Dynamic Downtown – Repurposing Atlanta’s Storied Past

October 11,2017

Source: Claire Ross and Jill Kelleher, Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Atlanta Blog

On a beautiful fall afternoon in early September, ACE hosted a very special “Members Only” tour of downtown Atlanta and the dynamic developments that are revitalizing the historic city. Guest speakers from Central Atlanta Progress, Newport South Downtown Redevelopment, Georgia World Congress Center Authority and Carter, who spoke on behalf of Summerhill redevelopment, narrated the trip. We stopped along the way for a special behind-the-scenes tour of Summerhill and Newport. The tour concluded with a fun cocktail reception at Smoke Ring located in downtown’s hip Castleberry community.

A diverse group of CREW members attended the event, creating a dynamic networking opportunity for all. Those who attended the event included developers, leasing agents, branding/marketing firms, engineers, architects, land planners and specialty consultants/contractors.

The narrative below provides insight of the tour from the eyes of a landscape architect and leasing consultant.

Urbanites in cities across the U.S. are seeking places that have a keen sense of urban renewal with a strong storied past, such as the famous Chelsea Market in New York City, which inspired Ponce City Market, and now downtown Atlanta is following the same footsteps.

Atlanta’s history is one for the books in becoming a growing metropolis and previous host to the Olympics. To capture the culture of bygone days, developers are buying up old industrial warehouses, brick factories and similar relics that speak to the city’s history. The result is a vibrant city nestled by buildings and landmarks that are near transportation lines and destinations – from the past and future. The Downtown submarket is beginning to turn the heads of Fortune 500 companies, building investors/developers and sporting events, which it has not seen in recent years.

In the first half of the 20th century, the surrounding Turner Field area was home to buzzing commercial activity from nearby railroad companies, a General Electric factory, Piedmont Hospital in Summerhill, small businesses, electric streetcars and a movie theater. The neighborhoods in this area were culturally rich and housed a diverse working-class community. The neighborhoods began to unravel through the erection of the interstate system and Fulton County stadium. Fast forward to 2017, the legacy of Hank Aaron, the 1996 Olympic Games and Turner Field are now historic footprints within the community.

Now that the Atlanta Braves have departed to Cobb County, Turner Field is one of the next big urban renewal developments according to Central Atlanta Progress. Carter, in partnership with Oakwood Development and Healey Weatherholtz Properties (COHW), is redeveloping Turner Field into a 72-acre edgy mixed-use community in downtown Atlanta with Georgia State University as the anchor. The development, now called Summerhill, will tie into the community’s culturally rich heritage that will speak volumes to Atlanta’s storied past.

Now it is time to rediscover projects such as Underground Atlanta, a place which was a destination point for travelers in the 1960s and 1970s. Also, Newport’s rediscovery of the South Downtown market will bring life into old abandoned buildings and create a household name for ever-changing Downtown. With rental rates pushing $25 gross for Class A office buildings in Downtown Atlanta, there is a great history which is about to be uncovered.

These dynamic redevelopments will activate streets into walkable and thriving communities. Repurposing old buildings and stitching new walkable developments into the city’s historic fabric will create accessible, human scale places to enrich the visitors experience. The end-result is a positive ROI for all involved.

A special thank you goes out to our guest speakers, event hosts and tour attendees. Stay tuned for upcoming ACE events!