Developers have taken another step toward potentially bringing millions of square feet of mixed-use buildings to the sleepy southern fringes of downtown Atlanta.

Urbantec Development Partners has appointed leading real estate advisory firm CBRE to conduct a market study for Forge Atlanta, a multi-billion-dollar proposal that could transform several blocks near Castleberry Hill and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Jae Kim, Urbantec’s CEO and founder, said CBRE’s in-depth analysis will transition the “catalytic” project from the “conceptual planning stage into the active programming phase,” according to an announcement today.

Added Urbantec’s COO and chief real estate officer Pietro Doran: “With CBRE now leading the foundational underwriting of this once-in-a-generation urban redevelopment opportunity, we're confident that Forge Atlanta’s progress trajectory will accelerate significantly.”

How the 10-acre project would lord over I-20, as seen looking west, toward West End.Courtesy of Urbantec Development Partners

Leading the study will be Tim Dick, hotels advisory leader for CBRE’s valuations and advisory services group. The Fortune and S&P 500 company, headquartered in Dallas, is considered the world’s biggest commercial real estate services and investment firm.

Formerly called Artisan Yards, the roughly 10-acre project would consume what’s largely underused, industrial property in South Downtown, just east of Castleberry Hill near Interstate 20. It was initially floated with different designs in early 2019.

Last year, Urbantec reportedly purchased the acreage along Ted Turner Drive and Whitehall Street for around $26 million. Once fully built, Forge Atlanta could span some 3.8 million square feet. Included in that mix would be 1.2 million square feet of residential space, offices, a hotel, an entertainment venue, and a new hub for Atlanta’s booming life sciences sector.

For context, a project of that scope would more than double the size of State Farm's new three-tower regional headquarters in Dunwoody, another transit-connected development along major Atlanta highways. 

CBRE’s research has found that, as of 2020, Atlanta was home to 15,000 life science employees, having logged the highest rate of research and development job growth—15.3 percent—among emerging U.S. markets between 2019 and 2020.

The Forge Atlanta concept is “another great example of the exciting things that will continue to positively shape the downtown market,” said David Lanier, CBRE’s Atlanta-based senior managing director of advisory and transaction services, in a prepared statement.

The proposal as seen from over Interstate 20. Urbantec Development Partners; designs, Nelson Wakefield Beasley & Associates; via Office of Zoning and Development/submitted

Forge Atlanta would take shape immediately south of the barren Gulch property where CIM Group’s Centennial Yards expects to transform 50 acres into a mixed-use subsection of downtown over the next eight to 10 years. Another massive undertaking—Newport’s revival of downtown’s Hotel Row and four dozen other buildings and parcels—has begun making visible progress a few blocks away.

According to early site plans, Forge Atlanta would see at least seven buildings rise around a central plaza, with a potential pedestrian bridge spanning active railroad lines to Castleberry Hill, as designed by Nelson Wakefield Beasley & Associates architects. Virtually all of the site has quick access to MARTA’s Garnett station and Interstate 20.

Urbantec officials told the Atlanta Business Chronicle in October that Forge Atlanta could conceivably break ground this fall. Site plans and renderings have been filed with the city’s Office of Zoning and Development. 

As of now, however, the development team “hasn’t established any definitive timelines for the project just yet,” CBRE spokesperson Ryan Salchert tells Urbanize Atlanta.

Poll: What’s Atlanta’s best proposal/groundbreaking of 2021? (Urbanize)