After over 600 surveys, four neighborhood design meetings and two meetings with immediate neighbors, we arrived at our first version of the site plan and submitted to the City of Atlanta for rezoning. This plan preserves and adaptively reuses the historic Masonic Lodge connected to a large public plaza. A historic house on Glenwood is also preserved and converted to office/retail to give a variety of scale. New construction at the Glenwood and Portland corners helps frame the street and hide parking while the height of buildings scales down to transition to the adjacent single family residential. Below are the illustrative images for this plan; to read more on our community engagement process that led to this design, please see community updates #1, #2, and #3.
Despite being very close to final approval of this initial site plan, it became clear to us that the plan we had composed was risk-heavy in today’s market due to a large proportion of office/retail space and a relatively small proportion of residential space. This reality, paired with the arrival of a great opportunity to add a significant community benefit in the form of affordable housing, has led us back to the engagement table in order to accommodate these factors with an important revision to the site plan. We started this project by asking the community what they wanted to see on the site, and now we are triangulating that community-led plan with some necessary pragmatic changes to make sure the project is feasible to get built.
For those continuing to stay engaged in our conversation about this project, we thank you once again for your time and constructive feedback. Even though we had already gained your approval at the January NPU-W Land Use and Zoning Committee, and at the January SAND and EACA meetings, we hope you will be available to join us at one of the upcoming SAND, EACA or NPU meetings in March, or better yet at a scheduled community design session on March 23rd, to help us settle on a final design.
Site Plan Revision
The revision we now pursue is an addition of residential square footage to accommodate 17 more residential units on the site. This will bring the total number of units to 42, up from the original 25 proposed. We seek this specific unit count because it is the minimum number needed to become eligible for a financing source which will create homes for working families with annual household incomes between $26,000 and $53,000. This program is one of the nation’s most successful affordability financing sources, with rigorous standards from design through property management. As our local housing market has soared in value, we have an opportunity to support the rare inclusiveness and diversity that exists here by providing housing for working families who want to remain in or join the neighborhood. This would be the first new affordable housing built in the area since Branan Towers in the early 1970’s. Of considerable importance, this addition of residential space will also reduce the risk profile of the project from an investment perspective by better balancing the mix of uses.
Our re-engagement with community stakeholders is focused on exactly how to best accommodate the necessary residential space on the site, while retaining the most important components of the concept that respond to stakeholders and neighbors’ priorities and bring added value to the community. These include the public outdoor plaza, preserving the Masonic Lodge, a walkable approach to site and building design, a shared-parking strategy to minimize parking overload, and a robust and low-density buffer along the western edge next to existing single-family homes.
There was a lot of feedback over the past few months about limiting the vertical height of the new buildings, as well as the horizontal size of them, in favor of a smaller-looking buildings. In response, we created four options which keep the majority of the original concept intact, while proposing different ways to spread the additional space across the Moreland side of the site, away from the single-family neighbors. We can also hide much of the additional space on the interior of the site, so that most of it is unrecognizable from the surrounding street fronts. The views below depict the general massing of the buildings for each option, as viewed from the surrounding streets. The addition of a fourth floor is necessary in a few locations, but we seek to limit or hide them as much as possible. This also prevents having to go to a fifth floor at any location.
During a community design meeting on Saturday March 2 at which we presented these options for consideration, a fifth option rose as a combination of elements from the four. This Option 5, which responds to some immediate neighbors’ concerns and incorporates additional feedback recalled from earlier meetings, is where we would now like to focus attention. We very much want to hear your feedback about this plan over the next month, as we tweak and finalize the concept before returning to SAND, EACA and the NPU in April for final approval.
The Option 5 site plan and views are shown below. In order to support the single-family residential character of Portland Ave., the Moreland face of Building E (corner of Moreland and Portland) steps down from 4 to 3 floors before reaching the corner. This keeps the Portland face a consistent 3 floors as originally proposed, and steps the scale down at the Moreland corner as well. The fourth floor is mostly hidden along the south wall of the Masonic Lodge. Building C (middle building on Glenwood) is four floors, adding some space with a short wing on its south side. The height impact is lessened because it faces a wider Glenwood Ave., and is across from a commercial property. The retained single family structure (Building B) helps shield it from the neighbors to the west.
As with the other options, Option 5 requires a variance from the 35’ height limit within 150’ of the west property line. Buildings C and E both exceed 35’ by having four floors (approx. 44’) in some places, but this also allows none of the buildings to exceed four floors. It’s important to note that the public benefits of preserving the Masonic Lodge and creating a public plaza forces the project to spread the additional density throughout the site.
With this plan we are able to incorporate 42 affordable homes, keep all buildings four floors or less, retain the large public plaza, preserve the Masonic Lodge, retain the wide buffer next to single-family homes to the west, retain the office/retail use in Building D on the Moreland/Glenwood corner, and keep Building F on Portland at 2-1/2 stories as originally planned. Please join us at one of the upcoming community meetings to learn more and share your thoughts.
We ran another parking analysis to understand the impact of 17 additional residential units on the shared-parking strategy we propose for the project. While market-rate homes typically require at least one parking space per unit, the effective parking use rate for affordable homes in locations with ready access to transit such as we propose is about 0.7 spaces per unit. After a closer look, we were also able to add four on-site parking spaces. As a result, although we would add 17 homes, the impact is minimal compared to our original plan, with only a 2 and 4-car increase in load at peak times. See a side-by-side comparison of the original and revised analyses below.
Community Engagement Recap and Next Steps
In order to provide multiple oportunities to share more details about this revision, and to continue gathering feedback, we will be presenting for informational purposes during March at the following meetings:
§ EACA (Tuesday March 12, 7:00pm, Branan Towers)
§ SAND (Thursday March 14, 7:30pm, Ormewood Church)
§ Community Design Open House (Saturday March 23, 11:00am, Ormewood Makers Festival)
§ NPU W (Wednesday March 27, 7:30pm, Village Church)
We will then attend the same community meetings in April with a finalized concept, seeking formal recommendations of approval. Please come out and join us!