- Kelly Yamanouchi The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Upscale hotels coming to the area around Hartsfield-Jackson International are sparking hopes of turning the long-struggling airport district into a destination.
The luxury hotel will have 214 rooms catering to visitors to the Porsche headquarters and experience center track next door. The property will also have a Mediterranean restaurant with an outdoor dining area, as well as a rooftop bar.
“With it being upscale, you’re bringing in a different clientele,” said Carmenlita Scott, executive director of the ATL Airport Chamber.
Earlier this year, a new Renaissance hotel with chic decor opened at the Gateway development connected to the airport by SkyTrain. It’s next to the Georgia International Convention Center. The Renaissance is one of three hotels to open in the last decade at the development, along with a Marriott and a SpringHill Suites.
The hotels in the area plan to take advantage of visitors to a planned BMW technical training facility close by in College Park.
And Hartsfield-Jackson still has plans for its own hotel development, with a futuristic design for an InterContinental Hotel next to the terminal and at least two more hotels nearby. The “airport city” is aimed at bringing more amenities for travelers and developing land around the airport.
The hotels on airport grounds have taken longer to develop than expected, amid Federal Aviation Administration restrictions and other lease negotiation issues, and construction is expected to begin next year.
All of the hotels and developments springing up around the airport region are part of what local business leaders call an “aerotropolis.”
The Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance of business and political leaders has dubbed the area north of the airport with the headquarters of Delta Air Lines and Porsche, along with the new Solis hotel, the “corporate crescent.”
“Growth is no question heading in our direction,” said Shannon James, Aerotropolis Atlanta treasurer and a vice president with BB&T Bank. “I think people all across the world are recognizing that, and Solis understood that…. Porsche is a major catalyst for the area.”
A new Atlanta Hawks development league team is one of the developments expected to attract visitors to the area. A destination marketing organization called ATL Airport District is also working on promoting the area as “one of the most unexpected and exciting places to stay, play and meet in the greater metropolitan Atlanta area.”
“As you continue to see new development, more trendy-styled development, it’s going to continue to add to the overall new makeup and shape for the area,” James said.
To be sure, it’s not the first time local leaders have tried to spur new development on the Southside, only to encounter persistent challenges.
As far back as 1989 at a symposium called “Atlanta’s Emerging Southside” held at the then-new Airport Hilton hotel in Hapeville, a “steady stream of speakers… marched on stage to preach the virtues of the Southside,” according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s archives. “Speaker after speaker said the Southside offers acres of undeveloped land, miles of interstate highways and the convenience of Hartsfield International Airport.”
The 1989 symposium was organized because “we wanted to make the Northside aware of the opportunities that we have here,” said the chairman of a group the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce had called the Southside Task Force. He said at the event 28 years ago that he wanted local governments “to begin a dialogue on how to address those issues.”
Today, with the opening of Solis and other developments in the works, Aerotropolis Atlanta executive director Shelley Lamar is optimistic.
People “are identifying that this is a location,” Lamar said. “They don’t have to go to downtown or Buckhead.”