The Brandon Beach supported bill that would have added a 1/2 penny tax and would have run MARTA rail north to Alpharetta, had it been matched with federal funds, is dead. Never even made it to the floor down at the Georgia capitol.
My favorite best-dressed businessman, Mark Toro, who is vested in north Fulton and would benefit from MARTA rail, is playing the blame game for this failure. While not naming names, he told WSB-TV news reporter Mike Patchenik:
“Call it NIMBY-ism, class-ism, parochial-ism…the fact is, that kind of insular thinking is no longer competitive.” – referring to either north Fulton residents in general or political leaders specifically.
Mark Toro is afraid of no longer being competitive.
What’s soon to be less competitive and certainly overbuilt are mixed-use developments. And Toro knows this. They don’t call him smart money for nothing. Not only is retail doing poorly at Avalon, brick and mortar stores everywhere are doing poorly. And so, one huge component of mixed-use developments is sagging and flagging. What’s more, Atlanta’s apartment market is pricing out the Millennials, the very component mixed-use is designed to draw. The market will make adjustments for this. Either rents will come down, and investors will absorb the loss, OR incomes will rise (really?) OR you just made a huge stupid bet on apartments.
North American Properties wants out of the retail/apartment side of Avalon in Alpharetta and has put it on the market. MARTA rail sure would sweeten that listing. As for the Phase II side – the convention center and hotel, North American is still committed. And MARTA rail would go a long way to sweeten this side of things as well.
And so, we understand from this a little better the war of words between Mark Toro and city leaders in Alpharetta. Sure, Toro is selling his own book, but can you blame him? He’s the one on the hook for Avalon, Phase I and II. He can call Alpharetta NIMBY, parochial and more. Doesn’t matter. It’s his leadership and business strategy that brought NAP to Alpharetta. And now, he’s on the hook. Oh, it’s a gentle hook right now. Alpharetta is one of the hottest real estate markets in the metro. So, MARTA or no MARTA, Alpharetta is a desirable place to be. That won’t change.
City leaders in Alpharetta and Johns Creek know that rapid rail is an inevitability. Indeed, I’d say they are planning on it. And Mayor Belle Isle of Alpharetta, whom I have criticized endlessly for being pro-density, has surprised me by doing the most un-density loving thing he could have done: he opposed MARTA rail in the sloppy, blind-sided, opaque, un-justified form in which it was presented by Brandon Beach. Rather, he said, lets take a look at this and make it better.
Beach can do this if he tries. MARTA rail needs to come to north Fulton county. But if Beach is the one to bring it, he’ll have to stop pandering to special interest groups, developers and the like, and instead will actually have to run the numbers. North Fulton doesn’t oppose MARTA rail just for the sake of opposing MARTA rail. However, north Fulton leaders can read and do math and this excuse for a bill that Beach presented, is where it should be – dead.