The Midtown Alliance recently received a $40,000 community placemaking grant to transform the North Avenue MARTA station plaza, shown in the photo, into a ‘vibrant’ community space with art and programming, such as concerts. (Midtown Alliance)

The North Avenue MARTA station plaza is going to be transformed into an inviting public space with art and programmed events thanks to a $40,000 grant.

The Midtown Alliance beat out nearly 200 other submissions from around the country to receive this year’s Community Placemaking Grant from Project for Public Spaces. PPS is a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to creating and sustaining public spaces for communities to gather, also known as placemaking.

The placemaking project will not impact MARTA’s plans for a transit-oriented project at the North Avenue station. MARTA is “working through the details” with Portman Holdings to develop the project that will include a mixed-use tower, said spokesperson Stephany Fisher. No timeline for the project is set.

The North Avenue MARTA station plaza now is a plain concrete space. Thousands of transit riders come through the station daily. Within a half-mile of the station are more than 3,200 residential units, nearly 8 million square feet of office space, 1,500 hotel rooms, and 270,000 square feet of retail space, according to the Midtown Alliance. But there are no public parks in this busy area of Midtown.

“It’s incredibly accessible, yet very few people spend time there because there is nothing to do or see,” said Ansley Whipple, Midtown Alliance Project Manager for Programming and Activation, in a prepared statement.

“By activating it, we hope to make it recognizable as a community asset and inspire people to use it in positive ways,” Whipple said. “We also hope to enhance the public transit experience and encourage more people to ride MARTA.”

PPS will work with the Midtown Alliance on the project, providing free technical assistance. PPS Director of Projects Elena Madison said the potential for the busy plaza to become a “vibrant public space” is a great opportunity for Midtown as well as MARTA, which is a partner in the project.

“We were very excited by the connection and the support from MARTA and the opportunity to actually make a better public space for transit riders in that part of Midtown,” Madison said. “It’s very visible. There are lots and lots of people who ride MARTA and land in a concrete plaza.

“In addition, we know this part of Midtown is a public space desert … there’s not a lot of public spaces within walking distance,” Madison said.

The grant money can be used for nicer amenities, including art, and for programming, such as live concerts, Madison said. How to recreate the plaza will begin with a community engagement process expected to start next month. Plans are to come up with a concept for the plaza over the winter and put the plan into action a year from now.

“We will be working hand-in-hand with the Midtown Alliance team and with MARTA on placemaking and creating a concept and then implementing it together in the plaza,” Madison said.

Funding for the grant is from Niantic, a San Francisco-based software company.

This story has been updated with information about plans for the North Avenue transit-oriented development.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.