development Richard Munger explains. “That was key for the residents to feel like we weren’t the typical developer coming into their space and telling them what’s best for their community. It was of significant importance for all the stakeholders to understand they would have a role helping shape what was in the best interest of the neighborhood with this redevelopment.”
The Atlanta BeltLine has been the driving force for the new growth along the city’s former railway corridor since the completion of the first trail section, the Eastside Trail, in 2012. NAP and Munger, who oversees NAP’s multifamily platform in the Southeast, have already developed two other properties recently in the immediate area (BOHO 4W and Anthem on Ashley). However, with any new project comes questions and concern from local residents. This particular one presented unique challenges with the assemblage including the jurisdictional neighborhood rights of Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward, a public road abandonment, environmental contamination, and the requirement to accommodate the BeltLine’s path and future light rail line.
“We were very transparent with the neighborhoods from the beginning and formed an advisory committee months before we filed for zoning,” Richard remarks. “A lot of it is an educational process for everyone involved. We listen to their concerns and explore their suggestions. We also help them understand our vision and why we believe the development can bring value to their property and to the community.”
It's this “get to know each other process,” as Richard describes it, that drives NAP's success in gaining support for their work. In this instance, it meant collaborating closely with the community and Atlanta BeltLine Inc. to ensure the plan allowed for a future light rail line, while even the BeltLine's creator, architect Ryan Gravel, had a hand in working through the challenge.
As a result, we'll soon see new restaurants, offices and 350 apartment homes (including 36 affordable housing units) rise up on the land along the Atlanta BeltLine's Eastside Trail. “We were able to get everyone to a common point so the development could continue moving forward,” Richard says, simply.
“It's just about working very closely with the neighborhoods to the best of our ability and doing the right thing.”
“It’s just about working very closely with the neighborhoods to the best of our ability.”