By David Pendered
Atlanta has never been bashful about allowing old buildings to be razed and replaced by new ones, sometimes with little consideration of the aesthetics of the new structure. That era is over, at least for the moment, and the outcome of Atlanta’s new emphasis on beauty is to be built along Peachtree Street in Midtown.
The architectural design of this future building provides a physical shape to words written by Ryan Gravel in the city’s visioning document that he helped oversee, Atlanta City Design: Aspiring to the Beloved Community. Gravel wrote in his preface:
- “The Atlanta City Design is the intentional shaping of the city to reflect our shared values, meet our opportunities and achieve our goals. … Love is important in city design because with love comes empathy and respect for the people and places around us. Love leads us to make better decisions about how the city is put together….”
To achieve an exterior design that may mark the shift toward the implementation of this philosophy, the city partnered with Midtown Alliance and Noble Investment Group on a hotel Noble intends to build.
The site could not have a higher profile – the southwest corner of intersection of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue, located at the confluence of Midtown and Downtown Atlanta. As such, the location presented an optimal opportunity to Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane and his colleagues in the department to put the premises of Atlanta City Design into practice.
Noble’s initial design of the building followed that of a modern mid-rise office tower, according to a rendering the city released. It wasn’t dissimilar to the Georgia Pacific Tower or the 191 Peachtree Tower, both in the city’s central business district.
The main entrance faced the corner of the intersection. There appear to be doorways opening into potential retail spaces on the ground level. This corner of the building offsets the other faces of the structure to provide the scant bit of texture on the exterior of the building.
There were no visual connections on the exterior as the building rose into the sky.
This plain facade culminated at the rooftop with no frills to accent any sense of exhilaration that mankind had, again, reached toward the stars.
Keane saw other opportunities, according to a statement released by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ administration:
- “It is critically important that Atlanta expect more from its designers and more of its buildings. City Planning is focused on design at every scale, so we can make a more vibrant public realm in Atlanta. Buildings are essential to this.”
Over the course of about three months, the city, Noble and Midtown Alliance collaborated to tweak the exterior design. The goal was for it to be more in keeping with surrounding architectural icons built in the early 20th century – The Fox Theater, Georgian Terrace Hotel and Ponce Condos.
An unspoken desire may have been to avoid replicating the design of the Georgia Proton Treatment Center, at the northeast corner of Peachtree Street and North Avenue. The exterior design offers few visual frills and little interaction with passersby on either street.
The city green-lighted the design and didn’t backtrack even when it might have had a chance to intervene. That moment occurred when Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm, provided the building’s second development team with a subsidy of $388.4 million in 2017.
The design of the future hotel now harkens to the graceful lines of Ponce Condos and Georgia Terrace.
The main entrance now is topped by a transparent transom filled with arches of glass that fan out in a shape reminiscent of a gothic cathedral. The facade of the building is now punctuated with rectangular columns not unlike the ones removed from the Woodward Arts Center. The top of the central portion of the structure now is topped by a slight accent.
Noble is delighted with the outcome, according to Ben Brunt, the company’s principal and executive vice president.
“We wanted a building that represented the fabric of Midtown, and one that our community would be proud of,” he said in a statement. “This collaborative approach benefited all of us. We are thrilled with the result.”
As is Midtown Alliance, which since 1978 has worked to groom the neighborhood.
“We like to work with developers early in the process and strive to raise the bar to achieve buildings that stand the test of time.” said Ginny Kennedy, the group’s director of urban design. “The hotel project proposed on this prominent site was a perfect chance to work together with City Planning and the developer to design a building that people will admire today, tomorrow and 100 years from now.”
Keane observed the city’s intervention in the design of the hotel is just the start of the new era.
“We intend to work in a productive way with developers like we did with Noble to improve the architecture in all of Atlanta,” Keane said.