The Atlanta BeltLine by Design: A look at the BeltLine’s Design Review Committee

As the Atlanta BeltLine spurs new growth and development, the BeltLine’s Design Review Committee (DRC) plays a pivotal role in promoting design excellence and a high standard for quality development around the BeltLine corridor.

The DRC is an advisory group of subject-matter experts that provide design consultation, review, and recommendations for all Special Administrative Permits within the BeltLine Overlay District. The committee was created in 2015 by Atlanta City Council to provide recommendations for Special Administrative Permits to the City of Atlanta’s Office of Zoning and Development to ensure conformance to BeltLine Overlay District requirements.

Modeled after the Midtown Review Committee, the eight members of the DRC—four of whom are City Council appointees, and four that are staff of the Atlanta BeltLine—meet monthly to evaluate and provide recommendations for the building projects under consideration. All developers interested in building a project within the BeltLine Overlay District must go before the DRC as part of their pre-Special Administrative Permit application process. The applicant must also obtain comments from the impacted Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) as well. Although the meetings are open to the public, there is no public comment segment during the meeting. However, the DRC does receive written comments from the public to share with the committee for consideration. The committee sends its non-binding recommendations to the City, who makes the final decision on the Special Administrative Permit (SAP).

“Over the past 6 years, the board has witnessed the enhanced quality of design that DRC comments have engendered,” says Kevin Burke, Director of Design for ABI and Chair of the committee. “Whether a small gas station, multi-family apartments, or an office building, urban design and architectural outcomes are benefitting the community at large.”

“The DRC is a part of a larger vision to help to ensure that high-quality design and development happens in Atlanta,” explains Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. Director of Planning, Lynnette Reid, who has provided administrative support to the DRC since its inception. Whether a large development or smaller project, the DRC expectations remain the same: to improve overall quality by diligently providing feedback on topics like architecture design, site layout, the public realm, landscaping, affordable housing (per the City’s Inclusionary Zoning Policy) and trail activation or connectivity. “It’s very rewarding to see the DRC provide constructive feedback that helps projects more effectively integrate into the existing fabric of the community.”

Not all projects that have come through the DRC have received a recommendation of support. Some projects have not aligned with the BeltLine Overlay District, nor the goals of the BeltLine’s Subarea Master Plans, which serve as a policy tool to help guide future growth for vibrant, livable mixed-use communities. Other projects were a reflection of bad design that would have been unsustainable for the community.
DRC meetings take place the third Wednesday of each month at 5 p.m. The agenda is posted on the meetings tab of the DRC webpage the Friday before.

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