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Southern Poverty Law Center Buys Westside Site To Build Community-Oriented Office

871 Wheeler St. on Atlanta's Westside, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has acquired for its new Atlanta office.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has acquired a 2.5-acre site on Atlanta's Westside where it plans to build an office with community-oriented facilities.

The Montgomery, Alabama-based nonprofit plans to build a 60K SF building at 871 Wheeler St. NW and relocate its regional office there, it announced Thursday.

“We selected the Westside because it’s important that our new Atlanta office is centered in the communities we work alongside,” SPLC CEO Margaret Huang said in a statement. “As we continue to think about what it means to build community power in Atlanta and throughout the South, along with organizing and innovating in collaboration with our partners, neighbors and other community-based organizations, we believe the Westside campus will provide us the opportunity for significant positive impact in the area while honoring its rich legacy of mobilizing for racial justice.”

The deal took roughly a year to close once the land was identified, said Avison Young principal Kirk Rich, who represented the SPLC in its search. The seller was an entity called 871 Wheeler Street LLC, which acquired the deed last year through a gift from McKenna Family LLC. 

Rich declined to identify the buyer and didn't disclose the price. The deed sale hasn't yet posted to Fulton County property records. The land has been used as an industrial facility for Verco Materials, which makes bulletproof vests.

“We’ve been on a search for around three years for a really well-suited site in a place where the Southern Poverty Law Center could be in a community of need and be a part of the community and help uplift it with change,” Rich said in an interview Friday. “They have an expanded mission of really embedding in the community, and I think Atlanta is going to see some amazing things and partnerships that will be new to the area that SPLC will lead.”

Before starting construction on the building, the SPLC plans to add sidewalks and connectivity improvements to the area, including a connector to the Atlanta BeltLine and a decorative sculpture fence around the cell tower on the site.  

Ultimately, the new office is expected to include youth and adult education programming, retail space for local entrepreneurs of color and free event space. The SPLC will move its employees from its current regional office, a 35K SF spread in a multitenant office building in Decatur.

The SPLC's future office is roughly a mile down Donald Lee Holloway Parkway from where Microsoft bought 90 acres for a corporate campus. It halted plans for that project in February, Bisnow first reported.

The SPLC was specifically targeting sites that were in neighborhoods experiencing gentrification. Rich said Microsoft's presence was a driving factor in choosing the area.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re going there, to be a part of community and to make sure the Microsofts and other neighbors, that we all learn to integrate in a way that’s helpful in the community and not in any way a negative distraction,” he said. “We’re looking to partner with the community and build on the history and to make sure that development is done in a way that’s respectful to the community.”