By Douglas Sams and Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Jan. 16, 2015
The new $260 million NCR Corp. headquarters campus in Midtown is the city’s largest infusion of jobs in recent memory, a move that could spark more residential towers, stores and restaurants, and corporate relocations to the cultural and entertainment heart of Atlanta.
The technology giant announced Jan. 13 it was moving its current Duluth, Ga., headquarters to Midtown by Georgia Tech.
NCR has few peers when it comes to an immediate economic impact. AT&T houses 5,000 at its Midtown offices, but the company grew to that size in stages. Turner Broadcasting, which also has a large Midtown campus, employs about 1,500.
NCR would put 3,600 jobs on its 4-acre campus at 8th and Spring streets at Technology Square. It has the site under contract.
The current site plan calls for a mix of 8-story to 10-story buildings with up to 1.5 million square feet of office, hotel and potentially retail space to serve the city’s booming startup community around Georgia Tech.
NCR could tweak that plan. It has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the first phase of the project, which could reach 250,000 square feet.
The new headquarters is “a major endorsement of the ecosystem of talent and innovation around Georgia Tech,” said Kevin Green, president and CEO of Midtown Alliance. “It’s exciting to imagine what this area is going to look like in another 10 years.”
“It’s going to strengthen the retail of Midtown, it’s going to add to the residential density, and it’s going to make other companies both large and small start to think about moving closer to NCR and Georgia Tech,” said Bob Voyles, CEO of developer Seven Oaks Co. LLC.
Seven Oaks had worked on several proposals to develop the site at 8th and Spring, known as Centergy North, before NCR came along.
“This is a major intown move,” said Andy Ghertner, an executive vice president with Cushman & Wakefield.
“The number of employees this will attract to Midtown, presumably millennials, is dramatic and shows that Georgia Tech and these incubator spaces have become a major draw,” he said.
Technology Square in Midtown — a project Georgia Tech launched more than a decade ago — helped attract NCR. The company was pitched other sites across metro Atlanta, including at least one site in Midtown closer to 17th Street.
But, Tech Square has emerged as one of the nation’s fastest-growing innovation districts, known for its blend of established companies and startups centered around a university.
“Tech Square is ground zero for innovation and technology talent, so it should come as no surprise that NCR should choose this as the location for their headquarters and really become another anchor in the project,” said John Shlesinger, a vice chairman at CBRE Inc.
“Midtown has always been a desirable place to live,” said Steve Baile, a top executive with Daniel Corp., a developer behind the 12th & Midtown mixed-use project. “The housing demand has always been here. But we’ve also had this retail initiative for a long time and the only way to make it work is to get the type of critical mass this NCR project brings.”
Baile added, “Anytime you have a Fortune 500 company with a project this size it’s going to spur other office tenants to look in the area.”
John Heagy, senior managing director with the developer Hines, said “NCR is a company that needs Georgia Tech. Its future employees are classic Georgia Tech students. This move to Midtown makes all the sense in the world.”
In 2009, Georgia officials convinced NCR to move its headquarters from Dayton, Ohio, and the company eventually chose an existing office development in Duluth, Ga., at Interstate 85 and Gwinnett Place Mall. For years, Gwinnett Place was a healthy suburban mall surrounded by an ever-growing sea of the biggest names in American retail. But, over the past decade it struggled to lure investment and spark job growth on the same scale as other parts of metro Atlanta.
The Midtown headquarters helps create the “NCR of the future,” Marija Zivanovic-Smith, the company’s vice president of global government programs, said Jan. 14 at a City of Atlanta Finance/Executive Committee meeting.
“We chose Atlanta for several reasons,” she said, including “innovation, prestigious academic institutions, and a corporate presence.”
She added that it was a good location to “shape the future of technology.”
City of Atlanta economic development officials are sweetening the deal to keep the headquarters project moving. Incentives for NCR would approach $3.2 million (from the Economic Opportunity Fund). The proposal will go to the City Council Jan. 20.
The new Midtown campus could be developed by early 2018.