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And here is an accompanying article on the Buckhead Office market:

Shifting skyline

High-rise development projects will change Buckhead's landscape, alter Atlanta's horizon

Steven Sloan

Staff Writer

With developers clamoring to build Buckhead's next great office tower, competition in one of the city's most exclusive communities is heating up -- all good news for Buckhead stakeholders.

Cousins Properties Inc. is continuing with plans to open a 500,000-square-foot office tower at the corner of Peachtree Road and Piedmont Avenue by 2007.

Not far from that location, Grove Street Partners is looking for tenants to fill what likely will be a 300,000-square-foot office tower at the site of the former Art Institute of Atlanta. Several other real estate companies, including Regent Partners, have expressed interest and laid plans in Buckhead as well.

These projects are viewed as vital to the success of Buckhead, which has worked during the past year to shake its party image while facing competition from other intown markets.

Any notion of competition fails to faze Sam Massell, former Atlanta mayor and president of the Buckhead Coalition Inc. Known now as the "Mayor of Buckhead," Massell responds to competitors and naysayers with an ever-steady litany of promotion.

"Buckhead has the nearby residential for all levels of office occupancy, which none of the others have. No one else can compete with that," he boasted.

In fact, he said he thinks the future of Atlanta's skyline will center around Buckhead.

"My prognosis is that Buckhead will become the skyline of metropolitan Atlanta. It will outstrip Galleria, Perimeter, Midtown and downtown," he said.

While the new office towers bring profits and jobs to the community, they may also have a downside in the form of increased traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure.

But Howard Shook, who represents Buckhead on the Atlanta City Council, said there's not much that can be done to alleviate the traffic development can bring.

"Buckhead is limited in traffic options because it's not laid out like a grid," he said. "Traffic's going to get worse. There's no mystery about that. Even if not another square foot of office space was added, it would get worse."

Those traffic problems will not have a negative impact on Buckhead's future success, Shook said.

"2005 is clearly going to be a busy year," he said.

That will be especially true for Tad Leithead, a senior vice president at Cousins who will oversee the developer's Buckhead project. He said that while other markets in the city have seen growth, Buckhead was clearly the best location to build.

"We are active in all the markets in Atlanta. But we do believe the Buckhead market is leading the recovery. They're running out ahead of the other markets," he said.

Plus, with all the development in Midtown, such as Atlantic Station and the new 1180 Peachtree project, a 681,000-square-foot office tower going up at the corner of Peachtree and 14th streets in Midtown, Leithead said he was concerned other markets may be headed toward saturation.

"Those are both dramatic and visible huge class A projects. Having said that, with all that's going on, I'm not sure this is the time to add more speculative office space," he said.

He said he doesn't see that risk in Buckhead, which had a 17.7 percent class A vacancy rate in the fourth quarter, according to statistics from Dorey Market Analysis Group. That compares with the 19.2 percent vacancy in Midtown and 18.4 percent in downtown.

"There's risk in virtually any real estate deal. The question is what is a manageable risk. You look for a few fundamental things to come together. Our projection is that during this time that the building is under construction, we will continue to see a recovery in the markets," Leithead said.

The Cousins office building will sit on 10 acres of land, purchased from Pope & Land Enterprises Inc. last summer, at one of the city's most traveled intersections. The first phase, scheduled to open in 2007, will include 75,000 square feet of ground-level retail space.

The purchase of the site came just months after Cousins sold two of its most prominent Buckhead buildings, The Pinnacle and Two Live Oak. But Leithead cautioned against assumptions that those sales represented a shift in focus away from Buckhead.

"We're not changing our focus. We've identified a site that we think is compelling. The reason we sold the buildings was because we were able to get historically high prices for those buildings," he said.

Cousins plans to move its headquarters from the Wildwood complex in Cobb County to the Buckhead building. Massell said that move was another sign of Buckhead's strength.

"The headline in office development has been the Cousins relocation, not just because it's Cousins or a 500,000-square-foot office building. The headline is that this is a major firm moving from a suburban area to an urban area. That's what we're pointing to with pride," he said.

Cousins has announced that CB Richard Ellis Inc. will be a major tenant in the building.

CB Richard Ellis already is in a Buckhead office, Tower Place, but John Schlesinger, the company's vice chairman, said there was no need to look for office space outside the community.

The real estate brokerage firm will occupy between 50,000 and 70,000 square feet in the building, enough to put the company's 200 employees under one roof, Schlesinger said.

The Buckhead office market is not alone in its success. The community continues to see a growth in multifamily condos and retail. These components all work to form what Shook sees as a more sophisticated and vibrant urban community, something that might cut down on the traffic problems.

"As Buckhead becomes more urbanized, you'll see people walking more and taking shuttles and making fewer trips," he said.

While Buckhead is working toward becoming a more appealing urban community, it has had to face an image problem during the past year. That problem, which emerged after a spree of violence and noise in the nightclub district, gave the community a black eye when it tried to entice businesses, Massell said.

"We did have a negative connotation, which has been greatly improved," he said, adding that office developments are now opening near the Village, a central party location.

Reach Sloan at [email protected]

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There are several good things going on in downtown and midtown too. I can't think of what they are though.... we should get a project list going.

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