Thousands of new residential units have risen from the ground since the Great Recession ended and the housing market woke from its deep slumber. None of those units, however, have been built in South Downtown, the transit-connected neighborhood located south of Marietta Street.
But low vacancy rates, transit access, and a growing interest in the historic neighborhood is motivating Gallman Development Group to offer more options. It wants to turns the M.C. Kiser Building, a former shoe manufacturing plant turned office building at the corner of Pryor Street and Trinity Avenue across the street from the MARTA Garnett Station, into approximately 40 apartments. The group wants the building to be ready for tenants by spring 2017.
Gallman is a longtime Downtown developer skilled in adaptive reuse and is most known for converting Castleberry Hill warehouses into lofts. Bruce Gallman, the firm's CEO, plans to keep the building’s existing brick exterior, aside from cleaning and exposing original parts of the facade. A façade sign identifying it as the M.C. Kiser Building will be uncovered.
Inside, Gallman plans to reuse the various gems they discover as design features. An old freight elevator could be used as a room in the building. An original stairwell is eyed for restoration. The existing elevator will be tweaked to travel to a planned roof deck offering views of the Capitol and Downtown.
“Then there are other things that we haven’t found yet,” Gallman says. “That’s another fun thing about the process. When they converted it to office, they covered up a lot of things. We don’t know what we’re going to find. Whatever we find, if it’s of historic character in the building, it will remain.”
Despite the fact that the building is two blocks from MARTA rail, developers say they do have to wrestle with the issue of parking. Next to the historic building is an annex that Gallman plans to convert to an indoor garage. Under the current design, Gallman says, there’s enough space to offer one parking space per residential unit. But he’s hoping that not every tenant will need a spot.
“We hope that Atlanta is maturing to the point where everyone who moves in there doesn’t need a parking space,” Gallman says, adding that ZipCar is nearby and the team has considered offering an on-site rental car to help tenants run occasional car trips. “We’ll be a good test case to see just how much people need parking.”
Gallman says there's an appetite for more residential options in the neighborhood. Occupancy rates for existing residential units are as high as 98 percent. The nearby City Plaza and Kessler Lofts stay full, he says. It's one of the last places in the city you can purchase a historic two-story building and renovate a residence on top of a store. South Carolina-based developer WRS is still in talks to build a mega-sized mixed-use project at Underground Atlanta that would include apartments. On top of that, arts groups are taking up residence along South Broad Street. Civic groups are pushing to boost the community.