In a move that’s being called a “transformative step forward” for an iconic but long-dormant piece of Atlanta’s architectural history, Atlanta Housing has struck a formal deal with developers to finally start converting a section of the Atlanta Civic Center into more active uses officials say will boost the neighborhood.

Atlanta Housing’s Board of Commissioners on Wednesday entered a Master Development Agreement, or MDA, with an LLC called Atlanta Civic Center Partners to redevelop 4.36 acres of Performing Arts Center structures and plaza space where Old Fourth Ward meets downtown.  

Permitting documents were also filed with the city’s Office of Buildings this week for work at the Civic Center’s 395 Piedmont Avenue property. Those plans—filed with the Concept Review Committee, a program that allows developers to meet with city staff prior to submitting plans—identify the scope of the project only as “redevelopment of Civic Center phase 1.”

Renovating the historic PAC would mark the first step in a much larger redevelopment of the full property across nearly 19 acres, where a wave of housing and other uses is expected to be built in coming years.

The breakdown of expected Civic Center uses, as seen looking southwest, into the heart of downtown Atlanta. Atlanta Housing

Last year, Atlanta Housing picked national developers The Republic Family of Companies (Washington D.C.-based) and The Michaels Organization (New Jersey-based), alongside Atlanta-based, minority-owned development firm Sophy Capital for the Civic Center redevelopment.

It marked the third time a development team has stepped up to tackle the job since the lights went out at the Civic Center nine long years ago.  

The development team, known collectively as CCP, presented plans for the Civic Center’s PAC section that jibed with Atlanta Housing’s goal to “transform the site into a culturally inclusive destination, bringing together arts, culture, and community intertwined with affordable housing in a mixed-income model,” according to an announcement today.

Specific details weren’t shared, but Atlanta Housing officials say the revived PAC space will meet the needs of a modern-day audience by leveraging partnerships to attract a variety of artists and performers from the community.

Atlanta Housing plans to use the same master developer for the entire property to streamline the process and “provide efficiencies and cost savings with shared resources such as infrastructure and parking,” officials said.

“We have an immense opportunity here to not only preserve a part of Atlanta history but also to empower the community by providing jobs, beautiful community spaces, and access to prime amenities such as a state-of-the art theater,” Eugene E. Jones, Jr., Atlanta Housing president and CEO, said in a prepared statement.

Added Larry Stewart, Atlanta Housing Board of Commissioners chairman: “This initiative returns the performance space to its rightful status as a civic anchor, yet the plans also honor the legacy of Buttermilk Bottom, the storied African-American neighborhood that preceded the Civic Center on these very grounds.”

Aerial of the centerpiece Performing Arts Center, which will be retained. Historic Atlanta; 2018

Atlanta Housing announced in August 2022 the trio of companies was selected to transform the historic Old Fourth Ward property into an ambitious blend of affordable and market-rate housing, retail, offices, education space, and hospitality uses, alongside public-accessible open spaces that could ultimately spell a $1 billion investment.

The development team’s $575 million plan is so large, it would take a decade to fully realize across multiple phases, Atlanta Housing officials said at the time. Beyond new buildings, it would reconnect the area’s street grid and include pedestrian connectivity and public greenspace, while generally emphasizing inclusivity, sustainability and affordability.

In terms of housing, the development team’s plan calls for 1,311 units—or about five times the number of apartments offered a few blocks away at Ponce City Market, according to Atlanta Housing.

More than one-third of those homes (525) would be offered as affordable housing for people earning at or below 80 percent of the area’s median income. The majority of those (305 units) would include Atlanta Housing HomeFlex subsidies, which are typically provided to families earning 60 percent of AMI max, officials have said.

An overview of the area's context, with the full 19-acre Civic Center property outlined in blue. Atlanta Housing

All told, 1.8-million square feet of new mixed-use development, plus a new school, could rise around the Civic Center’s iconic buildings. Plans call for a grocery, structures with rooftop gardens, open spaces and recreational areas, plus a civic square and outdoor zone for local food, according to Atlanta Housing.

The deal goes that Atlanta Housing would enter into a 99-year ground lease with developers and recoup the $41.7 million it paid for the idle Civic Center property in 2017.

The Civic Center, a New Formalist landmark, was designed by Harold Montague of Robert & Co. and opened in 1965 as a home base for arts in the city. The property 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, apart from some concerts and events, since 2014.

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