My partner and I recently looked at a property on the newly-opened Westside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine. This got me thinking about one of blogs I wrote last year, “The Atlanta BeltLine: Will the Westside Trail Match the Eastside Trail’s Success?”.
In that blog, I suggested the expectation that the Westside Trail’s success would equal the Eastside Trail’s success was unrealistic. With the Westside Trail now open for six months, it’s a good time to consider what’s happening in the area and whether it’s a good place to invest.
Westside Trail: A Description
On its website, the Atlanta BeltLine describes itself as “a transportation and redevelopment initiative.” The Westside Trail, a $43 million project, is the largest section of the BeltLine yet—it runs from University Avenue between Oakland City and West End MARTA rail stations up to Washington Park, near the Ashby MARTA rail station. The Atlanta BeltLine sees this trail as “one more step toward…[their] promise to create a more affordable and connected Atlanta for all.”
Westside Trail: New Development
To be sure, there are signs of early success. According to Curbed Atlanta, the Lean Draft House “is the first new business to open on the Westside Trail in Southwest…and the house is packed.” The pub is located near Gordon White Park, near where White Street meets Ralph David Abernathy Blvd.
Dallas-based Stream has also seen early success with Lee + White, which “sits on one of the largest pieces of land along the Westside Trail, with a half-mile of trail frontage and 426,000 square feet of warehouse space,” according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle (ABC). So far, the ABC reports Lee + White tenants include Monday Night Garage (22K SF), Golda Kombucha (6K SF), Wild Heaven Beer, ASW Distillery, Banyan Roots Brewing Co. (18K SF brewpub), Honeysuckle Gelato, Doux South Pickles and Southern Aged.
In addition, Carter is reported to be eyeing the 1M SF metropolitan Candler Warehouse property for adaptive reuse. Plus, The Pittsburgh Yards, a 31-acre mixed use development at 352 University Avenue on the future Atlanta BeltLine’s Southside Trail, was just recently announced.
Westside Trail: The Challenges
While these early successes are encouraging, several challenges exist that differentiate the Westside Trail from the Eastside Trail and could either limit or delay its ultimate success:
- The neighborhoods are different. While signs of gentrification in West End, Capitol View and Adair Park exist, the neighborhoods are not comparable to the state of the East Side Trail neighborhoods when the BeltLine started there.
- The Westside Trail area has an industrial character with some very old, rundown buildings; vacant (and probably contaminated) sites; and the presence of a major, very active rail line.
- Long-time owners in the area as well as speculators have already dramatically increased prices in response to the area’s recent press. This reminds me of Memorial Drive back in 2006 – 2008. Investors didn’t do well there at all; they paid too much and were way too early.
- The retail support (limited to The Mall West End area) is just not there yet to support the neighborhood revitalization effort.
Be realistic. Don’t get caught up in the euphoria. It’s better to let someone else be the pioneer unless you have very patient money. There will be ample opportunity to invest along the Westside Trail, but diving in with both feet today is risky.
Are you considering development or investment off the Westside Trail? What do you see as the pros and cons?