Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) recently completed a robust round of community engagement for Murphy Crossing. The 20+ acre site, located at 1050 Murphy Avenue in Southwest Atlanta, sits within the Oakland City neighborhood and is bordered by the neighborhoods of Adair Park and Capitol View.
ABI published a Request for Proposals (RFP) at the end of 2018 for the redevelopment of the site, but the procurement was cancelled in 2020, due in part to the impacts of COVID.
Shortly thereafter, in fall 2020, ABI launched a new community engagement strategy to develop a new draft scope of work as part of an RFP to redevelop Murphy Crossing. ABI also recognized the need to rebuild trust and transparency with the neighborhoods and stakeholders adjacent to the site through an equitable community engagement process.
“Once the original RFP was published, it required a period of silence that raised community concerns around the entire process,” said Beth McMillan, VP of Community Planning and Engagement for ABI. “Residents were very vocal in their desire to be heard and included, so ABI went back to the drawing board to reevaluate and ensure the process was more inclusive and collaborative from the beginning.”
While ABI engages the community on all aspects of the Atlanta BeltLine, including input on the original Murphy Crossing RFP, this is the first time ABI has solicited this level of community input going into the development of an RFP. Expanded outreach included an extensive series of public meetings, stakeholder advisory committee meetings, surveys, and revisiting the original RFP.
By restarting the RFP process, ABI aims to find a developer with an innovative redevelopment plan for the Murphy Crossing site that creates a maximum number of sustainable living-wage jobs that are accessible to the neighborhood residents, economic opportunities for the surrounding community, affordable housing, green space, innovative site design, and other program elements in a manner that enhances the site and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Between September and November of 2020, ABI reached out to, heard from, and conversed with community members in a number of ways:
- Convened a Stakeholder Advisory Committee that met 8 times. The committee was made up of 20 neighborhood leaders from 8 neighborhoods surrounding the site (Oakland City, Adair Park Capitol View, Bush Mountain, Capitol View Manor, Sylvan Hills, Pittsburgh, and West End neighborhoods);
- Held 7 public meetings with 452 online and dial-in attendees, along with others who participated via Facebook Live;
- Sent 8,339 mailers, posted 50 yard signs, and hung 3 banners advertising the public meetings;
- Hosted two tours of the Murphy Crossing property, one with The MET and one with Pittsburgh Yards;
- Made one-on-one calls to residents to help them understand the project and provide feedback.
Additionally, over 1,000 neighbors weighed in through a community-driven survey by the Murphy Crossing Coalition (see results on all questions here) and 203 responded to a questionnaire by Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.
Over one thousand individuals living in the 8 neighborhoods participated in public input.
Many residents dedicated hours of their time to collaborating with ABI, including J Lawrence Miller, President of Adair Park Today and Chair of the Murphy Crossing Coalition:
“I came into the Chairmanship of the community-created and driven Murphy Crossing Coalition with, like many neighbors, a deep distrust of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. The community insisted as we partner with ABI, not to allow ABI to drive a process not completely understood without strong voices from the neighborhoods affected by this development. Although adversarial at times, it was clear the ABI Community Engagement Team wanted to partner with, not guide, us.
“I am appreciative of the effort. It’s an engagement never seen before. I attended every meeting, asked pertinent questions and got answers both orally and in writing. We were able to share these responses with our neighbors and communities.
“As a result of this relationship, there is no comparison to the previous RFP. I am clear the ABI Community Engagement Team heard our neighbors. The new draft RFP appears to have taken in almost every recommendation the Murphy Crossing Coalition, representing the community surrounding Murphy Crossing, into consideration.
“There are differences in opinion as to process, but as for the substance, what was not included can be worked out with the developer. We are happy to have had this opportunity and look forward to future opportunities to work with ABI on projects affecting Southwest Atlanta.”
Displacement of existing residents (both homeowners and renters) and small business owners is a key concern.
“I’m hoping this development will bring economic development, job creation, and mixed-income housing with affordability,” said Judy Walker, President of Oakland City Community Organization. “As a resident of Oakland City for 39 years, I want legacy residents – those who have carried this community for a long time – to be able to stay, and for people who grew up here to be able to live, buy, and work in this neighborhood.”
Team members across every department of ABI in the public input process, reviewing the Scope of Work from the previous RFP while simultaneously reviewing public comments and translating into draft language to be considered for use in the Scope of Work for the new RFP. Moreover, two City Council members, the Community Representative on Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. Board of Directors, and Invest Atlanta staff participated in the public input process. A third party was procured to assist as a neutral facilitator in public meetings – Makara Rumley of the Hummingbird Firm.
“When the Murphy Crossing Coalition reached out to the Beltline, we found a team sincerely willing to engage and address community concerns within the RFP,” said Nick Hess, Chair of NPU-S. “We’re pleased that ABI has embraced an engagement model that treats community as peers with legitimate interests to be negotiated with, and not as an audience that must be placated with token concessions. We look forward to continuing to work with ABI on future Murphy area projects with this ‘friendly adversary’ framework.”
The purchase of Murphy Crossing and the nearby Avon property are part of ABI’s expanding land acquisition strategy to guide thoughtful and equitable redevelopment around the Atlanta BeltLine.
This is the first chapter in this process. After the RFP is published, ABI will be unable to discuss the active procurement, but community engagement will resume with the selection of a developer. The final outcomes for the site have yet to be determined and the community will certainly have a voice.
ABI plans to release the RFP in early 2021. All previous presentations, meeting recordings, details, and timeline updates are (and will be) posted at www.beltline.org/murphy.