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Atlanta Buckhead Tower Tallest Outside Dt/Midtown

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Tower: Office space demand likely to rise

By WALTER WOODS

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 10/04/04

Local developer Cousins Properties, builder of much of Atlanta's skyline, is banking on Buckhead.

The Cobb County developer will start construction next year on the tallest office tower outside the city center, a 31-story, 600-foot crystalline skyscraper at the corner of Piedmont and Peachtree roads.

Believing the well-known, ritzy district will lead the office market recovery, Cousins has been shopping for a Buckhead site for months.

This summer it landed the Buckhead corner that Tom Bell, Cousins president and CEO, called one of "the last irreplaceable corners in Atlanta ... [a site that] deserves a project that makes a substantial impact on both the skyline and the street."

North Carolina-based Duda Paine Architects designed the 500,000-square-foot prism-style tower, which features a translucent glass crest.

It will open in 2007 as Cousins' new headquarters.

Real estate firm CB Richard Ellis and Boston-based consulting firm Bain & Co. each will lease two floors. Cousins also has booked, but is not disclosing, a third tenant that will lease 75,000 square feet.

All told, Cousins has pre-leased about 215,000 square feet of the building, leaving several floors to fill in a risky, struggling office market.

But if anyone can take on that kind of risk, it's Cousins, said John Heagy, senior marketing director at Hines, a Cousins competitor.

"Their timing is going to be good ... and Cousins is a formidable competitor," Heagy said.

Bell is confident the market will resurge by the time his building opens.

"This is where a developer likes to be, starting the first building after a downturn rather than the last one during a boom," he said.

Bell may be guessing right.

Atlanta promises to add more jobs than anywhere else in the country as the economy recovers, and may be the best office market in the country in the coming years, said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia Securities.

Atlanta should post 55,000 jobs for all of 2004, an additional 65,000 next year and 70,000 in 2006, Vitner predicted.

That kind of growth could support as many as five new office towers in the metro area by the end of the decade, Vitner said.

"Look at it for 2008 and the long-term viability of that [area]," said Tom Tindall, a principal at Cresa Partners.

"I've yet to see them make a bad choice."

Cousins' project will not be strictly office.

The tower will anchor a huge mixed-use development that Cousins intends to be Buckhead's "town center."

The first phase will include a 60,000-square-foot luxury mall, a signature Peachtree Road restaurant and a large outdoor entertainment plaza.

Cousins has kept parcels for a second future office tower and an eventual condominium high-rise.

"We won't be remembered for what we do in San Francisco or Miami, but what we do in our hometown," Bell said.

"We built the Tom Cousins legacy in this city over 40 years. Our standard for this project is that it will add to that legacy."

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Buckhead is really becoming like a separate city in itself. It is getting crowded in the areas north of the Peidmont Hospital and Shepperd Center. Nice tower.

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