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From Contaminated To Downtown's Biggest Housing Development In Generations

Ronald Batiste is a big believer in developing affordable housing. To do it in Atlanta, Batiste's San Francisco company is looking to redevelop a site polluted by a former metals coating factory.

Rendering for San Francisco-based Eagle Environmental Construction Development's Whitehall mixed-use project on the former Simmons Metal Plating factory

Eagle Environmental Construction is pursuing a nearly 3-acre site off Whitehall Street in Downtown Atlanta near the Castleberry Hill and Mechanicsville communities that is the former home of Simmons Metal Plating Co. The projected $122M mixed-use project will include 512 apartments over a 600-space parking deck with another 25K SF of commercial space.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division lists the site on its Hazardous Site Inventory, which denotes which properties in Atlanta are brownfields and subject to federal remediation grants. 

“It's one of the most contaminated properties in Atlanta," said Batiste, EEC's CEO and founder. "I love contaminated sites."

EEC has worked to remediate contaminated sites for more than 15 years, including with the military and the U.S. Department of Energy, Batiste said. His firm also is co-developing with Lennar the $150M former San Francisco Naval Shipyards Hunters Point redevelopment project, which includes more than 400 housing units.

The Whitehall site needs $20M in cleanup work, Batiste said, including removing the upper layers of soil on the property. Most of the Simmons Metal Plating structures have long since been demolished, save a single-story brick building, which will be demolished, according to documents filed with Central Atlanta Progress.

The site is ripe for redevelopment given its proximity to transit options, Batiste said. The site is less than a half-mile from MARTA's Garnett station and is near Amtrak.

“It's basically a transportation corridor,” Batiste said.

Whitehall is the latest Downtown Atlanta parcel to see efforts at a significant rebirth. In recent months, a number of developers have been eyeing downtown sites for redevelopment, including Los Angels-based CIM Group, which is pursuing the redevelopment of The Gulch, and Newport, which has recently purchased swaths of South Downtown Atlanta buildings for redevelopment.

Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson

Sites like Whitehall — former industrial sites that need a bit of environmental cleanup — could be the next frontier for housing and multifamily developers seeking more affordable land in Atlanta, Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson said.

“My general impression [is] that [with] the cost of construction and cost of land, developers are having to get more creative,” Robinson said. “If you want to do a project, you have to be a little bit different.”

Batiste said without outside financial incentives, redeveloping this site would not be feasible. His company is pursuing a $100M revenue bond with the Development Authority of Fulton County, CoStar reported. The project is expected to go before the Atlanta City Council for approval next month, he said.

“I'm actually excited that someone would take a shot at this. This area hasn't seen much development except for light industrial for generations,” Robinson said. “There just hasn't been anything of scale to compare to in this area.”