Why the GM Site Could be the Next Mega Mixed-Use Project
While Integral Group is “light years” away from any meaningful development at Doraville's former General Motors assembly plant (well, compared to Ponce City Market at least), CEO Egbert Perry (here with EDT-THA Architecture's Fred Fatemi) says there are reasons the site is like a “hole in the doughnut” to the metro area: it has I-285 access and frontage, is served by both heavy rail and is adjacent to MARTA's Doraville station, and it's just two miles away from DeKalb Peachtree Airport. “There is a reason GM was there for sixty-something years. It's very well situated,” Egbert told our audience of more than 450 this morning at Bisnow's Atlanta 2015 Forecast event at the W Hotel in Midtown.
Egbert was joined on the panel by some of the city's biggest developers: Jamestown's Matt Bronfman (not pictured), Transwestern's Clark Dean, AGH's Wes Hudson (who moderated our panel), Portman Holdings CEO Ambrish Baisiwala and North American Properties' Mark Toro. Egbert says GM is somewhat of a cross between a traditional redevelopment site with existing area demand and a site like the former Techwood Homes, which required an entire revision of the site (that eventually turned into the successful Centennial Place community just prior to the '96 Olympics). “The more difficult assignment is when you have a blank sheet of paper. How do you create the 'there' there?” he says. “GM for us is sort of in-between” due to some affluence in nearby communities. “We expect it to be one of the great urban nodes.”
Ambrish says the current geopolitical and macroeconomic environment is helping both real estate investment in Atlanta and the US. But for how long remains to be seen. Atlanta has come to the recovery later than other US cities, so there's more runway for our economic growth. Couple that with Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the logistics industry, Atlanta becomes more attractive to investors. “I think there's a window, and I don't know how long that window is, but we're in a good place right now,” he says.
Other panelists chimed in on Atlanta's current economic outlook:
- “To some degree, that's the tallest midget in the circus phenomenon. Compared to the rest of the world, we're doing very well,” Matt (here) says.
- Egbert says investors view Atlanta as a strong long-term investment option. But he also quips: “I also heard something: The US. We suck less.”
- Clark called the US the best “anti-fragile” market in the world, especially compared to European malaise, Russian aggression and China economic uncertainties. “As bad as the problems we have right now with deficits… right now, we're still the most anti-fragile market in which to invest.”