UPDATE: An online meeting about Portman Holdings’ plans for Amsterdam Walk is set for Wednesday, Oct. 4, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. To register, click here.
Density, building heights, bike and pedestrian safety and traffic, traffic, traffic.
These were some of the main concerns residents living in the Morningside and Virginia-Highland neighborhoods raised during a recent community meeting about Portman Holdings’ plans to raze Amsterdam Walk to build hundreds of apartments, an office building and retail.
About 50 people attended a Sept. 27 community meeting held at the Red Light Cafe, a longtime music venue located in the commercial and entertainment district that opened in the 1990s. Portman’s plans for Amsterdam Walk, revealed last month, is to transform the valuable real estate nestled between the two Intown neighborhoods and along the Atlanta Beltline from a low-rise business hub into “one of the most fantastic developments in Atlanta,” according to the renowned Atlanta-based developer. The meeting was hosted by Portman as part of its community outreach to let people know about its plans as they progress.
Conceptual illustrations by SOM architects revealed at the meeting showed several 7-story apartment buildings closest to the single-family homes on Orme Circle and Highland Park Lane. A 13-story office tower and a 17-story apartment building rise toward the back of the project near the BeltLine.
Illustrations of plazas, trails with access to the Beltline and envisioned ground-floor retail were also revealed.
Portman also filed a rezoning application to the city for the property on Sept. 27. Information in the applications says Portman is seeking to build 900 multifamily units in three separate buildings; 90,000 square feet of commercial space; and 400,000 square feet of office space.
Vehicular access to the property will be provided from both Amsterdam Avenue and Evelyn Street, also called Worchester Drive. Evelyn Street is a city-owned street that Portman plans to spend more than $5 million to redevelop, including raising to the level of the development, to help mitigate traffic concerns from Monroe Drive.
Just over 1,400 parking spaces are requested that would be built in parking decks, including an underground garage.
Building heights in the application also show non-residential buildings being built between 10 and 16 stories tall.
“I think this is going to be a ridiculously amazing project,” said Mike Greene, senior vice president of development of Portman, at the meeting. “This project has the potential to be one of the most fantastic developments in the city.”
Residents living on Orme Circle and Highland Park Lane along the borders of the property said they were upset the planned tall buildings would block their views of Piedmont Park. Greene said the city needs to add density, especially residential, to the city as it continues to grow. Going up is one-way to do so for intown developments, he said.
Buildings would have to remain two stories tall to allow the residents keep their view, Greene said. Doing so would be impossible to make a profit on what is a more than $750 million project, he added.
“Atlanta has also decided to save single-family historical neighborhoods … so when there is the opportunity to build density, we need to think about the bigger good,” he said.
The new development also fits into the city’s vision of building more pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly communities along the Beltline, Greene said.
Monroe Drive, a north-south thoroughfare between Ponce de Leon Avenue and the Buford Spring Connector and I-85, is already a congested road, residents said at the meeting.
The Atlanta Department of Transportation is working now on the Monroe Drive Complete Street Project that should alleviate many concerns about traffic. Construction on the project could begin in two years that would eliminate one of the four lanes on Monroe Drive and make the center lane a left turn lane.
Greene said the rezoning process, which includes inputs from Neighborhood Planning Units, is expected to take a few months before it goes to the City Council for final approval. Once rezoning for the property is completed, it takes another 16 months or so for concept designs and construction engineering plans to be finished. Overall, if could be two years before Portman is ready to begin actual construction.
Kimley Horn is conducting a traffic study as part of Portman’s Development of Regional Impact (DRI) for the project. Studies so far say the new project would not add significant traffic to Monroe Drive, according to Ana Eisenman, an engineer with Kimley Horn. In May, the firm counted 20,360 vehicles traveling Monroe daily. That number is not expected to shift much with the new development, she said.