The cry so often heard from concerned residents in communities around the nation is now ringing out in Grant Park with residents shouting a resounding "no, not in my backward." Those who live in the charming and historic tree line district are responding – with zeal – to a proposed big-box store development along Glenwood Avenue and a future portion of the Atlanta Beltline.
Key players in community and economic development, including city planning officials and developers of the 20-acre proposed project disclosed plans to convert a concrete factory into a retail site which project speculators say is likely to be a Walmart anchor store, along with other smaller retailers. The property is currently owned by LaFarge Building Materials and stands to be purchased by Fuqua Development.
But Grant Park residents and neighbors from surrounding communities counter that the future strip mall contradicts plans outlined in Atlanta's master plan and conflicts with their vision of the Atlanta Beltline and the benefits they believed to be inherent in revitalizing historic communities. The Beltline is intended to restore dilapidated buildings and develop land into a 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit.
Although the project known as Glenwood Place is already in compliance with city land use and zoning requirements, on Tuesday, Sept. 3, Atlanta City Council members voted to rezone the parcel, located at Glenwood Avenue and Bill Kennedy Way, from industrial to multi-family residential.
The move is widely considered an attempt to block the development.
While opponents of the big-box exalted council members for the bold action, an attorney for the property owner says it violates his client's constitutional property rights.
"This legislation is about as frivolous an act by a local government as I've ever seen," said Doug Dillard. "Our rights are vested and can't be taken away without compensation."
The Beltline master plan calls for commercial space on the northern part of the parcel near I-20, and residential development along Glenwood Avenue. A portion of the Beltline trail would run alongside that development.
Apparently the point of greatest contention isn't that a Walmart is being considered for the site, resident oppose any big-box development in place of more housing, particularly affordable and senior housing.
"If it was a Trader Joe's, a Whole Foods, a Kroger or Publix, it would be the same fight," said Rick Hudson, land use and zoning chair for the Grant Park Neighborhood Association. "We want to have the development we worked so hard on the Beltline master plan for ... We need the (housing) density and the rooftops."
Fuqua Development, which has a contract to purchase the property from LaFarge, began submitting applications to develop the land roughly a year ago. The plan calls for an 144,000-square-foot anchor store widely thought by the neighborhood groups who've tracked the project to be a Walmart, in addition to other retail stores and restaurants.
The developer, Fuqua Development, is open to a residential component, but says the project is not financially feasible without a large retail store, according to Angelo Fuster, a spokesman for the project.
The issue to continue with plans for big-box development will be taken up by a zoning appeals board in October. It could revoke the permit, let it stand or order changes.