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John Portman to expand AmericasMART

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Old Greyhound site sold

Portman's AmericasMart plans major expansion

By WALTER WOODS and MARIA SAPORTA

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Brant Sanderlin / AJC

The old Greyhound bus station downtown (foreground) will be razed for the expansion of AmericasMart (background), a home furnishings and apparel marketplace.

It's the end of the line for Atlanta's original Greyhound bus terminal.

Renowned Atlanta architect-developer John Portman's AmericasMart has purchased the long-vacant bus station for a major expansion of the home furnishings and apparel marketplace.

The two-acre Greyhound site backs up to the existing 6.2 million-square-foot AmericasMart complex, which according to Portman is the world's largest retailers trade mart.

The former bus terminal building will be razed and replaced by a 2 million-square-foot structure that will cost about $200 million, Portman said. Construction should start in early 2005 with a ribbon cutting possibly in 2007.

"We were getting landlocked, and we need to have an expansion," Portman said. "We had gotten to a point, grown it so rapidly that we had waiting lists in certain categories" of exhibitors seeking space.

Much of the new space will be dedicated to AmericasMart's growing furniture and home furnishings business, said Jeffrey Portman, AmericasMart's president and chief operating officer.

Jeffrey Portman promised the new structure would be a positive addition to downtown. John Portman, his father, is doing the design himself.

"When my father gets through with the design it will be a beautiful addition to the city and [Andrew Young] International Boulevard," Jeffrey Portman said.

Downtown boosters were thrilled something would open in the empty bus station. Greyhound pulled out of the old terminal in 1995 for a site near the Garnett MARTA stop. After Greyhound departed, the site was used briefly for entertainment during the Olympics. Its lot is now used for public parking.

"This is big. AmericasMart is one of the key economic drivers of the downtown community and has been for almost 50 years," said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, the downtown advocacy group.

"It's even more exciting that they are announcing an expansion of this size," Robinson said. "It's important to our hospitality community and all of our constituents downtown."

AmericasMart events bring more than 548,000 visitors to the city each year. Jeffrey Portman said the expansion is geared to draw even more people.

The new site will be the fourth major expansion of AmericasMart, which John Portman started with a furniture market in 1957. The first phase of the existing center opened in 1961.

John Portman was also behind much of the downtown skyline, including the Westin Peachtree Plaza, Peachtree Center and SunTrust Plaza.

Portman estimated that this would be his 27th building downtown and said, at 79, he's "always looking forward to tomorrow."

"I'm going to be around another 20 to 40 years," Portman said. "It shows that I'm not headed for the golf course."

"It is so exciting to see people who have been engaged in this city for 30 to 40 years still engaged," said Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, speaking of the Portmans. "It's great for the city."

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