Controversial project to put hotel, grocery store near Piedmont Park approved by city board

ATLANTA — A controversial project connected to the Atlanta BeltLine by Piedmont Park now has the thumbs-up from the city’s economic development board.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr was the only television journalist inside the Invest Atlanta meeting Thursday morning as Fuqua Development sealed the deal on the property needed for the project at 10th and Monroe.

Now it’s up to the City Council to rezone.

The project would bring an 11-story hotel, a grocery store, town homes and apartment living, with the mandated 30 percent affordable housing, across from Piedmont Park.

Rendering of mixed-use project near Piedmont Park

Opponents, including Midtown neighborhood associations, say this is a high-traffic area and a dangerous intersection.

"This is at an intersection that is not only congested, but it's dangerous. We've had students killed at the intersection," one woman said.

The fight over putting so many businesses and a hotel at the location has been ongoing for more than a decade, and Thursday morning, the plan received the support of outgoing Mayor Kasim Reed and the majority of the Invest Atlanta board, who touted housing and job opportunities as a reason to move forward.

"This is really the first time we've moved the needle on affordability north of Auburn Avenue," Reed said. "I just think this if the right thing to move this forward for the next conversation."

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But the plan drew intense backlash from residents, some of whom say they’d just learned about the pending vote Wednesday night.

“This is a city now where people want to feel heard, and that the old way of doing things, by old way, I mean the last few years,” resident Fred Smith said during a public comment period after a closed executive session to discuss the project and the public vote. "I know we didn't have an opportunity to talk before you deliberated, which doesn't give me a lot of faith that community engagement will happen going forward."

New Atlanta Beltline CEO Brian McGowan assured people there will be transparency as the project moves forward.

"I've been told we're going to have dozens and dozens of meetings, as many as is necessary to make sure that the community feels like their voices have been heard," he said.

Other board members called it a first step with flexibility to change.

"The concerns about the grocery store, or I heard something about the hotel. Do your thing. We want to hear from you on the city side. I know we do," board member Natalyn Archibong said.

The developed echoed those sentiments.

"One hundred percent. We're not getting anywhere without doing that, so they should rest assure that that's going to happen," Jeff Fuqua said. "Our only steadfast thing is that we have to have 30 percent affordable housing."