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Ford Motor Co. Planning 'Learning Lab' On Atlanta's Upper Westside

The 8West mixed-use project on Atlanta's Upper Westside.

The world's fourth-largest automobile manufacturer is planning on opening a new research outpost on Atlanta's Upper Westside.

Ford Motor Co., the company that first mass-produced the internal combustible engine, has filed for a permit to build out a 12K SF space at 8West, a new nine-story, 200K SF mixed-use building at 889 Howell Mill Road, that would include "a 'garage' as a learning lab.”  

The build-out of suites 100 and 1000 is expected to cost $70K, according to the permit application, which was submitted April 14 to Atlanta's online permitting portal.

The application was submitted by Jesse Naughton, a vice president at engineering firm Salas O'Brien and Atlanta design services firm ASD SKY. Transwestern Senior Managing Director Stephen Clifton, who is leasing 8West for its developers, Atlantic Capital Properties and Gateway Ventures Real Estate, declined to comment.

“We cannot comment on speculation,” Wes Sherwood, a spokesperson for Ford, wrote in an email to Bisnow when asked about the permit.

“Ford has a rich history of American investment and innovation, which is growing as we transform and modernize our business to lead revolutions in automated, connected and electrified vehicles. This includes being part of innovation ecosystems in various places around the world, including Detroit. We are committed to growing the Michigan Central innovation ecosystem and are tapping into innovators where they flourish globally. Our Palo Alto and Tel Aviv labs are just two examples of our commitment to access disruptive innovation and great talent,” Sherwood wrote.

Ford's research labs in Palo Alto, which opened in 2015, and Tel Aviv, which opened in 2019, focus on research and development for its advanced engineering for smart vehicles and artificial intelligence.

Ford adds to the host of car companies, as well as finance, retail and insurance companies, opening innovation and research and development centers in Atlanta, especially clustering in Midtown near Georgia Tech. Already this year, both Nike and Walmart announced plans for innovation hubs in Atlanta. Nike plans for a West Midtown tech hub focused on logistics and supply chain, cybersecurity and machine learning, and Walmart selected the city as a location for one of its two new Global Tech locations.

Other major research hubs in Midtown include healthcare giant Anthem Innovation Studio at Tech Square, BlackRock's innovation hub, Mercedes-Benz's Lab 1886, Chick-fil-A's Innovation Technology Center at The Biltmore and Keysight Technologies Software Design Center in Coda.

General Motors also operates an IT innovation center in Central Perimeter, and electric vehicle maker Rivian announced plans for a $5B factory complex an hour east of Atlanta in December.