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Brian McGowan named president of Centennial Yards

Brian McGowan

Brian McGowan, when he was president and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta

The Centennial Yards Co., owner and master developer of the Centennial Yards district in downtown Atlanta, announced Thursday in a release that it has named former Atlantan Brian McGowan as its president.

“We are pleased Brian, an established Atlantan with a successful history of advancing economic development projects, has joined the Centennial Yards Company,” said Richard Ressler, co-founder and principal of CIM Group. “His experience and expertise are uniquely suited for this role, and we are confident he will assist us in attracting top corporations to the development, as well as create an exciting open-air space for dining, shopping and entertainment.”

Brian McGowan

Brian McGowan, when he was president and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The Centennial Yards district is the largest sports and entertainment real estate project in the United States, anchored by billions of dollars of recently completed public and private investments including Mercedes-Benz Stadium, freshly renovated State Farm Arena, recently expanded Georgia World Congress Center and a renovated Centennial Olympic Park.

The district has already firmly established itself as a vibrant commercial and residential area, with adjacent Castleberry Hill neighborhood adding thousands of residential units over the past decade.  Centennial Yards is slated to add 12 million square feet of ground-up residential, retail, office and entertainment space, with occupancy commencing in late 2023.  In addition, occupancy is starting this year on 275,000 square feet at Centennial Yard South.

With more than 16 million annual visitors to downtown and located between Atlanta University Center, Georgia State and Georgia Tech, Centennial Yards provides a unique home for corporations seeking access to a diverse talent pool and unprecedented brand visibility in a single-building or campus environment.

McGowan BeltLine

Brian McGowan addressing people attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the BeLtLine’s one-mile extension of the Eastside Trail in 2017 (Photo by Maria Saporta)

McGowan served former president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, former executive vice president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and president and CEO of the Atlanta Beltline Inc.  Most recently, McGowan served as CEO of Greater Seattle Partners, a public-private partnership created to advance economic growth and competitiveness in one of the country’s top tech markets.

“I’m thrilled to come back to the city I love and lead a team who is building one of the most impactful urban renewal projects in America,” said McGowan. “Centennial Yards already is one of the most important projects in Atlanta’s rich history of being an international gateway city and home to many global brands – a spectacular place to show the world our city’s unique culture and how Atlanta influences everything.

Equally important is that Centennial Yards has begun to create new opportunities for prosperity and inclusion – creating new jobs and housing opportunities for Atlantans.”

The April 27, 2021 ribbon cutting for CIM’s “The Lofts at Centennial Yards” (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Centennial Yards was an area previously known as ‘the Gulch,’ a 19th Century railroad junction that dates back to the beginnings of the city.  Over time it became a vast undeveloped area that was 40 feet below street level and consisted of railroad infrastructure and parking.

There were many failed attempts to address the chronically underdeveloped area by state, city and business organizations until 2018, when the City of Atlanta approved the development plan under the majority ownership of the CIM Group. At full buildout, Centennial Yards will include over a dozen new city blocks of residential, commercial, retail and entertainment uses, spanning two MARTA stations.

In a statement, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms expressed support for McGowan’s appointment.

“The Centennial Yards development is one of the most transformative economic development opportunities in decades,” Bottoms said. “It is good to know they have named a president who has experience working in Atlanta and who understands our goal of creating affordable housing and economic mobility for the people of Atlanta.”

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Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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  1. Anna Foote May 20, 2021 3:28 pm

    Maria, Brian never worked for the Beltline.Report

  2. Robert Johnson May 21, 2021 4:18 pm

    He was CEO for 11 months. Did not last but maybe 2 years in Seattle. And didn’t he say when moving there how happy he was to get back to the west coast, Curious that CIM would hire a guy who appears to have trouble holding a jobReport

    1. Greg Allen Hodges May 25, 2021 3:36 pm

      Hey, in certain circles, job hopping is all the rage these days. Longevity in a position where success can be measured is no longer a key hallmark of someone’s career.Report


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