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Mayor Kasim Reed Announces Closing of Sale of Underground Atlanta

March 31,2017

Anne Torres, Director
404-330-6423, office
404-904-2618, cell
amtorres@atlantaga.gov

Jenna Garland, Press Secretary
404-330-6612, office
404-357-5579, cell
jgarland@atlantaga.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 31, 2017

News Release

Mayor Kasim Reed Announces Closing of Sale of Underground Atlanta

WRS, Inc. to redevelop 12-acre site into live-work-shop community

ATLANTA – Mayor Kasim Reed today announced the closing of the sale of Underground Atlanta to WRS, Inc. for $34.6 million. WRS, Inc., a real estate investment company based in Charleston, South Carolina, will redevelop the 12-acre site into a live-work-shop community with retail, hospitality, entertainment and residential space. The sale will result in $8 million annual cost savings for the City.

“The sale of Underground Atlanta is another milestone in the revitalization of South Downtown Atlanta,” said Mayor Reed. “WRS, Inc. brings a high level of expertise and strong track record of successful developments to an area of our City in need of a fresh approach. Based on the City’s track record with Ponce City Market, the Lakewood Fairgrounds (now EUE Screen Gems) and Buckhead Atlanta, I am confident that we will succeed in transforming Underground Atlanta into a vibrant component of our City’s commercial business district.”

Since announcing the sale of Underground Atlanta to WRS, Inc. nearly two years ago, the City has facilitated and participated in numerous public conversations with stakeholders, residents and the developer. In their commitment to being an excellent partner for Atlanta and the surrounding downtown community, the firm has agreed to meet the requirements of the City’s affordable housing ordinance, regardless of whether it pursues development incentives. Any multi-family development at Underground Atlanta will include 10 or 15 percent units at 60 or 80 percent AMI – a tremendous opportunity for working families to live in the new residential development. 

WRS, Inc. has also agreed to preserve a grid for public pedestrian and bicycle use on Alabama Street and Pryor Street; to share its written plan for community engagement to be conducted throughout the development process, which has been approved by the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association, Inc. and the City; and to accept protective covenants which require the preservation of certain portions of Underground Atlanta that are historical in nature. WRS also agreed to accept the Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) right to approve the master development concept plan for this project as well as any material modifications thereof, but only after public advertisement and opportunity for public review and comment of the modifications have been provided. These agreements will be memorialized in protective covenants and easements that run with the land and will bind WRS and future owners of Underground Atlanta. These agreements demonstrate WRS’s ongoing strong partnership with our city and with downtown stakeholders.

“Some years ago, the idea of redeveloping Underground Atlanta was evidently slightly unseen and more than a few folks were skeptical, including skepticism from our peers. Not surprisingly, popular sentiment has certainly changed in a favorable direction,” said Scott Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of WRS, Inc. “We have always been and remain strong believers in the potential for great things in downtown Atlanta and Underground in particular. The redevelopment of Underground is a truly unique opportunity, something that cannot be found anywhere else in the Southeast. For us as developers, this represents an incredibly awesome opportunity and we know that it also represents an equally awesome responsibility. We take both very seriously. Somewhat distinct from other projects in Atlanta, Underground Atlanta holds a special place in the memories of many people. We intend to undertake this redevelopment with great care, communicate closely with the neighboring constituents and most importantly we intend to create a new community that makes everyone very proud of this corner of the rapidly changing downtown Atlanta landscape.”

The DDA was created in 1982 by state law to revitalize and redevelop Atlanta’s central business district. The City and DDA have jointly owned Underground Atlanta since August 1986. In April 2014, the City purchased a long-term sublease to make the property available for revitalization and redevelopment. 

WRS, Inc. has a significant track record in retail development. WRS, Inc. has developed over thirty anchored shopping centers covering seven million square feet of retail space and has also aided in the development of more than 100 additional retail projects encompassing more than ten million square feet of retail space. Notable development projects in the WRS, Inc. portfolio include the Horizon District in South Carolina, an urban research district that will contain over 2.5 million square feet of mixed-used space with street-level retail, restaurant and office space, and workforce housing. The company has also developed a number of retail anchored projects for nationally known corporations including Belk, Staples, Kohl’s, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. 

“It’s exciting to see a new chapter in Underground Atlanta’s history begin,” said A.J. Robinson, President of Central Atlanta Progress. “We support the WRS vision and capability to bring the density of mixed uses to the 12 acres of downtown Atlanta that has so much potential. Bravo to the city and WRS for reaching an agreement.”

Mayor Reed announced the sale of Underground Atlanta in 2014. Earlier this month, the Board of Directors of DDA approved WRS’s master development concept plan, which approval was necessary in order to close the sale of Underground Atlanta.

“It’s been more than 30 years since we’ve seen any significant investment in this high-potential area of Downtown,” said Dr. Eloisa Klementich, President and CEO of Invest Atlanta. “As new development moves south from Buckhead and Midtown, Downtown is seeing a surge of new catalytic investments like Post Centennial, Castleberry Park, the redevelopment of Turner Field, and the Atlanta Streetcar. The sale of Underground will enable Downtown to continue its resurgence by bringing new business activity, more jobs, and additional housing to this unique and cherished part of our city.”

Atlanta’s hospitality and tourism industry generates $15 billion annually. A revitalized Underground Atlanta will complement several new downtown attractions, including the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the College Football Hall of Fame and the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium which will open later this year. 

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For more information about the City of Atlanta, please visit http://www.atlantaga.gov or watch City Channel 26. Follow the City of Atlanta on Facebook and Twitter @CityofAtlanta. Follow Mayor Reed on Facebook and Twitter @Kasim Reed