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Aerotropolis Needs Housing To Sustain Retail, Office Ambitions

College Park Economic Development Director Artie Jones, on far left next to Atlantic Pacific Real Estate Group Senior Managing Partner Brett Duke, details the city's plans for its plot of undeveloped land at Airport City.

As College Park looks to redevelop former Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International land into a mixed-use project with offices, hotels and retail, it is going to need housing to feed all those uses.

That was the message from College Park Economic Development Director Artie Jones during Bisnow's The Future of Aerotropolis event last week. From 1980 to 2010, College Park lost two-thirds of its population as Hartsfield expanded. To accommodate the expansion, Atlanta purchased and demolished hundreds of homes to help with noise reduction efforts for the airport.

Part of the plan to redevelop the area includes bringing back residents by building some 700 multifamily units and single-family homes, Jones said. Now, College Park has its hands on 320 acres of that unused land, which officials plan to transform into a sprawling mixed-use project.

“College Park for some time has been a pass-through," Jones said. "It has been a pass-through to get to the airport. We're trying to change that. We're trying to capture a percentage of those travelers to spend time in College Park."

SK Commercial Realty Office President Tom Parker details his project plans for Atlanta's Southside during Bisnow's Future of Aerotropolis Atlanta in 2019

Jones was part of a lineup of officials and developers who operate in the Aerotropolis area south of Downtown Atlanta next to the airport. The panels included Grove Street Partners President Kevin Kern, OA Development founder Steve Berman, Robinson Weeks Partners CEO Forrest Robinson and SK Commercial Realty Office Properties President Tom Parker.

Airport City is now a proposed master development plan that, if enacted, could see $700M in development over a five-year period, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported. The property is contiguous to the College Park Municipal Golf Course along the north side of Camp Creek Parkway and west of the airport and is part of the larger area around the airport known as Aerotropolis.

The master plan, which has yet to be fully approved by the College Park City Council, could see 420K SF of office, 680 hotel rooms, 390K SF of retail, 880 apartments and 100 townhouses, according to the proposal. College Park officials also plan for pedestrian trails throughout the development.

The council could vote on the master plan as soon as August, the Atlanta Business Chronicle recently reported.

Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance CEO Shannon James

Housing is key in order to lure office tenants and retailers to the development. Eighty-three percent of the employees who currently work in the Aerotropolis area commute to the area from other parts of Greater Atlanta, Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance CEO Shannon James said.

The Aerotropolis area includes 13 cities and parts of two counties — Fulton and Clayton — and includes the College Park land targeted for redevelopment. Aerotropolis needs the housing because companies seeking office space are not giving the area serious consideration without an influx of housing and retail, Kern said.

Kern's firm is the master developer for the $230M Gateway Center mixed-use project in College Park. Thus far, the developer has built and sold the 135K SF Gateway Center Office Building One and recently developed a second 50K SF office building in a joint venture with Batson-Cook Development Co. The nonprofit Education Commission of Foreign Medical Graduates is the first tenant in that building, recently signing a 24K SF lease. 

Grove Street has also developed the Renaissance Hotel, the Marriott Hotel and the SpringHill Suites Hotel at the project. 

Blackhall Studios CEO Ryan Millsap, far right, said more people from his studio live in neighborhoods in Atlanta like Inman Park and commute to the Southside to work

“I'm thinking about how do we make the Aerotropolis area sustain a million, 2 million SF of office. And that's a little different than just sticking a warehouse in here,” Kern said. “We're getting a look on the Southside and in this submarket. [But] we're not getting to the second or third proposal right now.”

Many employees who work at Blackhall Studios — one of the handful of movie studios on the southside — are commuting to the production studio and will eat lunch in neighborhoods in Atlanta like Inman Park and Grant Park, Blackhall Studios CEO Ryan Millsap said. Millsap said Aerotropolis needs a retail development on par with Ponce City Market or Krog Street Market to motivate people to live there.

“In our world, the entertainment folks want to live in Inman Park because that is the most international, the most funky, the most similar to New York,” he said. “To get that population to live, work, play around Aerotropolis, it's going to take some type of retail.”