It might still be spring, but it’s already shaping up to be a monumental summer for Atlanta urbanists.
DeKalb Avenue’s torturous potholes are currently being eradicated as part of a regrading and repaving process that will include sections with bike lanes. On another notorious car-first thoroughfare, Memorial Drive, crews are actively adding bike lanes downtown. And believe it or not, hell hath frozen over and a legit construction crane has been erected over downtown’s Gulch—a clear signal the process has begun for filling a decades-old gash in Atlanta’s urban fabric with more active uses. It’s a megaproject developers have promised will be brimming with new jobs, lively postgame and pregame destinations, and attainable places to live.
Almost five years to the day since Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group christened its $5-billion Gulch transformation Centennial Yards, the project has seen its first crane built that’s capable of piecing together a new high-rise building. (An earlier crane used last summer in construction of the new Nelson Street Bridge—now called The Steele Bridge—was a smaller affair.)
“The downtown skyline looks a bit different and [i]t’s only up from here… literally,” Centennial Yards Company officials relayed on social media this week. “The first crane to ever be erected in ‘The Gulch’ is up.”
The crane will support construction of Centennial Yards’ first new ground-up residential building, a 304-unit apartment tower described this week as being luxury. That 18-story project broke ground in November alongside a 292-key hotel called Anthem that will also rise 18 stories. Both are expected to deliver in 2025 across the street from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Collectively, 20 percent of Centennial Yards apartments will be reserved as affordable housing, the development team has said.
Back in March, Brian McGowan, Centennial Yards Company president, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle the Gulch redevelopment has retailers across the country interested in leasing 3 million square feet of space—almost enough to fill Lenox Square mall twice—that doesn’t yet exist. McGowan described demand as “enormous.”
Plans call for Centennial Yards to eventually feature far less retail space than that—about 750,000 square feet—across its new, elevated acreage. For context, that’s two and ½ times the amount of retail and restaurant space at Ponce City Market today.
The bulk of the core sports and entertainment district is now expected to be under construction by 2026, in time for Atlanta’s World Cup matches.
Elsewhere, Centennial Yards developers have filed plans to demolish the windowless building attached to 2 City Plaza downtown where the AJC was long printed, setting the stage for office high-rises when either the market heats up or a big corporate fish bites.
Eventually, Centennial Yards is expected to create a dozen city blocks across 50 acres, backed by a nearly $2-billion tax-incentive package, a record for Atlanta. Developers have said completing the project is likely to take at least a decade.
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