After years of heated discussions, political campaigns involving tax dollars, and legal wrangling, a titanic downtown Atlanta undertaking that’s being called “one of the largest and most exciting city-center developments in America” is out of the gate.

Centennial Yards, a project by California-based CIM Group expected to span 50 acres and cost upwards of $5 billion, hosted an official kickoff Tuesday with dignitary speeches, milestone commemorations, and the unveiling of new renderings.

Anchored by downtown attractions Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena, Centennial Yards is expected to eventually create more than a dozen city blocks in the Gulch. That's the sunken mishmash of parking lots and railroad property that’s long been a civic canker sore and magnet for grandiose redevelopment ideas that went nowhere.

Rendering of a stair-stepped building outside State Farm Arena. DBOX for Centennial Yards

As new renderings suggest, Centennial Yards is envisioned as an architecturally varied mix of retail, apartments, offices, and hotel rooms. It’ll all be backed by a nearly $2 billion tax-incentive package—the largest in Atlanta history and subject of a lawsuit. (In June, the Georgia Supreme Court voted unanimously in favor of $1.25 billion in bonds that CIM says it needs to build Centennial Yards, clearing the way for the Southeast’s biggest planned development.)

CIM reps noted Tuesday that 20 percent of all future residences that rise out of the Gulch will be designated as affordable for 99 years. They’ve also set a 38 percent participation goal at Centennial Yards for minority and female enterprises and small businesses. 

Possible look of a tower crown in the former Gulch. DBOX for Centennial Yards

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the city will “continue to work closely with CIM to ensure that affordable housing, women and minority contracting, and owner participation and numerous other community incentives remain at the core of this project,” according to a prepared statement.

Alongside CIM, a co-investor group includes local movers-and-shakers in tech, real estate, entertainment, retail, and venture capital sectors—along with Atlanta Hawks principal owner and chairman Tony Ressler. (That explains the Centennial Yards promo blasted through the arena’s jumbo screens during halftime of Hawks’ games.)

What Atlanta Hawks fans or concertgoers might see exiting the building after events. DBOX for Centennial Yards

“At the press conference in 2015 when I was introduced as [Hawks chair], I emphatically stated that all great cities have a great downtown,” Ressler said at Tuesday’s event. “Today’s Centennial Yards ribbon-cutting is another meaningful milestone in our commitment to bring vitality, business, entertainment, affordable places to live, and job creation to downtown.”

Officially opened Tuesday was the project’s first residential component, The Lofts at Centennial Yards South, where 162 loft-style flats are expected to start welcoming renters this summer. Also opened next door: the 160 Trinity offices.

Construction is now officially 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.

Potential designs of future high-rises. DBOX for Centennial Yards

Meanwhile, Centennial Yards is “underway with planning work on numerous additional parcels that will accommodate 2023 and 2024 commercial and residential occupancy,” per a development summary issued today.

Elsewhere, the Nelson Street bridge connecting to Castleberry Hill has been demolished and prepped for new construction.

Have a closer look in the above gallery. 

Recent downtown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)