New filings for huge project in Atlanta’s Gulch, a possible Amazon site

A proposal for a mammoth downtown Atlanta project that closely matches the criteria laid out for Amazon’s new North American headquarters took another step forward Wednesday.

An affiliate of Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group, which was co-founded by Richard Ressler, the brother of Atlanta Hawks lead owner Tony Ressler, submitted Wednesday a development of regional impact application that asks the state to evalue its “conceptual” plans for a project in the area known as the Gulch.

According to the filing, the project would include 1,000 apartments, 1,500 hotel rooms, 1 million square feet of retail space and 9.35 million square feet of office space. The latter would equal more than seven times the space offered in Atlanta’s Bank of America Plaza; a 1,500-room hotel would be among Atlanta’s largest; and 1 million square feet of retail is similar to what’s offered at Ponce City Market.

“The property proposes a development over structured parking to create a robust transit-oriented development adjacent to two MARTA stations,” CIM’s filing said. One of those MARTA stations is Five Points, the transit system's primary transfer point.

The Gulch site — mostly parking lots and railbeds overlooked by Philips Arena, the Georgia World Congress Center and Mercedes Benz Stadium — has also been seen as a strong candidate among the city’s potential homes for Amazon’s new North American headquarters. The state of Georgia delivered its secretive bid for the online giant’s so-called HQ2, which is projected to create 50,000 jobs and more than $5 billion in new investment, last month.

Atlanta has been considered one of several frontrunners for HQ2. And the proposed development described in Wednesday’s filing from CIM would fit many of Amazon’s criteria.

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 estimated project completion date listed on CIM’s application is the year 2027, a timeframe that could fit into Amazon’s plans.

In October, Georgia economic development officials said Amazon indicated it would need 500,000 square feet to 750,000 square feet immediately, and about that much in additional space every 18 months through 2027.

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

The Hawks, Tony Ressler and CIM have had their eyes on redeveloping the area surrounding Philips Arena, including the Gulch, for more than a year.

In June, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the Hawks and its development partners were in negotiations for land and development rights near the arena. In August, the AJC first reported an affiliate of CIM had the former Norfolk Southern office complex near the federal courthouse under contract. The property about a mile south of Philips is seen as a vital piece in future redevelopment of south downtown.

Last month, a then-unnamed group made a filing similar to CIM’s with the city of Atlanta, asking it to evaluate such a project’s potential impacts on public services.

Representatives from the Hawks and CIM did not immediately respond to inquiries Wednesday afternoon. A spokeswoman for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the city had no comment and a spokeswoman for Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the governor's office doesn't comment on active projects.

Several other high-profile projects are already being planned near the Gulch area. 

Underground Atlanta, a once-proud tiered mall a few blocks south of the Gulch, was sold in March to South Carolina developer WRS. A $300 million overhaul is planned. 

The board that governs the Georgia World Congress Center voted just this week to pursue negotiations for a high-rise hotel on part of the site of the recently demolished Georgia Dome.

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