Downtown Atlanta about to see a $500 million-plus round of development?

Could something even greater than a deal to keep the Atlanta Hawks in a significantly overhauled Philips Arena be in the works for downtown? 

Philips Arena. AJC File Photo. (Kimberly Smith/staff)

Could Philips Arena soon have some serious development around it? AJC File Photo. (Kimberly Smith/staff)

Mayor Kasim Reed and the Hawks confirmed talks last week about a deal to renovate the arena. Reed called it a $150 million to $250 million project that might, among other things, undo the wall of suites that is out of fashion in the NBA.

But he also said something intriguing about downtown real estate at the end of this quote:

“I think in the next 120 to perhaps 180 days you’ll see a series of announcements related to Atlanta that are just stunning. Let’s look at the block around the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. …You are going to have an 800 (room) hotel that’s coming in between 250 and 350 million, you are going to have between 150 and 250 million going into retrofitting Philips Arena. You’ll probably see residential and commercial construction component around Philips Arena between 500 million and a billion.”

Reed declined to say in an interview after his talk at the Bisnow conference if any of the $500 million to $1 billion in possible residential and commercial construction “around” the arena would somehow involve the Hawks or actually be attached to or immediately adjacent the arena.

“Around” could be considered part of the general area. Either way, development of that scale would be profound.

It also begs questions, such as: Is it one project or more? Where exactly would such a high-dollar development(s) be built? And by whom?

The Atlanta Braves are in the vanguard of building a mixed-use entertainment district next to their new ballpark in Cobb County. Might the Hawks, led by new owners including billionaire Antony Ressler and basketball great Grant Hill, follow suit?

The Hawks’ former lead owner, Bruce Levenson, who was forced to sell the team after discovery of a racist email, talked with the AJC early last year about Philips’ future. The discussion included Levenson’s desire to have an entertainment district around it.

But the Hawks were largely mum last week with my colleague Chris Vivlamore beyond confirming the renovation talks and discussing some other improvements underway to player areas in the arena.

Reed’s statement about development around the arena doesn’t appear to be totally about things already planned. He’d already rattled off projects in his talk, such as the future 800-room hotel at the Georgia World Congress Center and other plans widely known to be in the pipeline.

AUGUST 24, 2015 ATLANTA Gov. Nathan Deal, Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Stephen Cannon and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed pose for photos with a model of the new stadium, Monday, August 24, 2015. KENT D. JOHNSON /KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

AUGUST 24, 2015 ATLANTA Gov. Nathan Deal, Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Stephen Cannon and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed pose for photos with a model of the new stadium, Monday, August 24, 2015. KENT D. JOHNSON /KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

The Falcons have a new stadium slated to open in 2017. Post Properties is working on an apartment development in the area.

A Hyatt House hotel recently opened along Marietta Street. The congress center’s governing board also is in talks to buy the Metro Atlanta Chamber headquarters to expand Centennial Olympic Park.

Beyond that, developer David Marvin of Legacy Property Group is working on fresh development plans in the area.

Marvin said in an interview he hadn’t heard of a project like what Reed mentioned, but there’s plenty to talk about within the Luckie Marietta District as it’s called.

Marvin’s group is working on a 300-room hotel near the Hilton Garden Inn he developed last decade. Legacy also recently acquired the downtown DoubleTree hotel that will be renovated.

The city’s hospitality community is on fire, he said. The Center for Civil and Human Rights and College Football Hall of Fame have added to the roster of attractions to help combat an unfair rap that there’s nothing to do downtown, he said.

“We’ve got a lot going for us,” Marvin said.

And the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported on Friday a few new tourist rides are to be added next to the downtown Ferris wheel.

There are still plenty of underused lots near the park and Philips Arena that could handle higher density development.

Hastily drawn map of Philips Arena area.

Hastily drawn map of Philips Arena area.

But that also got me wondering … Could 2016 finally become the year of the Gulch?

Don’t laugh. (OK, maybe laugh a little.)

Sure, it’s one of the spots in downtown that did yeoman’s work representing a dystopian zombie wasteland in The Walking Dead, but the unsightly tangle of railroad lines and parking lots around CNN Center and the Five Points MARTA station has gotten a lot of attention lately.

The $1.3 billion MGM National Harbor resort in Prince George's County, Md. Source: MGM Resorts International

The $1.3 billion MGM National Harbor resort in Prince George’s County, Md. The projecet could be a model for an Atlanta resort. Source: MGM Resorts International

MGM Resorts International looked at the sprawling property as part of its search for a location for a downtown casino complex near the city’s tourism district. MGM is a major proponent of a bill to allow Las Vegas-style gambling in Georgia.

For the record, Reed said he’s not convinced gambling is a good idea for Atlanta. (Given that and the uncertainty of gambling being legalized, he likely wasn’t talking about the $1 billion proposal from MGM.)

And what about plans for a new transit mega-terminal that would link together rail and buses in the center of downtown?

The terminal is a tantalizing $1.5 billion dream that’s come up about $1.5 billion short in funding and has never progressed much beyond talk.

A Norfolk-Southern train travels south close to the Mitchell Street bridge in the Gulch Tuesday afternoon in Atlanta, Ga., May 28, 2013. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

A Norfolk-Southern train travels south close to the Mitchell Street bridge in the Gulch Tuesday afternoon in Atlanta, Ga., May 28, 2013. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

A spokesman for railroad giant Norfolk Southern, which owns the lines that cross through the Gulch, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Atlanta was founded as a rail hub and the Gulch is a pretty busy corridor for both Norfolk Southern and CSX, both of which have seen freight traffic grow amid a prolonged, if slow, economic recovery. More is likely to come with the deepening of the Savannah port.

If a half-billion dollars in development or more is headed to a downtown spot near Philips Arena, the Gulch is about as big and open – if complicated – a spot as you can find.

Reader Comments 0

44 comments
CallMeStupid
CallMeStupid

If the Hawks want improvements they should pay for it. 

It's not like they are going to move somewhere else.

Zino
Zino

Kasim and his group will be wanting a big cut of all these new development millions downtown---they don't work for free!  Time to pay up!

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

Will someone please remind kaseem that the tooth must be placed in the middle of the pillow?  The Good Fairy doesn't have time to go looking for it!

C. Diff
C. Diff

As soon as MGM greases 'Hizzoner's' palm, ol' 'ka-SEE-um' will be their biggest cheerleader. But until then he'll hang onto the "I don't know if gambling would be good for Atlanta" schtick.

juliainatlanta
juliainatlanta

corporate welfare off the backs of average citizens is the American way.  just ask those ho's up on Capital Hill.

tinala
tinala

@juliainatlanta If you don't live in the City of Atlanta, this shouldn't and want affected you one way or the other. Just Sayin!

thewalkingdude
thewalkingdude

So, when is spending taxpayers' money for corporate welfare going to fall out of fashion? I can think of several ways the city could spend $180 million.

HANK55
HANK55

The Mayor is trying to keep up with his neighbors in Cobb County and is spending your tax money to do it. Typical Liberal Crap.

RichardPlenty
RichardPlenty

@tinala @HANK55 Unlike Atlanta those of us in Cobb are getting a return on our investment with lots of construction and the taxes that follow. Sorry if it doesn't fit your narrative.

tinala
tinala

@HANK55 I guess Tim Lee must have been a Liberal since he's spending Cobb's money on a deal he brokered and then didn't tell the community until the deal was done. Look out Cobb he now wants taxpayers to foot the bill for 6 transit buses for millions. Now who's the liberal spending up tax payers money?

Gov-waste
Gov-waste

I can't wait! This mayor has vision. When will it be safe to take your family DT and enjoy all these amenities? Why not build a roller-coaster around DT ATL, it would be better the the street car no where.


I hear the mayor is writing a book "How to waste money and increase crime". He's building all this to keep the thugs in business. I'm the victim on this one, should I be complaining?.

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@tinala 

"...As a subtopic- How To Get Taxpayers to pay taxes for Something They Didn't Ask for or get to Vote On!"

Uh, didn't kaseem also write that chapter in his book of "Atlanta's White Elephants?"  You know, the 'streetcar fiasco?'

tinala
tinala

@youlibtards I heard Tim Lee was writing a book called How To Pull The Wool Over the People of Cobb County and not Tell Them Until The Deal Is Done. As a subtopic- How To Get Taxpayers to pay taxes for Something They Didn't Ask for or get to Vote On!

RichardPlenty
RichardPlenty

@tinala @youlibtards Unlike Atlanta those of us in Cobb are getting a return on our investment with lots of construction and the taxes that follow. Sorry if it doesn't fit your narrative.

MoFaux
MoFaux

@RichardPlenty @tinala @youlibtards  A Return on Investment isn't all that helpful if said Investment is much much greater than said Return.  Your Return will always be significantly less than your Investment.

skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

Reed legacy---sink the city's money into unnecessary stadiums and improvements while crime goes up and up.

Mike
Mike

This dufus mayor lost the Braves, that will be his legacy.

CallMeStupid
CallMeStupid

@Mike Don't forget he did not care one way another about the Thrashers. I understand the problems surrounding the situation but at least show some concern. Not only did will lose our team but also 41 home games of work for employees of Philips Arena. 

NightWatcher
NightWatcher

Hopefully they will spend a LITTLE money making 41 a safe and decent road.  The GWCC and stadiums on one side and abject "bad neighborhood" not a 100 yards away across 41.   So far, all the money poured in the GA Dome, the GWCC expansions, and now the new dome have resulted in almost no changes in the sorrounding area.  It's still a lousy spithole nobody would want to be in even during the day.   This is way overdue for change.

Look at how much Cobb is putting into redoing the area around the new Braves stadium.  What has Atlanta done like that?  Fanplex?   Exactly.  

CallMeStupid
CallMeStupid

It gets even worse. Recently I had a  job that had me spend two days at the Georgia Dome. After years of going to Falcons games  it was interesting to see the inner workings of the building.  But that is not the point.

I spent my down time  walking around the loading dock, access tunnels, and other areas I had never seen before. After looking around it made me even more annoyed with the way the city has handled our sports teams.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Georgia Dome.  No cracks in the walls , no peeling paint, no water leaks, no nothing. The structure , from what I saw , is solid. If it could be picked up and moved many other cities would buy it immediately.


cinthea
cinthea

@CallMeStupid they are making a new dome to get a bid for the superbowl. we needed something flashy to get their attention. 

say it again
say it again

You cannot make a silk purse out of a sows ear until the city is SAFE .

50Concept
50Concept

the city has plenty of money to pay these team billionaires whatever they want for new stadiums, upgrades, etc! just jack up sales taxes and property taxes to pay whatever they demand!!  It's only money!

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

At the very least, it will give the car jacking Pros an additional customer base

rdamrak
rdamrak

Bad location with terrible traffic and zero connections to the Interstates. Area known for long backups on antiquated surface streets with short timed lights.  We can build a Buckhead loop but cannot connect the last growing area in downtown to an interstate, pathetic.

druidhills
druidhills

@rdamrak Try getting out of your car and taking the train. Remember, you're not stuck in traffic, you ARE traffic. 

Ned Ludd
Ned Ludd

Thankfully we have a trolley car to help ferry all these folks around town!

John Galt 47
John Galt 47

So basically he's doing for the Hawks what the Braves tried to get them to do for years. Between this and the new football stadium, I'm going to step out on a limb and say Reed is not a big baseball fan.

LEcho
LEcho

All these millions of $s in a city that still suffers from blight, overwhelming gentrification, insufficient public transit and clustertcrap traffic problems. 


Hey but its alright as long as when ppl from out of town come to events they overlook how crappy everything outside is. 

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

@LEcho  overwhelming gentrification.........what does that mean exactly?

White people can live where they want, right?

If people want to let their neighborhoods go to chit, then don't get angry (like the idiot Mayor) when people buy up property when the bottom falls out of the prices.

CallMeStupid
CallMeStupid

@Iluvnutella

  It is a simple formula.

                Moving out = White Flight

                Moving in  = Gentrification

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

@CallMeStupid @Iluvnutella  My point was meant toward the adjective BEFORE gentrification. I will call you stupid if you want me too.

Hey, if the shoe fits........

Overwhelming......u DO know what that means, right?

How does the city SUFFER in that regard?

Don't worry, I'll wait.

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

@CallMeStupid @Iluvnutella  No, but it is a derogatory statement toward a certain segment of the population when the adjectives are added, at least in the English language.

CallMeStupid
CallMeStupid

@Iluvnutella @CallMeStupid  Since you insist on dwelling on such minutiae... 

The adjectives do not alter the fact that the verb itself is considered, by some, to be derogatory.