When it comes to thoughtful projects on a relatively small scale, it’s been a big year all across metro Atlanta.
For the next installment of our Best of Atlanta 2021 tournament series, we’re spotlighting new development from Adair Park to Alpharetta that promises to have an outsized impact, or to serve as an example of context-sensitive architecture done right.
That includes eyesores reborn as boutique hotels and smart mixed-use, repurposed Atlanta landmarks, empty land made livable, and much more. Qualifying projects have finished construction—or have begun marketing campaigns with their debuts looming within weeks—in 2021.
Voting to determine Atlanta’s best small-scale project of the year will be open for two days, closing Thursday.
Now let’s meet the candidates, as outlined below in no particular order:
72 Georgia Avenue
Team includes: Carter development; K. King & Co.; Healey Weatherholtz Properties
The newest flank of retail in the revival of Summerhill’s long-decrepit Georgia Avenue claimed a gravel parking lot and opened this year with spaces for five businesses. The best part: It seamlessly blends with historic buildings that have stood for generations.
Where: Old Fourth Ward
Team includes: True Worth Property; Xmetrical architecture
Replacing a vacant commercial structure in a high-profile locale near Krog Street Market, this four-unit infill build maximized density with aesthetics that both nod to the past and embrace the future. Uses include three townhomes and a 2,250-square-foot commercial space, topped by a versatile deck on the roof.
The Flats Decatur
Where: Uh, Decatur
Team includes: JD Signature Homes; Broadmark Realty Capital
In ever-pricier Decatur, this project has brought six condos to an extremely tight lot with relatively low asking prices for new product, beginning in the $300,000s. It’s marketed as a “new style of living” in Decatur—and is easily walkable to the city’s bustling downtown.
Where: East Lake
Team includes: JackBilt; TSW Architects
More than just standalone townhomes, Ell Square is providing the residential component—and final piece—of the applaudable Hosea + 2nd mixed-use project that’s created a new commercial hub for East Lake. Positioned around a central courtyard, units began selling this year on what’d been an empty corner lot for years.
The reborn Masquerade
Where: Old Fourth Ward
Team includes: Coro Realty; Southeastern Capital Companies; Smith Dalia Architects; TSW Landscape Architecture
This project allows office dwellers the unique opportunity to work in the same room where they once ralphed during Nirvana, OutKast, Radiohead, and Rage Against the Machine sets. After five years of idleness and delay-plagued construction, the former excelsior mill and beloved Masquerade music venue was reborn in industrial-chic style in 2021.
The Grocery Spot
Where: Grove Park
Team includes: Grocery Spot staff; supportive neighborhoods
More communal event than traditional development project, The Grocery Spot opened this year in a repurposed 1960s brick building off Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in Grove Park, providing fresh food options in what’s long been a food desert. Bonus points for the adjacent outdoor events space used for movie nights, music performances, and other gatherings.
Southern Feed Store
Where: East Atlanta
Team includes: Pellerin Real Estate
While it may sting to see the East Atlanta Village’s longstanding Graveyard Tavern go, the replacement is a vibrant six-stall food hall and music venue where—in the rebellious spirit of Graveyard—chain restaurants have been outlawed. Four food options—providing everything from cheesesteaks to gyros and waffles—have opened at Southern Feed Store so far.
Midtown High School
Where: Midtown (formerly Grady High School)
Team includes: Atlanta Public Schools; Cooper Carry architects
Along with its new name, the rechristened Midtown High School opened this past summer with a four-story, 63,000-square-foot addition that acts as a new front door for students and employees. Enlivened with a HENSE mural and topped with a plaza for outdoor experiments and events, the modern-style addition manages to artfully jibe with the 1923 Charles Allen Building next door.
Elle at Oakhurst
Team includes: Cablik Enterprises; Engel & Völkers Atlanta
This 13-home node claimed a section of sprawling church parking lots along College Avenue and provided a unique live-work approach to townhome living for this subsection of Decatur. Both Oakhurst Village and the East Lake MARTA station are within a few blocks’ walk.
The Hamilton hotel
Team includes: Mayfair Street Partners; Curio by Hilton; Arch Studio 7 (exteriors); RBA Architecture (interiors)
Alpharetta’s booming downtown unveiled its first boutique hotel in 2021 with the 119-room The Hamilton, which replaces a row of dated, low-rise buildings on Milton Street and manages to be both classical and creative. Facets include a speakeasy, Roaring Social, accessed via an adjacent retail store, and an eight-lane bowling alley.
Team includes: Paces Properties; AEG Presents/Zero Mile Presents
Overcoming disastrously challenging times for new music venues, The Eastern managed to debut at Reynoldstown’s adaptive-reuse Atlanta Dairies project in grand fashion with a September concert by hometown rap immortal Big Boi. The stylish if spartan 2,200-seat venue is topped with an open-air bar, facing a brewery and Dairies’ growing slate of retailers.
The Otis Building
Where: Castleberry Hill
Team includes: Pennington Properties; Dillman Studio; Coldwell Banker Realty
Long a dream project for Atlanta native and seasoned carpenter Ty Pennington, of Trading Spaces and ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition fame, the Otis Building has strategically filled a gap in Castleberry Hill’s historic fabric. The boutique venture brings two spaces for street retail, plus eight condos topped with a roof deck.
Biggerstaff Brewing Company conversion
Where: Old Fourth Ward
Team includes: Asana Partners; SRS Real Estate Partners; chef Ryan Smith; Biggerstaff; beer
This eye-pleasing repurposing of a former welder’s shop is part of the development team’s broader efforts to revive several old industrial buildings along Edgewood Avenue. The primo, patio-heavy location is about four blocks from the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail.
Cottages on Vaughan
Team includes: MicroLife Institute; City of Clarkston officials
For months, the buzz was strong for this Clarkston project described as Georgia’s first standalone village of tiny houses, which sold all of its eight “micro-cottages”—starting at just 250 square feet—in a snap. Project leaders believe it could serve as a model for residential development as metro Atlanta’s population continues to swell and available land becomes increasingly scarce.
Where: Atlanta University Center
Team includes: Choice Atlanta; Moody Nolan architecture; Atlanta Housing Choice Neighborhood; AUC Consortium
Between downtown and the institutions of Atlanta University Center, this two-story brick landmark considered the nation’s oldest Black public housing building (circa 1937) has been renovated into mixed uses that preserve history while meeting modern-day academic and communal needs. At last check, construction was expected to have wrapped in September.
Where: Old Fourth Ward
Team includes: Kim King Associates; Mainsail Lodging & Development; Stevens & Wilkinson architects; Pixel Design Co.
This former 1920s eyesore on a signature Atlanta street was reopened in May as the Wylie Hotel, a 111-room boutique that fronts Ponce de Leon Avenue near Ponce City Market. It includes Mrs. P’s Bar & Kitchen—a comfy Southern eatery in the hotel’s basement with an attached sunroom and outdoor terrace—and enough colorful history to make you wish the walls could talk. Or maybe not.
Where: Druid Hills
Team includes: Minerva; Choate + Hertlein Architects
One of the most comprehensive redoes of a historic Atlanta church to date (Druid Hills United Methodist Church) wrapped up its initial phase this year as 1200 Ponce. Aspects such as towering arched windows were retained, and an amenities level with a yoga studio, boardroom, art studio, gym, and TV lounge was installed where congregants once held meetings and prepped meals.
Academy Lofts Adair Park
Where: Adair Park
Team includes: Stryant Investments; Building Insights; The Creatives Project
Last but certainly not least, this 1912 example of Academic Gothic architecture, formerly the George W. Adair School, was unveiled as an ambitious adaptive-reuse venture called Academy Lofts Adair Park early this year. It introduced the concept of “art-force housing” in Atlanta, with some micro units of just 312 square feet renting in the $800-monthly range, with all utilities included.