Five years after the last developers walked away, the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center site is back as a relatively huge intown palette for redevelopment.
Atlanta Housing, owners of the idle Civic Center since 2017, have issued a Request for Qualifications seeking developers to transform it into a “true mixed-use, mixed-incoming community” and “civic anchor” while keeping historically significant facets intact.
The housing authority needs a partner to build up 13 acres of developable land where Old Fourth Ward meets downtown. Up to 6 million square feet of new development could result, with 4.3 million square feet of that allowed for residential, according to Atlanta Housing.
Affordable and market-rate housing, retail space, hotel uses, offices, and open public spaces—all comingled with the site’s existing landmarks—could result from the partnership.
“With the right development partner, the site has the potential to become a new, world-class civic anchor and mixed-use neighborhood in the heart of Atlanta,” notes the Atlanta Housing RFQ issued this week.
The Civic Center, a New Formalist landmark, was designed by Harold Montague of Robert & Co. and opened in 1968. Positioned along the western edge of Old Fourth Ward, the building has hosted the Metropolitan Opera, Theater of the Stars, Atlanta Opera, and more recently television shows such as Steve Harvey’s Family Feud. It’s been empty and idle since 2014.
In 2016, Texas developer Weingarten Realty abandoned efforts to singlehandedly transform the Civic Center site into a mixed-use utopia with some 650 housing units and a Publix grocery. Two years later, preservation group Historic Atlanta led a push to ensure historically significant structures on site—including the 4,600-seat auditorium, with what’s thought to be Georgia’s largest stage—weren’t destined to be razed.
According to this week’s RFQ, cultural facilities that will be retained include the Performing Arts Center, the Exhibition Hall (or a portion of it, at least), and the 1.55-acre Civic Plaza. An operator for those assets will be identified separately, according to Atlanta Housing.
As his last term ended, Mayor Kasim Reed announced a sale to Atlanta Housing for $31 million, offloading the property from city books like Underground Atlanta and City Hall East (now Ponce City Market) before it.
Eugene Jones, Atlanta Housing chief executive, told Atlanta Civic Circle last month that bringing Weingarten Realty back for the next stab at redevelopment is a possibility that’s still being discussed.
Similar requests for Civic Center redevelopment were issued in 2011 and 2014.
For potential developers, responses to the RFQ are due by October 15. A shortlist of candidates will be identified about two weeks later.
From there, a Request for Proposals is expected to be issued October 29 (deadline: January 28). Winning bidders should be announced at an Atlanta Housing board meeting in April.
Atlanta Housing’s overarching goal, as the paperwork specifies, is “to embrace the site’s diverse history while transforming it into a true civic anchor at the heart of a new livable, equitable, and resilient mixed-use, mixed-income community.”
In the gallery above, find highlights of the RFQ and imagery of this important intown development site today.
• Photo tour deep into Underground Atlanta as renovations finally begin (Urbanize Atlanta)