5 Reasons You Should Feel Good About Atlanta Development
Atlanta is back. In a big way. The spate of big development projects have even surpassed those in the run-up to the 1996 Summer Olympics.
We got together some of the city's top developers for our 3rd Annual Atlanta Construction & Development Summit at the St. Regis this week. Here are the top 5 reasons why development is looking up:
1. BIG INVESTORS NO LONGER BLACKLIST US
Regent Partners' Adam Allman says that two or three years ago, institutional investors had blacklisted investing in Atlanta. No more. Now that we're adding jobs, money is hungry for real estate. Adam says he was “blown away” about the interest in Concourse Corporate Center (and no mention of our story about Songy Highroads potentially being the top bidder). “We had one group who told us that through their own market research…Atlanta was their No. 1 market in the country for rent growth. Just that shift over the last couple of years has changed the quality profile” of Atlanta, he says.
2. RECESSION INVESTORS ARE ABOUT TO MAKE IT BIG
Seven Oaks Co's Bob Voyles says those who did invest in office during the Great Recession are about to reap the reward for taking that risk. With most economists predicting steady job gains for metro Atlanta, institutional investors are even now eyeing financing new office projects. “Even a year ago, you would never have heard anybody talk about that,” he says.
3. GOVERNMENT'S NEW ATTITUDE ON DEVELOPMENT
Pope & Land Enterprises' Mason Zimmerman (here) says if the Great Recession taught municipalities one thing, it's that development is ultimately not the enemy. “I think municipalities came back for the most part…with a different attitude about job growth and economic development and working with developers,” Mason says. There are still projects and places in metro Atlanta where development can still be a fight, but he notes overall discussions are “healthier” than in years past. And Bob says the City of Atlanta's SPI district format is an ideal way to get politics out of the zoning process and give communities more time to comment on projects. “That's one of the reasons Midtown and these districts are thriving,” he says.
4. HR DEPARTMENT IS DRIVING CORPORATE LOCATIONS
KDC's Alex Chambers says it's now the corporate HR department that's driving where companies locate offices because the focus is attracting and retaining talent. That often means access to transit (such as State Farm's big stated reason for KDC's project in Central Perimeter). And that has translated to office landlords in areas with MARTA access seeing some of the region's highest rents, Bob says. “Atlanta has taken a long time to develop its love affair with MARTA,” he says.
5. BELTLINE IS 'TRANSFORMATIONAL'
Our panel—moderated by DLA Piper and Atlanta City Council president Ceasar Mitchell (here)—expressed near-universal love for the Beltline. “I think a lot of the opportunities are coming around the Beltline, and that's going to be a huge game-changer,” Jamestown's Jim Irwin says. Bob says that the Beltline will do more for the region than any other redevelopment effort. “If the core of the city is healthy, it will spill over. If the TSPLOST had passed, and I was king of the forest, I would have mandated that all of it go to fund transit around the Beltline because I think that it is absolutely transformational,” he says. And Mason adds that the west portion of the Beltline—English Avenue and Vine City—are the “great frontier” of development. “Someday it looks like you have to believe that development will go that way as it had done to the east. Who would believe 15 years ago that the entire Fourth Ward would be transformed the way it is now?”