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3 more mixed used projects for DT Atlanta

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Downtown redevelopment sparked by three mixed-use projects

Jarred Schenke

Staff Writer

Three new mixed-use projects are adding momentum to a downtown redevelopment revival.

Two local developers, Integral Group and The Gellerstedt Group, are planning mixed-use projects in downtown, including a major redevelopment of Sweet Auburn Avenue parcel next to Big Bethel AME church, one of Atlanta's most historic black churches.

"I think what this shows is that there's a tremendous amount of potential in being in some of these neighborhoods," said A.J. Robinson, president of downtown development advocate group Central Atlanta Progress (CAP). Robinson is expected to unveil the projects at today's Central Atlanta Progress Atlanta Downtown Improvement District annual meeting.

Integral Group LLC is planning a 200-unit housing project, with 31,200 square feet of retail space, on 2.4 acres at the intersection of Alexander Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive for an estimated $45 million, and also is set to develop a $45 million, 180-unit residential project called Sweet Auburn Village across the street from Big Bethel AME church on Auburn Avenue. Sweet Auburn also will include 40,000 square feet of office space and 42,800 square feet of retail space as part of the project, officials said.

Integral was managing developer for Centennial Place, the mixed-use community at the former site of the Techwood Homes public housing complex, and also is known for Historic Westside Village, its joint venture with Harold A. Dawson Co.

As for Gellerstedt, who has since left the ranks of Integral to form his own company, is planning a $50 million, 250-unit condominium project across from the future site of the World of Coca-Cola near Centennial Olympic Park. The project also will include as much as 25,000 square feet of retail shops.

"The retail is the main thing in our plan that corresponds positively with what Coke is doing," Gellerstedt said.

Gellerstedt bought the 75,000-square-foot lot for more than $3 million over a year ago, and has since been working on condo plans. But he said he has been attempting to jell his designs in coordination with the World of Coke museum.

"I think the whole Centennial Hill/Centennial Olympic Park area has some incredible aspects to it ... that will make it a viable destination for both office and residential and retail," he said.

This is good news for the downtown submarket that has taken some perception beatings in recent months, especially with the pending moves of King & Spalding and Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy law firms -- two of Atlanta's largest law firms -- to the nearby Midtown market.

CAP's Robinson said the projects are complimenting the group's vision of downtown's revitalization.

"This planning did show the potential in this area," Robinson said.

And while new office development -- short of the new Southern Co. headquarters at the Peachtree Portal site -- is lagging that of Midtown, residential development has taken a life of its own.

By 2006, 8,000 new residential units will be up in downtown, according to CAP figures. Currently, Atlanta's residential population is 25,000 people, a 24 percent jump since 1990, according to CAP.

"I think what you're finding is that across all downtown neighborhoods is that there's a lot of potential for the downtown housing market," Robinson said. "We really don't have any product down here."

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Guest donaltopablo

Project brightens Auburn's future


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 03/23/04

"Sweet Auburn" Avenue, the business district that cradled the civil rights movement, could see its first major development in years in a $45 million mixed-use project engineered by Auburn's Big Bethel AME Church.

City boosters will announce the groundbreaking project today, along with two other big mixed-use projects overlooking Centennial Olympic Park and the planned Georgia Aquarium and new World of Coca-Cola museum.

Big Bethel, a 150-year-old congregation on Auburn Avenue, secured developer the Integral Group to convert a church-owned block across the street into a center of nearly 200 condominiums, offices and sidewalk retail stores.

Developers and church officials hope it will bring people and commerce back to the legendary avenue where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up.

The Bethel and Centennial announcements are "right up there on the scale with the aquarium and the World of Coke," said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, downtown's advocate.

Auburn Avenue in its heyday was the business, social and intellectual core of black Atlanta, and home to the city's African-American newspaper, radio station and leading black-owned companies.

The area around King's home, on Auburn's east side, has had a revival, with projects like Studioplex, an office and residential loft space.

But Auburn's downtown stretch has seen little development and its share of crime, drugs and other problems.

"You name it, it's there," said H. Lamar Willis, an Atlanta City Council member.

That's a shame, Willis said, because the African-American community would love to hold Auburn up with a sense of pride. "But this [new development] could be a crowning opportunity," he said.

The councilman credits the church, the cornerstone "that never gave up" on Auburn.

Two years ago Big Bethel, famous for its blue "Jesus Saves" spire under I-75/85, started buying up nearby property to clean up the neighborhood for its parishioners.

After securing the entire block across Auburn from the sanctuary, including the Palamont Hotel on Piedmont, church officials approached Integral to redevelop the property.

"We know the neighborhood, its people and past, so it was very natural for the church to do everything it could to ensure that Sweet Auburn's future is bright," said the Rev. James Davis, Big Bethel's pastor.

The project "will be a big, big, big shot in the arm to Auburn Avenue, and replace property that has been breeding crime for years," said Charles Johnson, founder of Friends of Sweet Auburn, a group promoting the area.

Johnson and Willis envision a revitalized Auburn

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Guest donaltopablo

Definitely a class Atlanta neighborhood. Plus, much of it is very urban with a great historic vibe. I'm surprised more developers haven't looked to this area. It borders DT CBD and the lower end of the highlands, which would make it an excellent area for residential development.

It would be nice to see this area rebound. Every driving by it on the free, you can see the classic street front and I can't help but think to myself - damn, what a beautiful part of the city.

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