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Multi-Family on the Atlanta Beltline Part 1: Planning for a Family Affair

Hannah Hanlon

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“The site has what we call tremendous topography,” Corcoran Ota Group Principal Dean Ota remarks, “From one end of the area to the other, there’s 50 feet in elevation change; the height of a 5-story building.”

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That challenging grade (and memorable alliteration) belongs to the Englewood Development, a residential mixed-use property in the beginning stages of site planning just south of Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood in Chosewood Park. By all accounts the property is really pretty tremendous; for one, because it sits just one block off of Atlanta’s Beltline transit corridor, one of the most ambitious and wide-ranging urban redevelopment and mobility projects in the country. 

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Englewood’s phase 1 multifamily housing will happily be The Corcoran Ota Group’s first Beltline project, the result of a competitive bid that paired architecture firms with developers to vie for different pieces of the multi-phase development. Corcoran Ota was awarded design of the multi-family component of Phase I.

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“For these kinds of projects, the pre-development time is extensive,” says Ota. Part of the reason: A need for significant community involvement – a potential roadblock that COG chooses to harness as an opportunity.

Where traditionally only the firm’s Partners might have attended neighborhood meetings regarding the development, COG has decided to make this community-informed development a communal project within the studio. “Michael (Corcoran) and I don’t just go and interact with the community,” says Ota. “We ask project managers and even interns to join the conversation as well. It’s a communal learning experience.”

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The idea stretches to the space itself as well. That difficult topography offers a few gifts to design and development. Land owner The Atlanta Housing Authority has requested a number of attributes be present on the property. Green roofs were part of the ask and have the potential to house community gardens. The steep site allows the complex to be “stepped”, creating walk-out access to rooftop terraces that would normally have required a ladder to reach. The city agency also requires strong community connection be a focus of the development. Phase 1 will include about 30,000 square feet of retail space, but even better, COG’s work will plan for a pocket park placed so the neighborhood can actually walk through the building’s footprint. “It’s our goal to be neighborhood friendly," adds Ota, “but we’re just now discussing the open access with the community. We’ll see how it all turns out.”

This is just the beginning. We’ll follow this “tremendous” project helping define housing along the southern portion of Atlanta’s Beltline regularly here, with unique behind-the-scenes peeks at a truly community-oriented project, so come back to our blog for updates as the year – and the work – progresses.