Southface and the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) facilitated a four-day transit oriented development (TOD) charrette in October 2013, focused on the redevelopment of the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station parking lots. MARTA and City of Brookhaven leadership and staff actively participated throughout the process which began in June of 2013. The Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station was selected as the site for the charrette due to the large amount of developable acreage, city and community desire to activate the space into usable and productive property, development community interest, business and financial institution perspectives, and MARTA’s TOD department and board initiative to increase ridership and revenue at their properties.
In order for a charrette to be successful a significant amount of pre-planning and research must be conducted to understand and determine vision, scope, goals, challenges, assets and ultimately the deliverables to catalyze the project. Southface reviewed Brookhaven demographics and market analysis reports, existing redevelopment plans, local zoning ordinances and TOD guidelines and best practices. In addition to the data and research gathering, a series of meetings with the City of Brookhaven produced a group of primary stakeholders consisting of community leaders and activists, councilmembers, city and county commissioners and small business owners. Professionals with expertise in community design and architecture, planning, traffic engineering, transportation and more were also included. The group approached 80 members and Southface was able to conduct in-person or phone interviews with about 60 percent of the stakeholders.
In a perfect world everyone from the Brookhaven community would be interviewed about the potential redevelopment of the MARTA station, but realistically time and resources are limited, so a substantial amount of thought and effort was put into those who would be interviewed. Local representatives, neighborhood association and community organization leaders were selected to represent their broad constituent bases and networks during the process. A series of background sessions on the Brookhaven Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) plan and Brookhaven-Peachtree Overlay, transportation planning and workforce housing in addition to several other public meetings were hosted in Brookhaven to provide an opportunity for public input leading to the charrette. All in all, nearly 200 people participated during charrette interviews, background sessions, meetings and working sessions.
The interview process revealed interesting and valuable information regarding the community’s vision for the MARTA station redevelopment which informed the necessary deliverables to be completed during the charrette. In conversations with Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis, it was indicated that the redevelopment should be a region leading example of TOD for newly established cities. Councilmember Bates Mattison would like to see the MARTA station, Peachtree Road and the surrounding neighborhoods become more pedestrian friendly and supportive of alternative transportation options such as walking, biking and low-speed vehicles. A principle of TOD is that it will not be successful unless it is well-connected to the existing street network and easily accessible by transportation modes other than an automobile. Overall, the City of Brookhaven is pro-development and wants to ensure that the project has substantial City and community involvement to produce the highest and best quality project possible by working with MARTA throughout the forthcoming Request for Proposals (RFP) process. They envision the site becoming the town center/gateway for the newly formed City with a mix of uses to support the commercial, residential, commercial and civic needs of the community. These perspectives are very much in line with the Brookhaven LCI vision: “a high-quality, dynamic, mixed-use center that will become a village center and focal point for the Brookhaven community. It includes a mix of multi-tenant office, retail, and residential development organized around a central open space and positioned in a denser, pedestrian oriented pattern that will change the character and environment along Peachtree Road and Apple Valley Road near the station.”
In 2010, MARTA officially adopted TOD guidelines. The policy is meant to provide the entire community of TOD stakeholders – from community members to developers – with a common vocabulary and frame of reference, general direction and specific strategies and techniques for TOD development around station areas. The Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station charrette process serves as a model for advancing these transit oriented development guidelines at MARTA station areas, a goal in both the ARC and MARTA work programs. The charrette deliverables will serve as an addendum to the MARTA TOD guidelines and future RFP to be released. This will provide MARTA, developers and the City of Brookhaven with a set of community and professional recommendations for site planning to ensure the product is representative of the community and stakeholder vision as indicated in the preceding paragraph.
The resulting deliverables include: phasing plan, regulating plan, quality development guidelines, MARTA RFP review, neighborhood connectivity plan, traffic framework and pedestrian improvements for Peachtree Road, station area neighborhoods engagement, stormwater facility and park, Brookhaven Development Authority scope and best practices as well as managed parking solutions. These deliverables were chosen due to substantial input from stakeholders, project and design team members in addition to Brookhaven community members. The deliverables are representative of the components necessary to implement a successful TOD on the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station property. In the near term, it will be advantageous for the MARTA property to be rezoned from single-family residential to a mixed-use category in order for the community vision to be realized by developers in RFP applications. It will be important for MARTA to work closely with the City of Brookhaven and the development community throughout this process to ensure a common vision among all parties.