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Suitors cast eyes on Atlanta City Hall East

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A follow up to the an article I posted a while back, the city looking to move out of City Hall East and it's in a very desirable neighborhood. Could be good news for Atlanta if a developer takes it over.

Suitors cast eyes on City Hall East

Developers seek shops, restaurants, housing for site


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A group of high-powered intown developers wants to convert the aging City Hall East into a huge Ponce de Leon Avenue mixed-use development of shops, restaurants and 2,000 residents.

Jerome Russell, president of H.J. Russell & Co.; Mark Randall, vice president of Wood Partners; and Ronald Stang, an architect at Stevens & Wilkinson Stang & Newdow, among others, have formed what's called the Phoenix Team to redevelop the former Sears department store.

Russell's company was a construction contractor for the Georgia Dome and Turner Field. Wood Partners built the Metropolis residential tower in Midtown. Stang's firm designed the Atlanta Financial Center in Buckhead and rehabilitated the Biltmore.

"This is a great opportunity to redevelop a historic building," Russell said. "If this is done correctly, it could be an asset and revitalize the neighborhood."

Their plan would turn the 77-year-old City Hall East into rental and condo residences at several price points, shops and restaurants along Ponce de Leon and pedestrian-friendly plazas and green space, said Stephen Macauley, a Cobb County developer and point man for the Phoenix Team.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said in July she wants to unload the city-owned structure, possibly for such a mixed-use development. It houses Atlanta's police and fire departments, among other city offices.

The city will ask developers for proposals "sooner rather than later," said Rick Anderson, Atlanta's chief financial officer.

The city's request for proposals will be open-ended and would allow using or razing the building "or something in between," Anderson said.

The city, led by the late Mayor Maynard Jackson, bought the Sears store and catalog center in 1991 for $12 million. The city had high hopes for the building, but it has had few users.

City Hall East sits on 15 acres and has 2 million square feet of space. Each of its 10 floors takes up 6 acres. But more than 75 percent of that space is empty.

David Cochran, another Ponce de Leon residential developer, said redeveloping City Hall East would be a massive undertaking.

"But it could be the end-all-be-all," he said.

Cochran's company, Paces Properties, is building the Carlton, a 69-unit condo a few blocks up Ponce de Leon. "Development is moving from Peachtree Street to Highland Avenue, but there are [undeveloped] pockets along the way," he said . "City Hall East could be a linchpin to make a whole new neighborhood."

This Phoenix Team partnership is the second to sniff publicly at the property.

Lilburn developer Emory Morsberger in August proposed to turn the site into 800 lofts, retail shops and entertainment venues.

The Phoenix Team, which has been looking at City Hall East for three months, also includes residential developer James Cowart and his partner, George Berkow, as well as William Sullivan and Robert "Bo" Jackson, officers with Colonial Properties Trust, a Birmingham real estate investment trust. Robert Brown Jr., president of Decatur architects R.L. Brown & Associates, is also part of the project.

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