Downtown Development Day shows five major areas ripe for development

November 5,2010

By Rachel Tobin

Downtown Atlanta has a message for developers: There’s more undeveloped land in the central business district than you think.

Central Atlanta Progress, a downtown development group, released a map Thursday at its Downtown Development Day showing five major areas ripe for large redevelopments. They include the area near Five Points MARTA Station called the “Gulch”, Sweet Auburn, Fairlie-Poplar and the “railroad district” near Castleberry Hill.

CAP said there are a “remarkable” 467 underutilized acres downtown.

“Sometimes the redevelopment opportunities aren’t always readily apparent,” said Jennifer Ball, CAP’s vice president of planning. “There’s no ‘for sale’ sign out front.”

CAP did the research to debunk what it termed the “myth” that too little vacant land exists for large new developments downtown.

It focused on large tracts because they offer a chance for “catalytic transformative development” that can, in turn, spark the next project, Ball said.

Larger tracts are necessary for modern buildings, and they can be used for denser developments that are more economically feasible, she said. All that creates a stronger tax base for the city, Ball said.

Emerick Corsi flew in from Cleveland, Ohio, to discuss city parcels. His firm, Forest City Enterprises, has been involved in large redevelopment projects across the country, and he said it is actively looking at Atlanta.

He looks for large scale projects, “a willing city . . . that has thought something out,” and public-private partnerships, he said. He doesn’t like renovating old buildings, which he called “a massive migraine.” He prefers to clear the land and start fresh.

Some of Atlanta’s potential redevelopment sites are historic. The Medical Arts Building on Peachtree Street, built in 1927 , has been looked at for medical offices, Ball said, or as a boutique hotel.

“The best approach is a mix, so that we can protect and repurpose buildings like the Glenn and Ellis hotels, as well as incorporate new development,” she said

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