ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Alpharetta has pitched a stake for a future MARTA transit station at North Point Mall, and it comes to the city at no cost.
The 2-acre site is being donated to the city as part of an agreement approved Oct. 26 with Brookfield Properties. The City Council voted unanimously to grant the real estate management firm a one-year extension to begin construction on up to 300 rental units as part of its redevelopment at the mall. The luxury apartments at 1000 North Point Circle are part of a major overhaul that will include new, freestanding retail and restaurants and a multi-use trail system with tie-ins to nearby trails and the Big Creek Greenway.
Brookfield won approval for the plan in February 2019, about a year after it purchased the mall property from General Growth Properties in a deal estimated at about $15 billion.
One of the conditions the city placed on the new development called for Brookfield to begin construction on the rental units by February 2021 or the buildings would convert to “for sale” use.
Kathryn Zickert, an attorney representing Brookfield Properties, said the developer had been on course to meet the deadline. She said representatives met with the city’s Design Review Board and applied for a land disturbance permit in October 2019. The onset of COVID-19 has complicated the time schedule, however, she said.
“Obviously, you guys want to keep us honest, and we should have to pull a permit for something in the reasonably foreseeable future in order to earn that right,” Zickert said.
The revised conditions now call for construction on the apartments to begin by February 2022.
The land donation is good until the end of 2028. If MARTA indicates the property is not needed or if the transit agency has not begun construction of a station by then, ownership of the land converts back to Brookfield.
While the transit provider does not have a solid proposal for rail service in Alpharetta, MARTA has laid plans to extend bus rapid transit up and down Ga. 400, installing stations along the way, as part of the state’s express lanes project. The $1.6 billion express lane project is in the development stage and is not set for completion until 2026.
City officials were happy to support the Brookfield deal.
“North Point Mall has been a big part of this community’s success over the last 30 years…and I can’t imagine the challenges that you all are facing with the capital markets and retail markets,” Mayor Jim Gilvin said.
But Councilman Ben Burnett went further, calling the land donation an insurance policy that will keep transit isolated to the commercial corridor and out of residential neighborhoods.
Speaking before the council meeting, Burnett stressed the importance of committing a piece of land for the purpose of transit. Before now, he said, the city ultimately had little say in whether transit — bus rapid transit or train — would come to the area.
“This gives the City of Alpharetta its best chance to negotiate in good faith with our transit partners to strive to protect our residential neighborhoods,” he said. “We just wanted to be in a position to say that if you’re going to force-feed me this, I’m at least going to have a strategic plan on where to put something that I may or may not want.”