Decatur Next

The ARLO Opens

For-rent trend continues, adding to the diversity of the city’s residential offerings

Bordered by East Trinity Place and East Howard Avenue, the ARLO is a mixed-use project offering 210 studio, one and two bedroom apartments, ground level retail, and a handful of live/work units. Like other downtown residential projects, it received no tax incentives or similar subsidies.

Contributing to city efforts to improve the pedestrian experience connecting downtown with southside neighborhoods, the site is an assemblage of three previous parcels — a distressed, 3 story motel; a DeKalb County facilities garage; and a locally beloved, freestanding Dairy Queen franchise. Negotiations by the city’s Downtown Development Authority allowed for the Dairy Queen’s post-construction return in one of the project’s new retail spaces.

One interesting hurdle arose during the process, illustrating the complexities of multiple interests inherent in urban development. Both the city and developer sought a design with active uses along both bordering streets but no financial partner was willing to take the risk of so much leasable space along the rail line. Ultimately a compromise was worked out in which the bulk of the East Howard stretch is devoted to the parking deck. Less than ideal aesthetically, its appearance has improved as the surrounding street trees have matured.

Bringing multiple goals together

Though this project, like similar projects coming online, is new construction with commensurate market-rate rents, it still plays an important role in longer-term affordability strategies. Steadily increasing demand for in-town living continues to exert pressure on communities like Decatur that now comprise the third fastest-growing metro area in the nation. By increasing supply for those seeking rentals in prime Decatur locations, these new apartments help reduce market pressure, and thus price escalation, on our more limited inventory of older, less costly second-tier units. Further contributing to the city’s affordable and workforce housing goals, the ARLO offers 21 reduced price “Lifecycle Dwelling” units for individuals and families who meet the 80 percent median income requirement.

Building an active population of downtown residents has been a city priority since development of 1982’s community-driven Town Center Plan. In practice, such developments (either condo or for-rent) have been net-positive contributors to local tax revenue, paying notably more than they take out in city services and associated infrastructure, including schools. Such residents, drawn by a walkable, car-lite or car-free lifestyle, further contribute to the health of our downtown businesses, both independent and chain, providing for a wider variety of offerings and experiences for locals and visitors alike.

The ARLO apartments. Click for larger view.

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