[UPDATE: 5:14 p.m., November 17: At today’s ceremonial groundbreaking in the Gulch, in the shadow of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Centennial Yards Company officials revealed the project’s hotel tower will be branded “Anthem” and is planned to open a year prior to 2026 World Cup games, to be played across the street. Next to the 292-key hotel, a 304-unit apartment complex has also broken ground, with construction scheduled to finish in 2025, too. Company president Brian McGowan called the groundbreaking “a true phoenix moment” that will help “bring forth a transformation of downtown Atlanta while honoring the history that brought us here.” See the gallery for fresh renderings that give a clearer indication how the two 18-story buildings will look and function.]

The Gulch’s transition from a festering urban void into an epicenter of downtown redevelopment is expected to take a significant step forward this week.

Centennial Yards Company has scheduled a celebrity-studded groundbreaking ceremony Thursday to mark the beginning of construction on the megaproject’s first two ground-up buildings, a pair of mid-rise towers that will stand across the street from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Both buildings will rise 18 stories above viaduct level over the Gulch, a massive, unsightly gulley long used for railroad transport and tailgating where previous redevelopment ideas have perished.

Uses call for a 291-key hotel in one building, while the southernmost structure nearest to Castleberry Hill will see 304 apartments. Parking garages and loading infrastructure will be located beneath each building, officials specified in an announcement today.

The hotel proposal (at right) along with the 300-unit residential building (left), as seen from the east along Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. TVS Design for Centennial Yards

E1 and E2 are the hotel and apartment tower locations in question, as shown in marketing materials just south of State Farm Arena. Both buildings will rise between downtown streets and active rail lines. Centennial Yards

Expected to lead Thursday’s ceremony are Centennial Yards Company president Brian McGowan and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, alongside famed local news anchor Monica Kaufman Pearson, Hawks co-owner and NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill, and political commentator and attorney Bakari Sellers. [CLARIFICATION: The Centennial Yards groundbreaking event is invitation-only and not open to the public.]

Officials with Centennial Yards Company, an affiliate of California-based developer CIM Group, filed paperwork for land disturbance permits to begin work on the two ground-up new towers in June. Erecting cranes adjacent to The Benz would be the most visible sign the potentially $5-billion project is becoming real since CIM stepped into the picture more than five years ago.

Eventually, Centennial Yards is expected to create a dozen city blocks across 50 acres, backed by a nearly $2-billion tax-incentive package.

The first new apartment building on site will be a mix of studios up to rare three-bedroom rentals, with retail space at the base. Amenities will include a pool area with event lawns, onsite coworking, a dog run, multiple lounges, and a fitness center featuring TechnoGym equipment, according to this week’s groundbreaking announcement.

Twenty percent of Centennial Yards apartments will be reserved as affordable housing, the development team has said.

The side of the hotel proposal opposite State Farm Arena. TVS Design for Centennial Yards

The hotel project, meanwhile, calls for a rooftop restaurant and bar with views across downtown, plus another restaurant managed by the hotel serving three meals per day at ground level.

A pool deck and lawn will have capacity to host large events, while an 8,000-square-foot ballroom will have a window wall with views across the rest of Centennial Yards, per officials.

Architecture firms for both projects are TVS and Goode Van Slyke, with the former taking the lead on interior designs. According to Centennial Yards Company, designers have been tasked with “ensuring these towers are an active, safe, walkable, and entertaining environment.”

Swing up to the gallery for more context and glimpses of what's to come. 

Downtown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)