Sources: Starbucks said to be considering Atlanta for large office


Starbucks is said to be exploring Atlanta for a significant amount of office space, making it at least the second Seattle-based Fortune 500 that has put the Atlanta area on a shortlist for a major office search.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned Starbucks is considering several sites, including in Midtown, for what is described as an operations center involving several hundred jobs, according to multiple people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to comment because of the sensitivity of discussions.

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It’s unclear how many positions might be newly created jobs or if the project will mostly involve relocating existing ones. Starbucks operates regional offices in Atlanta and 20 other cities. Other U.S. cities are said to be under consideration.

Reggie Borges, a spokesman for Starbucks, said the coffee company “[is] always evaluating locations for Starbucks to create geographical diversity and add to our regional office locations.”

“We currently operate 21 regional offices across the U.S., including Atlanta,” he said. “This provides us the opportunity to operate our business effectively and efficiently and allows for geographical diversity.”

But he said the company currently has no plans to add hundreds of corporate jobs.

A representative for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and a spokeswoman for the state Department of Economic Development declined to comment.

Starbucks’ search for office space is brewing as the state and metro Atlanta leaders gear up to play host to a delegation from fellow Seattle giant Amazon, which has Atlanta on its shortlist of 20 communities for its mammoth second headquarters campus and 50,000 promised jobs.

The Amazon visit is expected this month, people familiar with the matter told the AJC last week. Amazon has already visited several of Atlanta’s rivals, including Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver and Washington, D.C.

A delegation from Starbucks is said to have held a high-level meeting with state officials in recent weeks.

The Starbucks recruitment and upcoming Amazon visit are welcome developments for business leaders worried that a recent vote in the state Legislature to punish Delta Air Lines and support for other contentious legislation could hurt Atlanta’s bids for major corporate projects.

The Starbucks operations center would be much smaller than Amazon’s but would include high-paying corporate jobs. A person familiar with the matter said the office could total about 700 employees over a few years.

Starbucks is said to be scouting for about 100,000 square feet of office space. The Midtown submarket is tight with high-end or Class A office space in high demand.

Anthem and developer Portman recently broke ground on a new skyscraper for the health insurer’s technology hub near Technology Square. Accenture, Honeywell, NCR and Sage Software are among the major companies that have announced large expansions in Midtown in recent years.

A report by real estate services firm Savills Studley put the vacancy rate in Midtown at about 9.6 percent at the end of last year, a historically low figure by Atlanta standards.

As a result, the global coffee giant might be looking at a mix of existing buildings or taking space in new buildings on the drawing board, people familiar with the matter said.

Though office rents are rising, Atlanta remains attractive to corporations for the region’s low real estate costs relative to other major cities and for its corporate and technology talent.

Three new office buildings have been proposed in Atlantic Station by Houston-based developer Hines, while Selig Enterprises has proposed a 32-story office tower within a planned mixed-use development at 12th and West Peachtree streets.

Developer Allen Morris Co., meanwhile, recently finalized its purchase of a site on Howell Mill Road for Star Metals, a mixed-use project, including an office building, that would replace an old scrap yard in the popular area known as West Midtown.

Developer New City is also building an office building next to Ponce City Market in the Old Fourth Ward along the Atlanta Beltline.

Starbucks has Atlanta ties that extend far beyond its network of coffee shops. The company acquired tea merchant Teavana for $620 million in 2012. Though Starbucks continues to sell Teavana’s teas in its stores, Starbucks announced last year it would close all Teavana locations.

Starbucks also has Atlanta ties within its executive ranks. Rosalind Brewer, the company’s chief operating officer and group president, is one of Starbucks’ top executives.

Brewer, a Spelman College graduate and the former CEO of Sam’s Club, joined Starbucks’ board last year. Brewer is in charge of operations in North America and Latin America. She is also the leader of Starbucks’ global supply chain, product innovation and new store development, according to her bio.

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