Midtown Atlanta’s Colony Square was decades ahead of its time. Now, the venerable mix of office towers and a shopping mall is about to play catch-up with the modern era.
This week, noted developer North American Properties and equity partner Lionstone Investments closed on their purchase of the towers at 14th and Peachtree streets.
The duo has some intriguing ideas about how to remake Jim Cushman’s forward-thinking office complex — including taking the top off of the mall at the base of the skyscrapers — but they also want to know what the community thinks should be part of Colony Square’s revitalization.
“Over the decades, the Midtown neighborhood around Colony Square flourished while the iconic building became sleepy and tired,” North American Managing Partner Mark Toro said in a news release. “On July 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of Colony Square’s groundbreaking, we will celebrate the grand opening of the reimagined Colony Square. We will engage with the city, with the street and with pedestrians, and it will fundamentally change the experience of living and working in Midtown Atlanta.”
A person familiar with the situation said the buyers paid more than $160 million for the complex. SunTrust Banks is the lender in the deal, the person said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in October reported NAP was under contract to buy Colony Square. Toro and his team until now have said little about their plans at Colony Square, and the AJC hopes to talk to the NAP team as soon as today.
Cushman developed Colony Square, a mix of shops, restaurants, a hotel, residential and office towers in a project that was decades ahead of its time by Atlanta’s standards. Today, mixed-use is on everyone’s development radar, but in the 1960s, it was a rarity.
In the release, the development partners said they plan to make the retail component open-air and re-energize the space with new merchants and restaurants.
NAP is the developer behind Alpharetta’s Avalon mixed-use community, and teamed with CBRE Global Investors in a successful turnaround of Atlantic Station. The CBRE and NAP team recently sold the retail core of Atlantic Station for a tidy profit after buying it during the depths of the region’s real estate collapse.
The NAP philosophy has centered on “experiential” retail, featuring unique brands and luxury hotel-like customer service. Those attributes are expected to feature prominently at Colony Square.
The acquisition could be well-timed. The Midtown office market is tightening as companies seek digs near Georgia Tech and the MARTA spine and the Colony Square campus is located at a the prime corner of 14th and Peachtree streets. Local assets include the Woodruff Arts Center, the Four Seasons hotel and the W Hotel Midtown next door (the latter was once part of the complex, but was not part of the sale).
Colony Square was listed for sale earlier this year by a joint venture including New York real estate giant Tishman Speyer and Rialto Capital.
“We are extremely pleased to have Colony Square as the second investment in our new value add fund,” Lionstone Investments Senior Vice President Tom Paterson said in the release. “We look forward to working with NAP to re-engage the project to the street level and provide a truly differentiated use environment in Midtown. Our goal is to create something that is truly irreplaceable at the corner of 14th and Peachtree.”
The new owners are seeking input from the community and is expected to be patient with its plans. The developers plan to join forces with the Midtown Alliance to “adopt” the Arts District Plaza to hold events for complex tenants as well as the public, the release said. The developers also are launching a hashtag to connect with the community: #ReimagineCS.
“As with our other mixed-use projects, we will curate the right tenant mix, layer in resort-inspired hospitality and exceptional experiences, to significantly and positively impact the value of the development,” Toro said. “Our first step is to listen to the community stakeholders and guests as they are integral to the transformation. We look forward to premiering Colony Square – the Sequel.”