WRS Sells Underground Atlanta To Local Developer
WRS is giving up the ghost on Underground Atlanta and selling to a local entrepreneur.
Billionaires Funding Group is acquiring Underground Atlanta from WRS for an undisclosed sum, the firm announced Wednesday. WRS, the development firm out of South Carolina, purchased Underground Atlanta for $34.6M in 2017, a deal that then-Mayor Kasim Reed called “another milestone in the revitalization of South Downtown Atlanta,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time.
But since its purchase, there has been little movement toward redevelopment under WRS' ownership.
Shaneel Lalani, the CEO of Billionaires Funding, is described in a press release as a retail entrepreneur who bought his first real estate property in 2012. Today the firm's portfolio encompasses more than 1M SF of retail and office space, mainly value-add deals. Lalani also heads up Lucky Fortune, a coin-operated amusement machine company that works with the Georgia Lottery Corp.
It wasn't clear as of press time where Lalani is obtaining capital or financing for the project. When reached by phone, Lalani deferred all questions to his public relations team at The Wilbert Group. Officials with Wilbert declined to disclose the purchase price but said Lalani's company is funding the purchase without any other debt or equity involved. WRS did not return calls seeking comment as of press time.
“The investment happening in Downtown has created the opportunity for Underground Atlanta to finally become what it was always meant to be: A vibrant, highly animated retail and entertainment destination that enlivens the streets, with residential, hotel and office uses overhead,” Lalani said in the release. “Collaboration is key to the success of this redevelopment. Collaboration with the city, collaboration with best-in-class partners and collaboration with our neighbors. Underground Atlanta has long been a part of the fabric of this city. We will do what’s right to elevate the district to its highest and best use.”
Lalani said the focus on redevelopment will be on Block Two, the northwest corner of Underground Atlanta that was originally targeted by WRS in conjunction with a residential partner, Prestwick Cos. That deal fell apart earlier this year, according to Curbed Atlanta, and WRS had been silent on Underground Atlanta since.
Lalani said in the release that Block Two would comprise multifamily, retail and parking. But the initial move is to draw up a feasibility study for the district, he said in the release.
“Lalani is focused on bringing together a team of top real estate experts to collaborate on the project, including civil engineers, urban planners, architects and JV partners,” officials said in the release. “Lalani’s real estate company has the financial strength and stability to develop the project on its own, though he is open to exploring partnerships with the right investors. He intends to retain an ownership stake in each parcel to ensure consistency throughout the district.”
This is a developing story.