The promise of a sprawling, future-focused technology hub with high-paying jobs, affordable housing, and needed basics like a grocery store appears to be in jeopardy on Atlanta’s Westside—at least for now.
Bisnow Atlanta reports that tech colossus Microsoft has paused the planning process on what was expected to be a 90-acre campus in Grove Park with quick access to MARTA transit and the city’s largest greenspace.
Microsoft bought the property, located about three miles due west of the Fox Theatre, for $127 million from a development group two years ago. Company officials have said a goal of the “multiyear project” was to boost “one of Atlanta’s most economically distressed neighborhoods”—and the promise of Microsoft’s presence sent land deals, development speculation, and home-price increases into overdrive in Westside neighborhoods near the site. Innumerable home listings the past two years have mentioned Microsoft as a selling point.
But after a series of community meetings last year, wherein Microsoft brass gathered input from Westside locals and government leaders, the company backed away from the engagement process in recent months. “They seem to have gone silent,” one Westside resident wrote to Urbanize Atlanta in January. “I know it’s been at least five months since [Microsoft] has presented anything salient.”
A Microsoft spokesperson made the pullback official Thursday in a statement to Bisnow Atlanta, specifying that Atlanta project vendors were alerted this week to stop work as the company handles layoffs of some 10,000 employees—around 5 percent of its workforce—as a global effort to slash costs.
Hopes couldn’t have been much higher for the Grove Park site. Some 15,000 employees were eventually expected to report to work there, as Bisnow notes, making Microsoft among the 10 biggest employers in metro Atlanta and the city one of Microsoft’s largest U.S. hubs, behind Seattle and Silicon Valley operations.
But the deal isn’t D.O.A.
The Microsoft rep did specify to Bisnow the Grove Park acreage isn’t for sale, that planning efforts are expected to resume “when expansion is warranted,” and that a quarter of the 90 acres is still intended to be set aside for “community needs,” with a goal of creating “a positive impact in the region.”
Exactly what Microsoft’s campus could have entailed isn’t known—not a single rendering has been made public—but beyond offices, plans generally called for affordable housing, retail spaces, a grocery, and “other key community initiatives.”
Company leaders vowed in 2021 to listen to input from local communities, invest in STEM education, and value the “talent pipeline” from public schools in the area, Atlanta’s HBCUs, and Georgia Tech.
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