By Douglas Sams and Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on December 19, 2014
On the heels of an agreement to buy Underground Atlanta, city officials have at least three proposals to spark another major redevelopment — the 20-acre Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center.
Atlanta developer Carter, leading a team involving EUE Screen Gems Studios, has submitted a proposal for the site. So has commercial real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. (JLL), part of a team featuring the comedian and television host Steve Harvey. Harvey would anchor the entertainment concept. He is the host of TV game show “Family Feud,” which is filmed on the Civic Center campus.
Ackerman & Co., led by well-known Atlanta developer Charlie Ackerman, has also submitted a plan to redevelop the civic center site. Few details of the proposal are certain, but it may feature a large residential component, sources familiar with the process say.
It isn’t the first time Charlie Ackerman has been inspired by the site’s potential. In 1986, he proposed five office buildings ranging from five to 10 stories, a 300-unit residential tower and a 300-room hotel on the site.
Speculation also exists that an Asian investor might have submitted a proposal for the Civic Center, but that could not be confirmed as of press time.
The city’s economic development arm, Invest Atlanta, issued the request for proposals, or RFP, earlier this fall. It wants to reach an agreement to sell the site by April.
The city may have hoped for at least $40 million for the site, people with knowledge of the plans say.
The RFP never specified a price, though. Some of the offers came in at far less than $30 million, sources said. Mayor Kasim Reed’s office has been tight-lipped about the redevelopment. It could not be reached for comment about the Civic Center.
The site is one of the city’s most intriguing — and most challenging. It has been talked about as a redevelopment for years but nothing has ever come together.
The site remains a possible catalyst for investment and renovation on the north side of downtown, perhaps as meaningful as Ponce City Market — the former Sears, Roebuck and Co. building — as a stimulus for development in the nearby Old Fourth Ward.
“I think the east side of Atlanta continues to develop, and large parcels like the Civic Center offer a connection between downtown and Midtown and projects such as Ponce City Market,” said Abe Schear, co-chair of the retail industry team with the law firm Arnall Golden Gregory LLP.
The project is another example of how investors and developers have focused on redeveloping the urban core since the late 1990s.
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, and it may exceed that pace this year.
Outside of “The Gulch,” a collection of parking lots and other properties around CNN Center and near the Georgia Dome, the Civic Center is one of the largest intown sites the city wants to redevelop.
A South Carolina investment firm just reached an agreement to pay almost $26 million for Underground, 12 acres of downtown real estate near Georgia State University.
GSU is also working with Carter on a proposal to redevelop Turner Field once the Braves relocate to SunTrust Park in 2017.
“It’s going to be increasingly difficult to find parcels as large and as proximate to so many parts of the city — and as well known — as the Civic Center,” Schear said.
City officials have big hopes for the site.
They would like developers to turn the campus into the heart of a 24-hour urban environment featuring a mix of housing, stores, offices and film and TV studios.
Earlier this year, Carter bandied about one of the most ambitious ideas yet for the site.
The concept included film and television studios surrounded by a performing arts center, a hotel, and a mix of residential, office and retail that could transform the downtown Civic Center property into a regional tourist destination.
Carter has scaled back those plans in its latest proposal, people with knowledge of the process say.
One advantage is the site’s downtown Atlanta location.
The Civic Center sits near Atlanta’s largest hotels and the center of the city’s bustling convention business.
That makes any redevelopment of the Civic Center a likely tourist destination.