Real Estate News

Published on January 25th, 2017 |


Commercial Real Estate Booming But More Creative New Construction Merge Inside and Outside

Eight years after the 2008 real estate meltdown, the metro Atlanta real estate landscape is experiencing a slew of new construction, and helping fuel this growth are emerging trends in design, outlook, leasing and lifestyle.

Speaking at a well-attended Bisnow panel discussion on construction and development, Zach Olsen, senior project manager for Turner Construction Co., said that development has been “great. We’re building with confidence. We’re seeing consistent growth with no signs of slowing down.”

Jim Irwin, president of New City, noted a convergence of forces that are hard to cram into a typical real estate cycle. “We’re seeing self-selection for the first time in our city. People are moving to buildings and areas by choice, instead of just building out into undeveloped land in the suburbs. We’re now seeing regional urbanization in places such as Avalon. Density is no longer just city thinking.”

He also said that developers need to be — and are — becoming more creative. “We’ve always been a copycat city. If it worked in one city, well, we’ll do it here. But now with the street grids and updated urban planning, there’s more challenges because space, in many areas, is more limited. There’s more density in the city and we’re having to build in tight spaces, which makes it more creative.”

L-R Irwin, Bontrager, Maffey

The confined building lots “make going vertical more complicated,” says Luca Maffey, principal with John Portman & Associates, who is working on Coda, a mixed use complex near Georgia Tech.  The tight spaces have caused many to build parking underground instead of adjacent lots. “We didn’t want to build an ugly parking lot. Being next to the Beltline we felt subterranean parking is justified.” says Irwin, on the decision to have underground and street-level parking for its $190 million redevelopment of the Kroger site on Ponce de Leon. The building will feature a 12-story, 360,000 square feet office tower situated over a 60,000 square foot Kroger.

Creating recreational and lifestyle environments within an office complex and the importance of retail are driving forces in such developments as Colony Square, Philips Arena, Coda and Three Alliance Center.

Colony Square was the first mixed use complex in Atlanta and, at one time, even had an ice skating rink. “Colony Square was way ahead of its time and Midtown had to catch up with it. Now, it’s time for Colony Square to catch up with Midtown,” says John Kelley, partner and VP of Development with North American Properties, which is renovating Colony Square.

“Midtown was dead and now it’s the heart of the city. In two to three years, it will be totally different from today.”

The redevelopment will start with retail and then tweak the food court and office areas. “We’re going to start with getting more retail on the street level and that will help get people into the mall,” says Kelley. The new design features an outdoor pedestrian plaza surrounded by retail spaces, restaurants and a third office building on the northern edge of the site along Peachtree Street. Lots of events will be planned, similar to those at Atlantic Station and Avalon, in order to attract energy and people into the 50-year-old complex. Groundbreaking will take place in 2018.

L-R kelley, Olsen, Randy Gold, Pres. AGH

The retail space will be opened up and the food court will be more like a piazza. “It’s such a great urban environment but there’s no good public space along Peachtree Street,” Kelley says. “We are designing Colony Square to draw people in from Peachtree and hang out.”

Coda, which is coming on board in 2019, bills itself a 24-hour gathering spot with dining and retail options, offices, showrooms, research facilities and a high-power computing center. One-third of the site will be devoted to public spaces. “Again, we want it like a piazza where people will meet, study, eat. We want them to enjoy the city more,” says Chris Bontrager, business unit leader for DPR Construction.

Similar to the other developments, Philips Arena, in its $150 million renovation, will provide a new openness with tiered suites, better sight-lines and audio visual upgrades everywhere, more amenities and connected concourses. “It will be an entire different look and experience,” says Zach Olsen, senior project manager for Turner Construction Company. “You will be able to walk completely around the arena, which you can’t do now. There’s going to be more openness, more restaurants where you can sit, drink a beer and still look out to the court.”

Olsen’s company is also involved with Three Alliance Center, which is being built on one of the last remaining available parcels of land in Buckhead. The 560,000 square foot of commercial space will be supported by a retail restaurant in the lobby and the parking lot is underground.

“The overall message for commercial real estate in Atlanta,” says Olsen,” is that we’re going to see long-term growth, and that’s a good thing.”

By Mary Welch


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