January will mark three years since Grant Park’s award-winning, parking-lot-replacing Gateway project was finished.

Nonetheless, its eye-catching jewel box of a retail space remains vacant, despite its location next to a top Atlanta tourist attraction in an alluringly historic neighborhood, with no concrete hope for tenant occupancy in sight.

The City of Atlanta, which now owns Grant Park’s “rooftop” space, hopes that will soon change.

At last check on the Gateway building’s status in February, the city had recently taken ownership of the modern-style structure from the Atlanta and Fulton County Recreation Authority. City officials called that a key first step in getting it leased and occupied.

The city formally issued a Request for Proposals solicitation in February in hopes of attracting a single restaurant concept to occupy the full space and open within roughly a year.

Atlanta City Council member Jason Winston, whose District 1 covers Grant Park, tells Urbanize Atlanta this week that RFP process closed in March—and not a single bid came in.

The Gateway building's still-hollow interior, as seen earlier this month. Josh Green/Urbanize Atlanta

The city’s Department of Procurement, which is charged with helping lead the tenant search, concluded that “rising construction costs associated with inflation and increased interest rates contributed to the lack of bids,” as Winston wrote via email this week.

But all hope isn’t lost for a unique food-and-beverage space with a large patio, manicured greenspace as a front yard, and views to both downtown and Zoo Atlanta.

According to Winston, the Department of Procurement has been compiling a new solicitation for the Gateway building that’s expected to be released within the next month. During the next RFP cycle, several open houses will be scheduled to help highlight the space and answer any questions potential operators might have.

A financial carrot will also be dangled this time around, according to Winston.  

“This time, [the Department of] Procurement and the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation will be partnering with Invest Atlanta to offer financial assistance to a potential restaurant operator,” the councilmember wrote.

“We’re hoping the financial incentives, along with more planned communication with the Department of Procurement, will lead to more interested bidders," Winston continued, "as the City of Atlanta remains committed to leasing out the space as a restaurant.”

Aerial of the Gateway illustrating its proximity to the zoo's elephant habitat and downtown. City of Atlanta Parks and Recreation Department; via Epsten Group

The underside of the patio's roof comes to life with lighting at night. Josh Green/Urbanize Atlanta

Winston has previously said that once a lease is signed, the city can’t dictate how long it takes an operator to open.

Like leasing rates, the voluminous restaurant space’s exact size wasn’t specified in the original RFP paperwork, but the Sustainable Sites Initiative pegs it at 4,000 square feet.

The $48-million Gateway replaced a parking lot with a park-topped garage. Last year, it earned the Atlanta Urban Design Commission’s Award of Excellence for sustainable design.

Since opening in January 2021, the 2.5-acre greenspace has become a magnet for people flying kites, skateboarders, roller skaters, bicyclists, picnickers, and kids who spy elephants, giraffes, and zebras at Zoo Atlanta next door. But the restaurant space designed by Smith Dalia Architects and Winter Johnson Group, situated at the elevated park’s south end, has never been used. 


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• Grant Park news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)