Atlanta inventor and entrepreneur Lonnie Johnson partners on $100M project by Georgia State University

February 18,2021

Dyana Bagby, Atlanta Business Chronicle

Lonnie Johnson, the former NASA engineer who invented the Super Soaker children’s toy, is partnering on a planned $100 million development to bring affordable student housing to Atlanta's Sweet Auburn district.

Johnson, president of JTEC Energy, is partnering with Michael Green, founder and managing partner of Atlanta-based Sophy Capital, and Bruce Fernald, a longtime real estate executive with deep connections to institutional capital and a passion for historic preservation. The project will be built on roughly 2 acres Johnson owns at 263 Decatur St. near the central campus of Georgia State University and King Memorial MARTA station.

Sweet Auburn is also one of Atlanta's historic Black neighborhoods. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Auburn Avenue, an area where Black businesses thrived. Construction of the Downtown Connector divided Auburn Avenue, leading to a decline of the once affluent Black community. Today, many of its storefronts remain in disrepair, but the neighborhood is poised for revitalization, Green said.

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