Documents hint at massive downtown Atlanta project near Philips Arena

5:15 p.m Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 Business
Ben Gray/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Hawks and partners are looking to redevelop the area surrounding Philips Arena into a mixed-use entertainment district. The Gulch, shown here Monday afternoon March 7, 2016, is one area that could be used for the project. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

Could a mixed-use project, with more office space than Amazon needs for its planned massive second headquarters, be in the offing for downtown Atlanta?

An unnamed group filed documents this week with the city of Atlanta suggesting a project of mammoth scope — more than 10 million square feet of total development. It would rise on 9-acres near Philips Arena in undeveloped swath of parking lots and rail beds known as the Gulch.

That size of a project would equal the square footage of Atlanta’s tallest tower — Bank of America Plaza — eight times over.

A likely candidate for the developer behind the proposal would be CIM Group of Los Angeles. The company is pursuing a massive redevelopment near Philips Arena that would bring hotels, apartments, offices and retail, but the group behind the filing with the city was not identified.

CIM was co-founded by Richard Ressler, brother of Atlanta Hawks lead owner Tony Ressler. A Hawks spokesman declined to comment.

The Hawks have expressed desire in being part of a redevelopment of downtown, including the Gulch and surrounding land, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has said CIM could bring plans for a $1 billion development.

In March 2016, during negotiations between the franchise and the city about public financing for a Philips Arena overhaul, the Hawks first expressed interest in an entertainment district downtown.

In June, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the Hawks and its development partners were in negotiations for land and development rights near Philips Arena.

In August, the AJC first reported an affiliated of CIM had the former Norfolk Southern office complex near the federal courthouse under contract. The property is seen as a vital piece in future redevelopment of south downtown, and sits about a mile south of Philips Arena, signaling the vast scope of potential development by CIM and its partners.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The former Norfolk Southern office complex in downtown Atlanta. AJC FILE

The filing, known as an impact fee assessment, described the project as having more than 9 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of commercial space, 1,500 hotel rooms and 2,100 apartments or condos. The filing was first reported by real estate publication Bisnow.

The property is a 9-acre parcel that is currently parking across Centennial Olympic Park Drive from Philips. The land is owned by the city. A Reed spokeswoman declined to comment. 

Tonight, the  Hawks will honor Reed by retiring a jersey in his honor. 

Reed led months-long negotiations with the team for a $192.5 million deal – including $142 million in taxpayer dollars – to overhaul Philips Arena.

The deal also extended the team’s lease at the arena through 2046.

Last month, the state of Georgia delivered its bid for Amazon’s North American headquarters project. The complex, called HQ2, is a 50,000 jobs bonanza that could total more than $5 billion in new investment.

Amazon has said it requires up to 8 million square feet of office space on property with direct transit connections that also is within 45 minutes of an airport.

The Gulch property would fulfill all those requirements.

Georgia’s bid still remains shrouded in secrecy, and state law allows Georgia’s recruiters to keep details of the bid under wraps. But it is known that the state included the Gulch as part of a menu of dozens of metro Atlanta sites proposed to Amazon.

The state said this week local developers and communities offered more than 70 sites for the state to pitch the e-commerce giant.

On Monday, state economic development officials said Amazon indicated it needs 500,000 square feet to 750,000 square feet immediately, and about that much in additional space every 18 months through 2027. Those needs could be fulfilled by both existing buildings or new ones.

State officials expect Amazon’s site selection team to begin visiting prospect cities this month.

View full experience