Gateway Manor Rezoning Request Details Redevelopment Plans

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As mentioned briefly in an earlier post, at Tuesday’s meeting, the Decatur City Commission will consider the Decatur Housing Authority’s request to rezone the Gateway Manor Apartments from RM-60 Multiple Family Residential to MU-Mixed Use.  The Planning Commission has already approved the request.

According to the “project narrative” in the application, “The Housing Authority of the City of Decatur intends to redevelop the property and add residential units to the site. The increase in density is necessary to accommodate replacement residences for senior residents that are currently located on another property. This increase in density will make it economically feasible to redevelop the housing on this site. The current zoning for the site, RM-60, does not allow for any variances of any sort.”

The site plan states a planned building height of three story residential buildings and the demolition of existing structures located in the 25′ stream buffer and the “restoration of the stream bank, drainage improvements, and a new pavilion and pedestrian pathway within the 75′ City required buffer.”

(It’s hard to make out the building locations in the site plan above, but there are faint dotted lines if you look closely in the PDF.)

You may recall a conversation a few years back about extending Fairview Avenue through this site and better connect it with downtown Decatur.  This is not included in this plan.

38 thoughts on “Gateway Manor Rezoning Request Details Redevelopment Plans”

  1. At that density, how will the Housing Authority achieve the 55% canopy coverage?

    Or is this a requirement for that only applies to the serfs…

  2. This is very disappointing. This is a landlocked parcel with Marta tracks on one side and dumpsters from the back of pubs and restaruants on the other. I guess it will remain that way for 50 more years. The 2010 strategic plan called for the re-development of this property as mixed use, mixed-income, high density housing, a new street extending through the parcel connecting to the rest of Decatur and a linear park. What happened?

    Why stick with the 1960s style cul de sac, unconnected, surface parking lot model that the city swears it is trying to get away from?

    1. +1. This site is locked in on 3.9 sides out of 4 — the tiny amount of West Trinity frontage is the entrance. It seems un-Decatur-like to have such a closed off new community — doesn’t matter if it is a housing project or a subdivision.

      As noted above, that parcel in the strategic planning process was noted as “changeable” (2nd highest rating of change-a-bility), and there was a great concept plan with a through street and a park. This kind of change falls way short of the vision in the strategic plan.

      This looks like a case of “it was easier to do it this way” (I’m sure federal funds and grants were involved) than to be more creative and progressive with the site.

  3. I’ve got to agree with Moderate (is that the noun or verb?). In the citywide planning discussions we talked about extending Fairview Ave to Atlanta Ave so that this neighborhood would be more connected to the rest of town.

  4. According to the plans, they are tearing all the buildings so they can add, at net, 24 one bedroom apartments. Can’t there be a more efficient way to build one building with 24 apartments one bedroom apartments?

  5. Kinda reminds me of the southwest corner of Cabrini Green in Chicago. So many urban planning fails on that plan. Ahhh Good Times.

    I encourage DM to put a pic (as Moderate mentioned above) of the 2010 strategic plan conceptual rendering of this site shown on Appendix A page 77. This is what our tax dollars paid for and it would be interesting to see how it compares that what is being produced. By my eyes the Strategic plan shows an integrated site to the community. The proposed plan…not so much.

    If we don’t even acknowledge the Strategic Plan we paid for, why pay for future plans?

    And if you dont know what Cabrini Green is…please look it up. Not a good place. We should build something to last, not to be replaced in 40 years. We can do better.

    1. Why pay for them? So we can use them to falsely justify future government overreaches like the tree conservation ordinance, of course!

      1. JunderscoreT – I actually think this is an area where we want the city to “reach” and use their leverage to benefit the tax payers. I think the tree ordinance is bad because it flips the city’s responsibility; we end up serving the city. THIS on the other hand is an area of land larger than the Calloway lot that sold for 25 Million. If we give it high density zoning – we should incentivize them to use it and carve out a nice park and through-way like the Strategic Plan illustrated. It just seems odd to go through all this to get so little, it looks like a suburban office park and only gives us a couple dozen extra units. The city has done back flips leveraging its assets to bring the Calloway and Trinity Triangle on line, why not with this?

  6. At the very least, why can we not create a connection to Ponce between the Terra Mater Salon and Sharian?…If the Fairview connection does not work. Actually I would prefer this since there is historical precedent for a road in this location. I believe this route is still, legally, an alley which would necessitate less ROW acquisition from the city to create a road.

    Please, Please Decatur…we can do better than this plan. These are the changes that last a lifetime…Do it right or don’t do it at all.

  7. I’d be curious whether the residents have been surveyed about their preferences. It’s true that the design of Gateway is that 1960s/70s unattractive suburban motel/apartment complex look. But the enclosed nature of it makes it a safe place for kids to play and ride bikes. It may create a sense of neighborhood to be closed off like that.

    The other issue may be funding. I’m not sure what the funding stream is for the Decatur Housing Authority but most funding streams for about anything public have narrowed in recent years.

  8. Well, I know that COD staff reads the site. Maybe they can respond. How about it, city commissioners? Will one of you bring it up at the meeting tomorrow?

    1. No, they won’t, and that’s exactly why I canceled my meetings tomorrow. Because I will be there. JC, I have a feeling we are way opposed on many issues, but on this maybe we can agree. Let’s talk tomorrow about it!

      1. Really?? I never got that feeling. I know one thing we agree on…come over for a beer (or 3) on the front porch and we’ll discuss. I’ll bet by the time we finish the 2nd we’ll have solved all of Decatur’s problems.

        1. Almost all of the problems have been solved many times over, across adult refreshments at various watering holes around town. Unfortunately, nobody ever remembers to take minutes.

        1. JunderthetableanddreamingT!

          Just hope the dream isn’t a nightmare tonight when the city commission votes to prevent me from renovating my house and forces me instead to sell to the developer who can afford to do it.

  9. Given that DM is currently consumed by the passionate defense of property rights, it’s worth noting the primary reason why this proposal does not include a street connection to Ponce: 1) None of the adjoining parcels are for sale; and 2) the funding sources behind the development of public housing do not necessarily allow for infrastructure costs beyond those associated with site development.

    That is, we have an unwilling (in the form of not necessarily having the money) buyer and unwilling (in the sense that their property is not up for sale) sellers. In which case making it happen would quite possibly require the city intervening in the kinds of intrusive ways everyone’s currently so worked up about.

    All that said, know that the Housing Authority recognizes the value of a Ponce connection and is currently exploring the viability of making that happen as a pedestrian walkway — most likely through the DeKalb building property next to Native or via the ROW (if it still exists) identified by Newbie. The road on the north side of the site is designed to accommodate a future connection at any point along Ponce.

    So, yeah, I agree that it’s not currently ideal in every (maybe even many) respects but that, with the proper will, it can continue to evolve in a positive direction.

    1. A pedestrian walkway seems like a great step forward even if it is not the final one. It would improve the connectedness of Gateway to the rest of Downtown (something that was probably feared, not encouraged when Gateway was originally built) and would fit well with our walk and roll to school ethic. But it doesn’t entail the expense and disruption of Gateway and the properties between it and Ponce that a full roadway would. I’d be even happier with this solution if the walkway could also be a bikeway.

      1. A walkway / bikeway would make a great addition, especially since it could connect with the existing bike lanes on Trinity. I can’t imagine the businesses on Ponce would mind supporting an increase in non-automobile traffic, either.

        One successful example that comes to mind is the SW Pedestrian Trails in Portland, OR around Keller and Lovejoy Fountains; the separate walkways are fast, separate from traffic, and popular:

        1. I vote for anything that Portland does. Best place that I’ve ever lived. And that was before it got good!

    2. With that in mind, why not wait for the right time? Essentially, this redevelopment rebuilds five acres for the purpose of adding only 20 one bedroom apartments. Why not build build one building somewhere else, or provide a stipend so for people to get private accomodations somewhere else until the right time to build?

      Why not build on the Marta parking lot on College, which Marta is begging Decatur to do? Residents could have unlimited parking, Marta access rather than trains running outside their window and a pre-built pedestrian walkway into Decatur. How many hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars has been spent on Livable Centers Intitiatives and Strategic Plans that illustrate principles that we all agree on, only to be ignored for expediency?

      The pricetag for this will be $10-$20 million, just to add 20 1-bedroom apartments. Just because the feds are paying doesn’t mean its not our money.

    3. I wonder if the city even made a play for any connecting properties? While eminent domain shouldn’t be the answer, I don’t see any reason not to throw a number out to one of the property owners just to see if it sticks. Even to see if they could widen the ROW, which seems to exist, into a real road. Just a thought.

      That area is such a hole in Decatur, without a connection it will remain a hole. Integrated into the street grid, with a mix of housing typologies, it would most certainly be less so.

    4. Scott – I have property adjoining two sides of this community and have not been approached in an official capacity about working with the city . I have surveyed other property owners near me on Ponce too , and they have not been engaged. The president of the DHA said he was going to “send some letters out” at the council meeting but it seems like they would have done that before paying the architects to draw up this suburban office park-esque layout. I am wondering ” where is the vision is in this project? This is like punting on first down.

      1. Thanks, Chadwick. I was referring to properties on the north edge — the Ponce properties — specifically. Not sure if any of those are yours. Just noting that, as far as I’m aware, none are being shopped around.

        Either way, I agree with where you’re coming from: The project does lack the vision and will to be something really special. I suppose I’m just resigned to the fact that, dealing with a small city housing authority and what they see as their charge, I don’t find this particularly surprising.

        I’m hoping in time it will evolve for the better. We’ll see.

  10. I would love to see some sort of resident-supported program to keep the grounds back there free of trash. In fact, I’d like to see all city residents work together to pick up trash in our community. I’d like people not to throw down trash, but I cannot change that. But I do think I’m helping improve the community when I go for walks and I pick up trash. I invite others to do the same.

    1. A pedestrian and bike way that was maintained by the City might help with that. Right now there’s kind of a no man’s land right outside of Gateway, on the grounds where the old funeral home used to be (what will happen with that property, I wonder), in back of the Post Office lot, and around the MARTA bridge and the tracks before they go underground. Regular traffic on a pedestrian and bike way through the area plus city upkeep might improve the ambience and maybe even safety (although it’s already pretty darn safe between being across from the police station and having a stable family base).

  11. I see a covered gathering area and playground on the plans. Do they exist currently? I haven’t been over there for a while, but I’m not remembering them.

  12. Three stories will vastly underutilize this site. This seems like an ideal site for some of the highest density in downtown Decatur, particularly if a future connection to Ponce is planned. There are no traffic, noise or shaddow nimby issues. The density will support the downtown businesses and have access to MARTA. Intense development will contribute to the tax base and reduce the need for contentious annexations. The stream setbacks also make height more of a necessity.

    1. How will it contribute to the tax base? This is housing authority property. I worked at AHA during the height of tear down mania and we don’t want that. Trust me.

  13. What does it matter? It’s not like the current or future tenants are going to be paying for it. It’s federal tax money and whatever gets constructed is better than what’s there now.

    1. That’s a poor way to look at it. They are just adding a small amount of units ( to accommodate some being torn down in Oakhurst ) that don’t nearly reach the density potential of the site. This is the largest site in downtown Decatur to be redeveloped – this is a HUGE wasted opportunity that is costing both our local and Federal ( probably State too ) tax dollars. Gateway Manor is going to continue to be a Gated Community.

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