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Georgia Power may sell primo Beltline property

Georgia Power plans to test the market for a prime property along the Atlanta Beltline near Ponce City Market in a move that could trigger a new wave of dense development on the eastern section of the popular trail.

The utility’s operations center at 760 RalphMcGillBoulevard next to the Historic Fourth Ward Park is one of the largest remaining tracts along theBeltline’s EastsideTrail. It’s long been coveted in Atlanta real estate circles because it touches the trail and the park, and has nearby access to Freedom Parkway and the Downtown Connector. 

The 10-acre site is just south of the bustlingPonce City Market,which developer Jamestown turned into a thriving technology, dining, shopping and residential hub.

“We plan to place the facility on the market this April to gauge interest, but we have not committed to selling the property,” Georgia Power spokeswoman Ashley West said in a statement in response to inquiries by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Real estate observers say a sale could spur new development — and fetch a king’s ransom for Georgia Power and its parent company Southern Co.

Georgia Power has hired international real estate services groupJLLto sell the property. A price has not been announced.

About 100 Georgia Power employees work at a marshaling yard and operations center on the site. If Georgia Power sells, those jobs would be relocated to other operations stations, West said, until a replacement facility is identified.

“We constantly evaluate our properties and a sale of the 760 RalphMcGillfacility could address the changing dynamics of the area, including residential redevelopment,” West said in the statement. Georgia Power has had to contend with “increased traffic and reduced access to the facility for our crews due to remodeling of the surrounding businesses.”

In the past several years, a number of apartment projects have been built or have been proposed in the immediate area, including Anthem, InmanQuarter and a redevelopment of the former Masquerade nightclub into luxury apartments.

Meanwhile, developer New City is in the process developingan office tower atop a new Kroger store next to Ponce City Market.

Spokespersons for the Beltline and Invest Atlanta declined to comment.

A property sale would give the city a chance to press a future developer to include affordable housing in a part of the city that has seen rents skyrocket and complaints of displacement from gentrification. Part of the core philosophy of the 22-mile loop of trails and future transit has been to have a mix of housing for all income levels throughout the necklace of trails, but so far, development of affordable units has not kept pace with luxury residential.

Last year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the reported that 560 new units of affordable housing had been built within the Beltline Tax Allocation District. The organization’s goal is for 5,600 such units by 2030.

The agency has stepped up efforts with new bond financing to encourage affordable units.

Brian Leary, president of the commercial and mixed-use division of Charlotte-based developer Crescent Communities and a former Beltline CEO, called the Georgia Power site “the most attractive piece of property probably on the entire Atlanta Beltline.”

He said the site has “two waterfronts,” the park and the trail, both of which are packed on any sunny day.

Leary, who left the Beltline a few years ago after a flap over the agency’s expenses, was instrumental in the early implementation of the trail network.

Leary said the site is an opportunity to do something “aspirational,” both in terms of design and density, but also for being a mixed-income community to address the affordable housing crunch.

Leary said his firm could be a bidder on the site, but he also said he expects other major Atlanta and national development groups to inquire.

“Atlanta’s trajectory has never been stronger,” he said.

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