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Perimeter poised for growth spurt

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Guest donaltopablo

Perimeter poised for growth spurt

Proposals for new development are centered on mixed-use projects near MARTA stations


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 05/23/04

Even with the area's office vacancy rates hovering at nearly 30 percent, Atlanta's biggest developers have placed their bets on the Perimeter.

They've won zoning approval to add at least 9 million square feet of office space to the business district, where the crossroads of I-285 and Ga. 400 draws office workers from east, west, north and south. That's enough office space to fill Midtown's Bank of America tower seven times.

But the next round of developments

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Guest donaltopablo

Central Perimeter becomes mixed-use model

Martin Sinderman

Contributing Writer

Back in 1981, the dawn of Atlanta commercial real estate's modern era, a Texas developer named Hines paid $505,000 an acre for 42 acres of farmland around what is now the northeast corner of Interstate 285 and Ashford-Dunwoody Road to create some suburban office space.

Some 23 years later, a Florida development company, The Sembler Co., shelled out more than $1 million per acre for 42 nearby acres in the middle of about 22 million square feet of office space -- to develop an urban infill mixed-use retail-residential project.

The price of entry has gone up and the development landscape has changed -- dramatically -- in the Central Perimeter.

For the better part of a quarter-century, this market has been considered just an "edge city" made up of a regional mall and massive amounts of office space dumped in the middle of a residential suburb.

But judging by the projects in the pipeline and an emphasis on providing the infrastructure to support them, the market is well on its way to becoming a showcase of carefully planned mixed-use urban development, developers contend.

"The first wave of development here was office and retail, and the next wave was infill residential," said Hines Interests L.P. Senior Vice President Bob Voyles, speaking from his vantage point at the company's Perimeter Summit office and residential development.

"But what we are seeing now is true mixed-use development springing up throughout the market as it matures -- which we see as a very positive change."

The Central Perimeter is Atlanta's largest office market, one of the top 10 retail markets in the United States, home to one of the largest medical communities in the nation and a place to live for an increasing number of Atlantans who are attracted by an urban lifestyle, said Ackerman & Co. President Kris Miller.

"This is a community that is increasingly embracing mixed-use development that is done in a quality manner," he said. "Over the next 15 years, there is going to be a tremendous increase in the number of people that live, work and shop in the Central Perimeter."

Projects afoot

One of the places where people will be doing all those things is Perimeter Place, "a true mixed-use development, where you have two uses that actually co-exist," said Angelo Fuster, a spokesperson for Sembler, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based retail developer and manager.

In partnership with Greensboro, N.C.-based broker and manager Steven D. Bell & Co., Sembler is developing a $165 million retail-residential project on the tract it just purchased along Perimeter Center Place.

Scheduled for opening in late 2005, the 500,000-square-foot retail component of Perimeter Place will feature a 174,000-square-foot SuperTarget and a Loehmann's department store, according to Fuster, along with 15 restaurants and a list of to-be-announced retailers.

An apartment component of the project, to be developed by the residential unit of Dallas-based Lincoln Property Co., will include 330 units. The project also will include a 220-unit condominium tower, to be developed by Atlanta-based developer Southeast Capital Partners Inc., whose local projects include The Borghese (in Buckhead), Brookwood Place (in Midtown) and the Museum Tower at Centennial Hill (downtown).

Perimeter Place has been designed to incorporate the tenets of the "Main Street" and "New Urbanism" models of development, Fuster said. With its use of extra-wide sidewalks and landscaping, "[the project] is focused on being very pedestrian-friendly throughout."

Meanwhile, Sembler also is wrapping up a makeover of Park Place, a retail center located across Ashford-Dunwoody Road from Perimeter Center Mall. Sembler also has enlisted Newport Development, a unit of apartment developer Paces Properties, to develop 110 high-end condominiums on the rear of the site.

Cousins Properties Inc. and Equity Office Properties Trust have plans to develop a project that includes 1.3 million square feet of office, 650 units of residential and 150,000 square feet of retail on 39 acres at the corner of Hammond Drive and Perimeter Center West. A start date is contingent upon market conditions.

Transportation aids

Meanwhile, long-standing transportation problems are being addressed one by one in the Central Perimeter, said Perimeter Community Improvement Districts President Yvonne Williams, with an infusion of money -- including funds from Gov. Sonny Perdue's $400 million statewide transportation improvements -- going to a number of traffic abatement efforts.

Thanks to this funding, construction contracts are set to be let later this year on a landscaped, sidewalked "flyover" Perimeter Parkway Bridge, which will span I-285 from Perimeter Center Parkway to Lake Hearn Drive, she said.

The funds also have accelerated progress on a collector and distributor system that will separate local traffic from Georgia 400 traffic by adding extra lanes on both sides of the highway.

"We'd like to have construction on this by as early as 2008," Williams said.

The developers doing these mixed-use projects have an easier time selling higher-density development than they did during the early days of Central Perimeter's evolution.

"People have begun to understand that 'density' is not a dirty word, and that well-conceived density creates environments in which people can multitask," added Cousins Properties Inc. Senior Vice President Tad Leithead.

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