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Guest donaltopablo

Level 3 opens call center in old Macy's building

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I still wish the department store would come back, but it's better than nothing. Also good news for the ailing tech job market.

New life for old Macy's building

By RUSSELL GRANTHAM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Level 3 Communications has completed a control center, bringing 150 high-paying jobs to the downtown building recently vacated by Macy's.

The telecommunications company plans to eventually bring another 150 jobs to the Atlanta network center, helping fill the people gap created when the department store closed in April, taking 129 jobs with it.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin hailed the operation Monday as a welcome epilogue to Macy's. "We are here today to say that downtown has a lively future," the mayor said.

Level 3 said the third-floor center currently employs about 150 technicians, engineers and other workers with salaries starting at about $50,000.

The Denver-area company has leased two upper floors of the Macy's building since 2000. It used one floor for a large computer room that employed a handful of workers, but the other floor had remained empty until recently -- partly because the crash of the technology economy dramatically reversed the fortunes of fiber optics network operators.

The lower floors vacated by Macy's remain empty.

Level 3 opened the control room to monitor its international 22,500-mile fiber optic network as a twin to a similar control center in Broomfield, Colo.

The company sells access to its fiber optic network to large Internet, cable and long-distance telephone companies.

Large customers include America Online and Atlanta-based EarthLink and Cox Communications, which is majority-held by Cox Enterprises, owner of The Atlanta Journal- Constitution.

Level 3 said it had looked in several cities for a location in the Eastern time zone that has plenty of technically trained employees and little threat of crippling snowstorms.

"We knew early on that Atlanta was hands-down our choice," said Vice Chairman Buddy Miller, who lives in Atlanta. He cited Atlanta's business-friendly environment as another key factor.

Level 3 reported massive losses after the dot-com bubble burst, losing more than $7 billion since 1999, including an $858 million loss last year.

But the company has about $1 billion in cash and has been on the hunt for acquisitions in the consolidating telecommunications industry.

Now that Level 3 has opened a key control center in Atlanta, said Miller, it's possible it will keep growing.

About half the new center's employees relocated from the company's other facilities, including a Boston-area center that Level 3 is closing after recently acquiring Genuity, a bankrupt telecom firm. The rest of the employees here were hired locally, the company said.

"I think it's here to stay," Miller said of the Atlanta operation. "It could conceivably grow in employment."

Matthew Brainard said he jumped at the chance to work at the center after his previous employer announced it was closing a similar operation in Smyrna.

Level 3 promises more job stability "than anyplace else I've worked for," said Brainard, who has had three jobs at high-tech concerns in Florida and Georgia in the last three years.

"Relocation's not my thing," he said.

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I'm glad they are finding a use for the building. When I was in Atlanta in August, I thought the store was still open because the sign was still on the building. I didn't go inside but I walked by.

There's an old abandoned high-rise south of the Macy's building across the street. I wondered why it was abandoned. Then I did some research on the building and found out a major fire happened there and killed alot of people years ago.

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There's an old abandoned high-rise south of the Macy's building across the street. I wondered why it was abandoned. Then I did some research on the building and found out a major fire happened there and killed alot of people years ago.

Are you referring to the wincoff hotel? There have been plans recently to gut the building and reopen it as a bontique hotel, which I think would be an excellent touch not only to replace the old, empty building, but bring something to DT Atlanta that seems to be sorely missing, unique non-chain hotels.

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Thats the it....the wincoff hotel.

I agree donaltopablo, they should turn it into a unique non-chain hotel. They've got enough chain hotels. You have the Ritz-Carlton across the street, residence Inn Mariott is nearby then the Westin. I could go on an on with the hotel chains that are in downtown Atlanta. Atanta should have more botique hotels, especially one that reflects Atlanta's past.

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Thats the it....the wincoff hotel.

I agree donaltopablo, they should turn it into a unique non-chain hotel. They've got enough chain hotels. You have the Ritz-Carlton across the street, residence Inn Mariott is nearby then the Westin. I could go on an on with the hotel chains that are in downtown Atlanta. Atanta should have more botique hotels, especially one that reflects Atlanta's past.

Absolutely. Hopefully this developer comes with (with some assistance from the city) to help make this happen. I think this would be the kind of character DT Atlanta needs and sorely lacks.

Some additional enterainment venues in the DT hotel district, maybe something linking them to Olympic park would be another huge plus. Considering the hotels and the park are only a few blocks apart, they feel very seperated since there is nothing to draw people inbetween other than walking in between empty blocks of office buildings nights/weekends.

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