Shopping Center Business

MAY 2017

Shopping Center Business is the leading monthly business magazine for the retail real estate industry.

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UNDERGROUND ATLANTA 310 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • May 2017 U nderground Atlanta is among the most unique retail districts in the country, offering 12 acres of both street-level and below-ground retail space on Alabama and Pryor streets in south downtown Atlanta. Situated near Geor- gia State University and the Five Points station for Atlanta's mass transit opera- tor, MARTA, the shopping district was originally launched in the late 1960s as a bar and entertainment district, but after decades ranging from middling success to abject decline, Underground Atlanta has sorely needed a fresh face to reimagine how the project can become a vital part of downtown Atlanta's fabric. On March 31, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced the City of Atlanta had closed its sale of Underground Atlanta to WRS Inc. for $34.6 million, calling it "another milestone in the revitalization of south downtown Atlanta." The deal be- tween the City of Atlanta and WRS was announced in 2014, but the Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina-based developer had a few hoops to jump through to finalize the deal. "Underground Atlanta consisted of 38 different pieces of property. We were buying parking garages, parking decks, an office building, retail underneath Ala- bama and Pryor streets and retail on top of those streets, as well as dealing with the county, city and state governments in ad- dition to MARTA [Atlanta's mass transit system]," says Scott Smith, president and CEO of WRS. "It was all the minutiae that had to be done." The new Underground Atlanta is antic- ipated to be another win for the facelift currently underway in downtown Atlanta. A few years after welcoming the College Football Hall of Fame and the opening of the Atlanta Streetcar transit line, the district will soon welcome the brand new $1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a re- furbished Centennial Olympic Park and a $192.5 million upgrade of Philips Arena. Other projects underway in the area in- clude Georgia State University's redevel- opment of Turner Field; Post Properties' Post Centennial, an $84.5 million apart- ment community; the new AC Hotel Atlanta Downtown; the Sweet Auburn Ballroom; and 377 Centennial, a 12-story, 331-unit apartment community by devel- oper Kaplan Residential. "What attracted us was having that large of an area in a major downtown urban environment," says Smith. "After looking around and seeing all the other large ur- ban areas in the Southeast focusing on redevelopment — Nashville, Charlotte, Birmingham, for example — it was time for the Atlanta Underground to become a downtown community. Underground At- A New Chapter For Underground Atlanta After closing on its purchase of the unique Underground Atlanta development, WRS is ready to get to work on its dream for a live-work-play district in downtown Atlanta. Interview by John Nelson The new Underground Atlanta will feature multifamily and/or student housing atop national retail space above ground, and local, eclectic shops and restaurants underground.

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