Centennial Yards begins its $5 billion redevelopment journey with “The Lofts”The April 27, 2021 ribbon cutting for CIM's "The Lofts at Centennial Yards" (Photo by Kelly Jordan)
By Maria Saporta
The first step in the massive redevelopment of Atlanta’s railroad gulch began Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Lofts at Centennial Yards.
The Lofts at Centennial Yards South at 125 Ted Turner will include 162 loft-style apartments and will be available for residency later this summer. The former headquarters of Southern Railway, vacant for years, will become part of a planned $5 billion project that will cover 50 acres and eventually include up to 12 million square feet of retail, office, entertainment and residential.
Tony Ressler, the principal owner of the Atlanta Hawks who has been integrally involved with the Centennial Yards development, said all great cities have great downtowns.
Remembering when he bought the Atlanta Hawks five years ago, Ressler said “the fact that we didn’t have an extraordinary downtown didn’t make sense to any of us.”
The “us” included his brother – Richard Ressler – founder and a principal of the CIM group, the development and investment firm that has assembled the 50 acres. The master assembler and developer of Centennial Yards is a partnership between an affiliate of CIM Group and a group led by Tony Ressler.
“This is an extraordinary event,” Tony Ressler said Tuesday. “It must be said the No. 1 objective is bringing true vitality downtown.”
The press conference and ribbon-cutting also highlighted several other milestones including the completion of 160 Trinity office development.
Developers also announced the beginning of construction at 99 Ted Turner into a creative office (that will open in late 2021), the development of the Canyon, a 740-foot-long pedestrian promenade with retail, dining and event destination, and 185 Ted Turner office project.
In all, Centennial Yards South will include about 80,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 square feet of retail space on two levels spanning both buildings.
CIM has demolished the Nelson Street pedestrian bridge, and it will be building a new pedestrian bridge that will connect that section of downtown with Castleberry Hill and the Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Devon McCorkle, managing director of the CIM Group, said this phase of the Centennial Yards development will encompass the first six acres of the 50-acre site. He also said CIM has completed a bond validation process for this phase of the project.
“We will be breaking ground on the infrastructure for 25 percent of the project,” said Shannon Cromwell, a vice president of CIM Group.
With the bond validation, CIM will make the first payment ($4.66 million) on its $30 million commitment for an affordable housing fund.
“It feels fantastic,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said about the progress of the Centennial Yards development. “This has been one of the hardest lifts in my first term in office.”
Later she said Centennial Yards “will be the largest development in the Southeast in the last 30 years.”
The name of the Centennial Yards development harks back to Atlanta’s origins as a railroad town. Three lines converged into a commercial center that later emerged as downtown Atlanta.
Until the early 1970s, two grand railroad stations – Terminal Station and Union Station – adorned the area. At one time, dozens of passenger trains served those stations every day – helping make the area a bustling commercial center.
Over the years, the area declined – and the railroad gulch has been a big, empty hole in downtown Atlanta for decades. Rail lines were removed and replaced with surface parking lots. There have been countless plans to build a multimodal passenger station as part of the redevelopment of the site.
When asked if the Centennial Yards development would incorporate plans for the area to return as a transit hub, Ressler said the focus has been on getting the “right mix” of retail, entertainment, office and residences.
“All discussions are on the table,” Bottoms said when asked about plans to have transit station as part of the development. “We heard Tony talk about connectivity. Because it’s not happening doesn’t mean it won’t happen at a later time.”
Then she added: “We are still on a rail line.”