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Pencils to Progress - Regional Success Story

Pencil Factory Flats and Shops - Decatur Street, Atlanta, Georgia

Before: Former Breman Steele and Pencil Factory in ruins

Former site of a steel and iron company and pencil factory is redeveloped as mixed-use retail and apartments during the economic downturn.

This article is the fifth in a series of EPA Region 4 Brownfields Success Stories, a series designed to share what our hosts of Brownfield 2013 have learned in their brownfields redevelopment efforts.

A 3.7-acre redevelopment is a textbook study in why and how Brownfield properties can be and are so desirable.  This property is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta adjacent to the King Memorial Rapid Transit Station and within walking distance to Georgia State University, Grady Memorial Hospital, the Georgia State Capitol, and state offices in the Capitol Hill area.  The site is easily accessible by Interstates I-75/85 and I-20. 

The developer, TAMA XI, LLC, clearly saw this location as an asset that outweighed the environmental concerns posed by the historic uses of the property.  Prior to redevelopment, the property consisted of several individual tax parcels that had a long history of commercial and industrial use.  Most notably, MA Ferst Pencil Factory, Breman Steel and Iron Company, and a gas station once occupied the property.  Prior to the 1930s, the property was used as a coal yard for the adjacent CSX Rail Yard and was also the site of the Atlanta Cotton Compress and Warehousing Company. 

Prior to redevelopment, this property was underutilized. One third of the property was being utilized by an outdoor advertising company and its subsidiaries and by the Bell Street Bar and Wine business.  The buildings once occupied by Breman Steel were vacant, and the former Ferst Pencil Factory was in ruins, providing a haven for vagrants. 

The developer’s environmental investigations found that the soil on the property was contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from operation of the pencil factory and with RCRA metals from the steel mill operations.  Prior to purchase of the property in 2005, the developer enrolled the property in the Georgia Brownfield Program to protect themselves from third party claims and from groundwater cleanup liability (although groundwater had minimal impacts). 

Under the approved Brownfields corrective action plan the developer undertook the excavation and disposal of >6,300 tons of contaminated soil to bring the property into compliance with Georgia’s residential clean-up standards. Remediation was completed in 2007. The cost for demolition of structures and remediation of contaminated soil totaled over $890,000.00.


After: The redevelopment was completed in 2009 (New Pencil Factory Lofts)

Based on the 2007 assessed value (the earliest available to this writer), the property value prior to redevelopment was approximately $8.3 million.  The redevelopment was completed in 2009 at which time the value of the property was assessed at $18.5 million.  Currently, the property is assessed at $30.8 million, an increase of 270% in the value of the property through redevelopment.  However, due to Georgia’s Brownfields Tax Incentive, for the next 10 years, or until TAMA XI, LLC recoups their remediation costs, property taxes will be based on the value of the property when it was entered into Georgia Brownfields Program in 2005.

Not only has this underutilized property been put back into productive use, but it has attracted many small businesses and has become the catalyst for other brownfield redevelopments in the neighborhood.  The Pencil Factory Flats and Shops are home to almost a dozen independently owned businesses including, Intown Market, Ken Bailey Hair Studio, Blusion Wash and Dry, and Marlee’s Coffee.  To round things out, the Village Theatre, an improvisational comedy theater recently opened. 


pencils - public

Before #2: Former Grady Homes public housing


pencils, - ashely

After #2: Ashley Point Affordable Housing