For years, AUC students have made the long desolate walk down Westview Drive/Lee Street between the AUC and the West End Commercial Corridor to get hangers and the new Jordans in Mall West End or hop on the Marta at West End station and head to Lenox. They used to tell students not to walk alone. Well, that walk is about to become a lot more scenic.
Morehouse School of Medicine just announced a more than $50 million expansion adjacent to its southwest Atlanta campus in the Atlanta University Center (AUC.)
The new development on Lee Street will be built on land that was formerly occupied by the long gone, Harris Homes housing projects. It will include a 5-story building with 200 market rate housing units, an ambulatory health-care center, a parking garage, and retail space. It will be completed by 2020.
Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president of MSM, said the Lee Street Campus will solidify the school’s role in revitalizing Atlanta’s Westside. “We’re becoming a part of what we like to describe as ‘the Westside story,’” Rice said. “Our ideas have been independent of what is happening with the [Mercedes-Benz Stadium], but this is what we feel we can contribute to the development of the Westside.”
Real estate developer Carter USA won the bidding process to develop the first phase of the project, which MSM is calling the Lee Street Campus. The first phase includes the construction of a three-story commercial building that will house a student health and wellness clinic as well as an ambulatory care center that will be open to the public. Morehouse School of Medicine will partner with a national fitness center chain to develop a 24-hour center on the building’s top floor.
The new housing will make life easier for Morehouse’s medical students, who spend the majority of their first two years on campus. “We looked at this parcel of land we owned and thought the most important thing we could do for our students was allow them to have more affordable housing close to the school,” Rice said.
Carter Developments will also build a five-story building with approximately 200 market-rate units, most of which will be one or two bedrooms. “We’ve looked at what our students are typically paying, but we also want it to be apartments anyone would want to live in — high quality with smart technology,” Rice said.
The units are needed to accommodate MSM’s growing student population, which surpassed 520 this year, including 100 incoming medical students. When Rice began her presidency in 2011, the school had only 56 incoming medical students.
Plans also call for a 347-space parking deck and retail space for restaurants and other amenities.
The development will rise on vacant land MSM acquired during a 2006 land swap between the Atlanta Housing Authority and College Partners Inc., a collaboration between MSM, Spelman College and Morehouse College. The land swap included about 11 acres of the former Harris Homes public housing community, as well as various parcels of private land that added up to about 20 acres.
MSM acquired 7.3 acres during the swap, and 2.9 acres of the parcel will be developed during the first phase. The school is still weighing its options for the remainder of the property, though Rice predicts it will need to add more market-rate housing to keep pace with the growing student body size.
The school won’t own the mixed-use development. Instead, it will enter into a 99-year ground lease with Carter for the first phase, though the school potentially could become an equity partner in the project.