Takeaways from first planning meetings for Underground Atlanta’s rebirth
Downtown Atlantans waiting for the city’s storied subterranean entertainment district to be reborn as a vibrant urban community have endured years of development’s equivalent to watching paint dry—only more frustrating and sad.
Revived, cautious optimism for Underground Atlanta came in spring 2017, when South Carolina-based shopping center developer WRS finally completed a purchase of the 12-acre property for about $35 million, prompting then-Mayor Kasim Reed to declare it “another milestone in the revitalization of South Downtown Atlanta.” WRS’ plans would eventually call for a grand, $450-million transformation.
Fast-forward to late 2020, with little having happened at multilevel Underground beyond preliminary construction, mass closures, Masquerade concerts, and a bevy of big talk and flashy renderings—and WRS was out, selling the site to an unproven but energetic entrepreneur in his early thirties who lives in Decatur.
What Shaneel Lalani, the CEO of Billionaires Funding Group—aka, BFG—forked over for the stalled redevelopment pit isn’t yet known.
But a positivity sign came on the first day BFG began marketing its lease options at Underground, as Lalani recently told Atlanta magazine: More than 50 inquiries about leasing possibilities flooded the company in a matter of hours.
In an effort to capitalize on the interest and tap some of the city’s top planning minds, Lalani recently teamed with Atlanta-based HGOR—the urban design, placemaking, and landscape firm that’s had a hand in colossal projects such as Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the forthcoming Westside Park, and Georgia World Congress Center’s ongoing redo—for a charrette that spanned three days.
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