City seeks proposals to redevelop Atlanta Civic Center

By Douglas Sams and Maria Saporta

City officials are seeking proposals to redevelop the 20-acre Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, with goals of turning the campus into the heart of a “24-hour urban environment” featuring a mix of housing, stores, offices and film and TV studios.

The city’s economic development arm, Invest Atlanta, issued the request for proposals, or RFP. It plans to pick a finalist to buy and redevelop the Civic Center in December. It wants to reach an agreement to sell the site by next April.

The RFP comes on the heels of several developers expressing city interest in the site. Some have initial designs for the project.

The city is seeking proposals that include a mix of residential, office and retail space. It wants the project to support the expansion of workforce housing. It also hopes the redevelopment of the Civic Center can spark investment just south of North Avenue and better connect the district to the Old Fourth Ward.

The city is playing a hot hand — urban investment and redevelopment. Nationally, central business districts office vacancy has dropped to 12.6 percent, its lowest level since early 2009, according to real estate services giant Cushman & Wakefield. Companies are gravitating to urban markets, where they have signed 60.4 million square feet of leases through the end of September.

“Corporate America is actively expanding and working to position itself for the millennial workforce, which by 2020 is expected to make up more than half of the labor pool,” Cushman & Wakefield said.

Manhattan, Chicago and San Francisco are leading the urban redevelopment trend. Atlanta officials believe the city should also be near the top of that list, and that redevelopment sites such as the Civic Center can help it get there.

“Downtown Atlanta is experiencing an era of new investment, including new civic and cultural attractions such as the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the College Football Hall of Fame, the new Atlanta Falcons Stadium, and the Atlanta Streetcar,” according to the 13-page RFP.

The Civic Center has been considered as a potential redevelopment before, and even three years ago, before the economy picked up again, the city was seeking options for the site. This time, developers are once again buying into the idea.

Atlanta Business Chronicle reported in August the developer Carter was proposing a project on the Civic Center campus. It was forming a team focused on entertainment-oriented developments and movie-television production facilities.

At the time, Carter officials have had a number of conversations with a potential studio operator. Carter’s proposal was only one of several. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed also confirmed speculation that Pinewood Studios was interested in the Civic Center.

After the steepest recession in decades, Atlanta is rebounding, attracting billions of dollars to its urban core and seeing cranes return to the skyline. Last year alone, the city’s intown properties, including trophy buildings, mixed-use developments and apartment towers, attracted almost $1.4 billion in new investment, according to data from Real Capital Analytics, a New York firm that tracks real estate deals. That’s the most since $1.9 billion in 2007, the last good year before the market collapsed.

Douglas Sams covers real estate for the Atlanta Business Chronicle

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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