In a sign that one of America’s largest urban redevelopments is getting serious about building momentum, CIM Group has hired another executive with deep leadership experience in Atlanta to helm a planned $5-billion rebirth of downtown’s Gulch.

The California-based developer has named Brian McGowan president of what’s being called the Centennial Yards Company, owner and master developer of Gulch redo Centennial Yards.

McGowan’s name should ring a bell with local real estate and development followers, as he served until 2018 as the Atlanta BeltLine’s president and CEO, before leaving the Southeast for a CEO role with Greater Seattle Partners, a public-private partnership booster group.

McGowan in 2018. Metro Atlanta CEO

The overarching Gulch vision, per early renderings. DBOX for Centennial Yards

McGowan’s “successful history of advancing economic development projects” in Atlanta was cited in a CIM Group announcement as a “major factor” in his hiring. He’s also served as Invest Atlanta CEO and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s executive vice president.

McGowan’s “experience and expertise are uniquely suited for this role,” said CIM Group cofounder and principal Richard Ressler, brother of Hawks owner Tony Ressler, in a statement today. “We are confident [McGowan] will assist us in attracting top corporations to the development, as well as create an exciting open-air space for dining, shopping, and entertainment.”

Potential look of a district outside State Farm Arena. DBOX for Centennial Yards

The hiring comes after CIM plucked Nick Garzia away from Atlantic Station in October, where he helped lead a successful retail turnaround and redevelopment as Hines’ director of leasing.

CIM Group is calling the Gulch redevelopment—expected to span at least a dozen city blocks—the country’s largest sports and entertainment real estate project. In his own statement, McGowan predicted Centennial Yards will be “a spectacular place to show the world our city’s unique culture” and how, to quote the popular T-shirt phrase, “Atlanta influences everything.”

“I’m thrilled to come back to the city I love and lead a team who is building one of the most impactful urban renewal projects in America,” McGowan said. “Equally important is that Centennial Yards has begun to create new opportunities for prosperity and inclusion—creating new jobs and housing opportunities for Atlantans.”

A formal groundbreaking was held last month at the 50-acre site, where the project’s first residential component, The Lofts at Centennial Yards South, and the 160 Trinity offices are opening.

Elsewhere, construction is underway on creative office spaces at 99 Ted Turner Drive and a unique component called the Canyon, a 740-foot retail and dining promenade beneath street level where Wild Leap Craft Beverages is expected to open a brewery and distillery this fall.

Another office building at 185 Ted Turner Drive is also undergoing redevelopment.

A vision for Centennial Yards high-rise development floated in new renderings last month. DBOX for Centennial Yards

Centennial Yards is backed by a nearly $2 billion tax-incentive package—the largest in Atlanta history and subject of a lawsuit that didn’t succeed in squandering the deal. Several grandiose redevelopment ideas for the Gulch have sputtered in past decades, until the city sold to CIM group in 2018.

CIM officials stressed last month that 20 percent of all future residences that rise out of the Gulch will be designated as "affordable" for 99 years. 

New development is expected to add 12 million square feet of entertainment, office, and retail space, with occupancies starting in late 2023, CIM reps said today.

Recent downtown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)