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Back on the tracks: How Atlanta is using its history to build its future

As space for development is running out, former rail yards are becoming hot properties.

ATLANTA — Terminus is no longer the end, it's only the beginning.

As commercial development space in Atlanta continues to be at a premium, developers are forced to get creative.

One recent trend has the city returning to it's roots as a railroad town.

"We love creativity. And I think we're at the forefront of creativity in the Atlanta market," said Dorian DeBarr, interim president of Decide Dekalb Development Authority.

Decide Dekalb has partnered with Atomic Entertainment to overhaul and revamp Pullman Yard on the city's east side. Plans call for shopping, dining, a boutique hotel and sound stages.

Built in 1904, Pullman Yard is a 27-acre former rail yard. During World War II the site was used to build munitions.

But it's sat vacant for more than two decades. The decrepit site has been used in Hollywood movies like "Hunger Games" and "Baby Driver."

But DeBarr, who drives by the yard nearly every day, felt the site had potential.

Credit: WXIA
Pullman Yard is getting an upgrade.

"It wasn't an eye sore, you know what it was, it was an opportunity," said DeBarr.

"This is something that the community wants to see. I believe that communities are on board for it, because they want to see old sites that have sat vacant for decades maybe, they want to see that turn into something that the community can see and be proud of."

Turning to rail yards seems like an obvious next step. After all, this is the city that took more than 20 miles of abandoned rail lines and turned it into the booming BeltLine.

Everywhere you look, you see the same thing happening. The Gulch downtown was originally built around busy rail lines but is now the potential site of a $5 billion development.

A few miles east, at the intersection of four up-and-coming intown neighborhoods, CSX recently moved all its cargo out of Hulsey Yard. Many are speculating the site, which is near the BeltLine, might be sold to private developers.

Even sites closer to the perimeter are being transformed. In Doraville, at the site of the former GM Plant and shipping lines, Assembly Yards recently opened. Mattress giant Serta Simmons Bedding celebrated their grand opening last week.

Back at Pullman Yard, Decide Dekalb helped Atomic secure nearly $1 million in Brownfields Grants for remediation of the property.

Groundbreaking is anticipated to begin in the near future.

"This is an historic site. There's a lot of emotion around it because it's been around so long in the community. I think that the developers have taken their care and their time with this site," DeBarr said.


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