Maria Saporta, Saporta Report
A relatively unknown local entrepreneur purchased Underground Atlanta Wednesday from South Carolina-based WRS Inc., who has owned Atlanta’s historic center since 2017.
Shaneel Lalani, CEO of Billionaires Funding Group, is a retail entrepreneur who has worked in retail his whole life, according to a press release written by the Wilbert Group. He started out as a store clerk, and he bought his first real estate property in 2012. Today the firm’s portfolio encompasses more than 1 million square feet of retail and office space.
Lalani, who moved to Atlanta from India in 1999, also heads up Lucky Fortune, a coin-operated amusement machine company that is licensed by the Georgia Lottery Corp., which supports the HOPE scholarship program and pre-kindergarten funding.
It is unclear whether Lalani is interested in developing a video gaming attraction at Underground. A controversial proposal for a major video gambling attraction at Underground proposed more than a decade ago never materialized. It also is highly questionable whether the state would permit the development of a casino in Underground.
A.J. Robinson, president and CEO of Central Atlanta Progress, did sound upbeat about the sale of Underground.
“Given this challenging year for our community, the purchase of Underground by a new buyer is a ray of hope for the future,” Robinson said. “I remain hopeful that Shaneel and his group can unlock the real potential of this visible and historic patch of real estate that is such a barometer for our city. It appears he wants to do the right thing with Underground, and I know we will give him a chance to do just that.”
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