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 312 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • May 2017 lanta is just a mall now and there's a ton of those. The sustainability for that area is when people are living there." Shopping Center Business recently caught up Smith to discuss the plan for Underground Atlanta and how the new project will fit into the downtown Atlan- ta landscape, as well as what the develop- ment means for WRS. The following is an edited interview: SCB : MARTA stations are now the hot spots to land a new mixed-use develop- ment, as we've seen near the Chamblee, College Park and Avondale stations. How will the new development embrace the MARTA Five Points Station, as well as the walkability trend? SMITH : There's no doubt in our mind that in these major cities, mass transit will con- tinue to grow and the use of an individ- ual automobile will continue to decline. Having Five Points MARTA station is a tremendous asset for our development, because you can get on at that station and ride north, south, east or west without having to change trains. Underground At- lanta has 40,000 students at Georgia State University coming downtown every day, as well as 100,000 people working in the area, including at the government offices surrounding us. We expect it to be very easy to walk to Underground Atlanta, as well as Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the uni- versity and City Hall. Walkability is huge for this project. SCB : Georgia State, the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art and De- sign (SCAD) and Georgia Tech surround Underground Atlanta. What are the ad- vantages of having those colleges in such close proximity? SMITH : We abut Georgia State, and to have those kids near our development where they can come over and grab a bite to eat or work a part-time job or go to one of our entertainment venues means an awful lot to Underground Atlanta. It works the other way too, the project will be a great benefit for Georgia State. SCB : Locally, the sale is viewed as a win for the revitalization of south Downtown Atlanta. What attracted WRS to Under- ground Atlanta? SMITH : One of the reasons that we don't think the revitalization had happened in downtown yet was that Underground At- lanta hadn't been put out for sale until the city decided to do that. Once it did, we saw a great opportunity to go downtown and provide multifamily residences, stu- dent housing and help revitalize that part of downtown Atlanta. SCB : Since the plans for the reimagined Underground Atlanta call for live-work- play model, how does that inform what retail and restaurant users will be present? SMITH : We have two different compo- nents at Underground Atlanta — above ground and underground. Above ground we'd like to continue to build a commu- nity where we have people living above the retail and restaurant space that ful- fills their need for shopping for every- day living. We're seeking a grocery store to go there and different entertainment aspects, along with daily uses that are needed for shoppers to buy clothes and outfit their apartments or dorm rooms. Underground, we'd like to see an eclec- tic, fun group of shops and restaurants. We're not looking for national retail to go underground, we want our national and regional tenants to be above ground and the startup and local stores to be un- derground. The concept of Underground Atlanta 40 or 50 years ago was more of a jazz and entertainment environment with local ownership. That's what we envision underground to be again. We want to give startups and entrepreneurs opportunities there in a local atmosphere as opposed to the chains. SCB : Locally, the project will probably always be known as Underground Atlan- ta, any thought on the final name of the development? SMITH : We haven't decided on whether we're going to have separate branding for the above ground part of the development because the name has had somewhat of a negative connotation in the media the last couple years. SCB : What's next for this project and WRS? SMITH : We're continuing to look at urban projects like Underground Atlanta. We're in negotiations with a similar project in the Southeast that would also be a live- work-play concept. Since we went under contract on Underground Atlanta, own- ers of properties around us are getting all kinds of offers to sell their buildings. A lot of buildings are trading hands. This project is the catalyst for the revitalization of the whole area of downtown Atlanta. SCB

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