Nearly five years since its over-the-top, dynamite-heavy groundbreaking in 2017, a Midtown high-rise project once envisioned as Atlanta’s tallest residential building and an ultra-luxe statement piece for the skyline is showing signs it’s not totally D.O.A., though its viability as an actual construction project remains in question.
The Commercial Observer reports that Benmark Capital, a Miami-based real estate debt fund, has provided developer Olympia Heights Management with a $40-million, short-term bridge loan to refinance the closely watched but long-stalled No2 Opus Place project in the heart of Midtown.
Benmark’s director of originations, Joe Moser, told the publication the loan is meant to cover Opus Place pre-development costs at the 98 14th Street site, with financing arranged by Meridian Capital Group. Benmark officials traveled to Midtown and seem to have come away impressed with recent commercial activity, pointing to Google’s new headquarters at nearby 1105 West Peachtree and a “construction boom” as evidence that jobs are flooding into the Midtown submarket and more luxury housing is required.
Olympia Heights, the New York-based company that first unveiled a titanic, three-tower Opus Place vision in 2014, came to Benmark after receiving notice from its previous bridge lender that its loan would not be extended—and that a new source of capital had to be closed within 30 days. Benmark officials recently told the Commercial Observer they visited the Midtown property, underwrote the loan, and executed it within 30 days.
Whether this next infusion of cash is the sign of new beginnings for a project that’s been derisively called “Nopus” by observers in Atlanta real estate, or another example of a failed concept kicking the proverbial can down the road, remains to be seen.
Bisnow Atlanta reported two years ago Olympia Heights had inked a nearly $26-million loan to refinance debt on No2 Opus Place in hopes of buying more time to secure construction funding and condo presales. That debt replaced a $22-million loan and marked the latest in a line of short-term loan arrangements Olympia Heights had piled up to keep the dream of building Atlanta’s tallest condo tower, as designed by the Perkins + Will architecture firm, alive.
The $40 million in new financing isn’t a construction loan, but if it was, it would cover only a fraction of the tower’s estimated cost. Project heads estimated in 2016 the initial tower alone would require $300 million to build, necessitating a substantial number of condo presales.
By the spring of 2018, the brokerage attempting to sell the deluxe homes reported that more than 50 units had gone under contract, priced between $400,000 and $12 million, the latter an unheard-of price for Midtown.
In recent years, Olympia Heights heads have shied from media attention, and the company could again not be reached for comment this week. Midtown workers and residents have recently written to Urbanize Atlanta with complaints about the property. One occupant of a nearby office called the site a “debacle” this week that warrants government intervention.
“[The No2 Opus Place site] is a dump with pooled water [and] mosquitos and weeds everywhere, and no trees on the sidewalk, as [developers] were allowed to cut them all down,” wrote the reader via email. “Why is the city not pressuring the owners like they did Dewberry [Group]?”
The most recent, scaled-back plans for No2 Opus Place called for a 53-story, mixed-use tower totaling 1.8-million square feet with commercial and retail space included. Building permits show no activity since 2020, and the site has largely been idle in recent years, save for a quick spate of ground work, or soil testing, spotted at the high-profile location earlier this year.
After buying the 4-acre site for $22 million eight years ago, Olympia Heights switched the proposal from three towers to a single residential-hotel structure standing 730 feet, and finally to the scaled-down condos that still would have marked Atlanta tallest residential building. The project's ceremonial groundbreaking was held just before Christmas in 2017, followed by years of empty promises and blown construction timelines.
Olympia Heights later tried to sell off part of the site. The company was also hit with a lawsuit last year from the Perkins + Will firm for allegedly unpaid work invoices totaling about $800,000.
The No2 Opus Place website has been dismantled. Individual condo listings have long vanished from the market without notching any closings. An opulent, $3-million sales center for No2 Opus Place materialized onsite but little else ever did, meaning the project's tallest component to be realized was the full-scale model in that sales center—a luxurious mock condo with 10-foot ceilings.
The building’s bonkers amenities called for two pools, an IMAX screening room, a 40th-floor golf simulator, and an onsite “Lifestyle Curator” to advise residents on how to live their best Atlanta lives.
For people new to Atlanta, or development hounds itching to stroll down memory lane, the gallery above contains grandiose images of what No2 Opus Place was supposed to have been by now—the construction schedule called for topping out in January, after all—and what the stagnant site instead is today.
• Midtown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)