EXCLUSIVE: Microsoft Stops Work On 90-Acre Atlanta Campus
Microsoft has halted plans to develop a sprawling campus on a large piece of land it bought on the west side of Atlanta.
The technology giant “has decided to pause the planning process” on the 90 acres it acquired in the Grove Park neighborhood in 2021, a Microsoft spokesperson told Bisnow Thursday evening.
Microsoft started holding community meetings last summer to gather input from locals around where it acquired the land next to Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry in 2021 for $127M from former baseball star Mark Teixeira. Officials with neighborhood groups said it has been months since they've heard from the Redmond, Washington-based company.
“The land is not for sale, and we still aim to set aside a quarter of the 90 acres for community needs," the Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement. "We intend to reengage in planning efforts when expansion is warranted."
Vendors for the project were notified this week about the work stoppage, the spokesperson said.
The economic development blow for Atlanta comes as Microsoft is cutting headcount and costs across the globe in an effort to shore up its finances. The company announced that it would lay off more than 10,000 people, or 5% of its workforce, last month. The company expects to spend $1.2B on severance costs and consolidating its office leases.
Microsoft bought the land in 2021 and announced plans for a mixed-use campus that would include affordable housing, retail and groceries. Sources told Bisnow at the time that the company planned for the campus to eventually house 15,000 employees, a number that would rank Microsoft among the 10 largest employers in Metro Atlanta.
“These are all significant investments and put Atlanta on the path toward becoming one of Microsoft's largest hubs in the United States in the coming decade, after Puget Sound and Silicon Valley,” Microsoft officials said in a press release in February 2021.
In April 2022, Microsoft announced its partners on the project, including Cooper Carry, APD Urban Planning + Management, Transsolar, Noell Consulting Group, Integral Group and JLL’s project management division. It also laid out a timeline for community feedback that started with a listening session in June.
Microsoft said at the time it would continue to provide updates on the project on a dedicated "Microsoft in Atlanta" webpage, but all mentions of the campus have been removed. As recently as October, the page said the company would hold a third "master plan workshop" regarding the campus in winter 2023, according to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.
Representatives of neighborhood groups Microsoft has been in discussions with said it has been months since they have received an update.
“I’m not sure if it's a pullback or a slowdown. They haven’t said anything,” said Derrick Green, the vice chair of Atlanta Neighborhood Planning Unit J, a neighborhood group Microsoft listed as one of the stakeholders it was consulting in the Grove Park area.
“We as a neighborhood group got together … in November and had a town hall,” Green said. "Microsoft did not come to that."
David Laube, a principal with Noell Consulting, told Bisnow Thursday that the firm works as a subcontractor to Cooper Carry and was responsible for drafting a market analysis for the 90-acre site. That report was completed late last year, he said.
Laube also said the firm typically had two weekly calls with both Cooper Carry and Microsoft, but he hasn't been on any calls since the market analysis was completed. He declined to elaborate any further.
Atlanta City Council members Dustin Willis and Byron Amos, whose districts are directly impacted by Microsoft’s Westside plans, didn't return calls seeking comment as of press time.
The spokesperson said Microsoft continues to move forward on the construction of three new data centers in Fulton and Douglas counties. Its Atlanta page now focuses on its office in Atlantic Yards in Midtown, where it leases more than 500K SF.
"We will continue our efforts to create a positive impact in the region and be a contributing community partner," the spokesperson said.