Real Estate Notebook: Failure of Atlanta Beltline bill could delay major projects – Atlanta Business Chronicle

The Beltline has suffered a setback.

The 22-mile redevelopment of abandoned railroad corridors around the city, arguably the country’s largest urban renewal project, may now see some of its biggest ambitions delayed.

That’s because the so-called Beltline bill appears to be dead in the General Assembly, Atlanta Business Chronicle reported March 28.

The legislation would have allowed owners of commercial and multifamily properties along the Beltline to tax themselves to raise funds to complete a network of trails, which have become important urban spaces throughout parts of the city.

The legislation was not among 80 bills the Georgia Senate was scheduled to consider on the final two days of this year’s session.

The news comes just weeks after a high-point for the Beltline’s expansion, when the city and Atlanta BeltLine Inc. announced the purchase of 63 acres along the future Southside Trail for almost $26 million. It was one of the largest remaining land purchases needed to finish the Beltline, said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

The Beltline legislation could have created a special district, where commercial property owners could have taxed themselves. The idea may have generated up to $100 million over the next 30 years. That would have supported major Beltline projects, including the $70 million to $90 million construction of the Southside Trail. It’s already more than halfway through its design phase. Now, that project and others may be delayed.

Beltline officials could view the setback much like they did the T-SPLOST defeat a few years ago — a disappointment that underscores their need to keep fund-raising.

But, losing $100 million stings.

The Beltline bill had cleared the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee. However, several senators questioned the legality of creating a special improvement district made up of commercial and multifamily properties along the Beltline, Atlanta Business Chronicle reported.

The state has a series of community improvement districts, particularly around metro Atlanta, that raise money for transportation improvements inside those districts, but there has never been an special improvement district in Georgia.

Toll Bros. enters Atlanta

National homebuilder Toll Brothers Inc. is starting work on a 348-unit apartment building in Brookhaven, where Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are expanding their campuses.

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Toll Brothers is starting a 348-unit project in Brookhaven.

Toll Brothers’ new project is taking shape in Executive Park at Interstate 85 and North Druid Hills Road. It’s inside Emory’s 60-acre healthcare campus and next to the Atlanta Hawks practice facility and Emory orthopedic outpatient center.

Nearby, Children’s Hospital of Atlanta has its $1.3 billion campus.

Both projects are reshaping development in Brookhaven along the North Druid Hills road corridor.

Toll Brothers is calling the project Oleander, its first apartment building in Atlanta. Stephen Bates, Atlanta director of acquisitions and development, said it’s a key piece of the area’s overall master plan.

The project is slated to be finished by Summer 2019.

Brookhaven is seeing a development boom along its eastern edge, where the two Atlanta health-care giants are the catalysts. Emory is developing 2.3-million-square feet on 70 acres in Executive Park. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta chose the area for its Center for Advanced Pediatrics.

Focus Brands HQ sells

The corporate headquarters for Atlanta restaurant franchisor Focus Brands Inc. has sold for $18.3 million. Crossgate Partners bought the 63,049-square-foot building in Sandy Springs.

The seller was MidCity Real Estate Partners, the Atlanta real estate company that five years ago took a chance and purchased the former Crawford & Co. headquarters building when it was completely vacant.

Two years later, MidCity struck a big lease with Focus Brands, the franchisor and operator of more than 5,000 stores in 60 countries. Gary Lee, with Marcus & Millichap, brokered the sale of the building, which is part of the Glenridge Springs mixed-use development at Glenridge Drive and Interstate 285.

Chamblee mixed use

Three existing warehouses next to the Chamblee MARTA station are set for a makeover into a new mixed-use development.

Atlanta developer Parkside Partners is calling the project Eastside Chamblee, a 90,000-square-foot adaptive reuse of three existing warehouses on New Peachtree Road. It will include loft office space, retail space, a showroom and restaurants.

The three buildings will be renamed “The Row,” “Union” and “Link.” Each building will feature new roofs, skylights, enlarged windows, roll-up doors and amenity space.

Warner Summers is the architect.

Parkside Partners is marketing spaces at the project, ranging from 2,500 square feet to 48,000 square feet.

It hopes the adaptive-reuse development can mirror the success of its other Chamblee projects such as Trackside, a joint-venture with developer Pattillo Industrial Real Estate. That 74,000-square-foot office building has an anchor tenant in Pattillo and is also beside the Chamblee MARTA station.

Chamblee, a nearly 110-year-old former industrial area once known for railroads and dairies, has seen investment and development blossom. The projects are reshaping the city into a walkable community. Plans for a new town center are also underway.

Developers are eyeing projects in Chamblee because of its location along the Peachtree Road corridor just north of pricey Buckhead, where affordable, vacant properties have become somewhat scarce.

Chamblee is also benefiting from its connection to the MARTA station. Transit-oriented projects, including those in Chamblee, have grown into one of metro Atlanta’s most important development trends over the past several years.

University moving downtown

Herzing University is relocating from Buckhead to downtown, where it will occupy a full floor at the landmark Hurt Building.

Herzing will lease 30,000 square feet on the 4th floor. It will bring approximately 300 students to the historic building each day.

Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.’s Claire Ross and Mike Werner represented Hurt Building owner Gamma Real Estate.

The Hurt Building, with its triangular form influenced by Louis Sullivan and the Chicago School, has been a downtown landmark since the 1920s.

The building, at 50 Hurt Plaza in the Five Points area near Georgia State University, was developed by Atlanta engineer and b and builder Joel Hurt. It’s listed on the National Park Service’s registry of historic places.

Almost two years ago, New York real estate firm Gamma Real Estate, with local operating partner Dion Meltzer, bought the 18-story building for almost $33.6 million.

Downtown is seeing a resurgence that mirrors similar turnarounds in other U.S. cities.

In Atlanta, Newport, a German real estate company, plans to invest $500 million in a sweeping redevelopment of south downtown that one day will total 1.8 million square feet in the city’s historic commercial heart. Zeller Realty Group is another important player in downtown Atlanta’s renaissance, especially in the Fairlie-Poplar District, where MARTA, Georgia State University and a re-energized Woodruff Park are catalysts for new investment.

ATL DESIGN

A $100 million shark expansion got attacked.

Georgia Aquarium officials presented the project for the city’s fourth largest tourist attraction, but not everyone on the downtown development review committee was impressed with the design.

“There has to be a better solution,” said Robert Svedberg, a principal with TVSDesign, Atlanta’s 13th largest architectural firm.

While he appreciated the impact of the Aquarium on tourism and role in the community, Svedberg called the expansion’s design introverted, because it doesn’t have an entrance along Baker Street.

SPI (special public interest) zoning codes in the aquarium’s district of downtown call for an entry along a public way. Aquarium officials, however, are asking for a variance to waive that requirement. For now, the design of the new “Pemberton Place” would give pedestrians the effect of walking beside a long, solid wall as they make their way down Baker Street.

“It’s inconceivable,” Svedberg said. The committee hasn’t made a declaration about the project yet. “We have received positive feedback on the expansion and the proposed design,” said Debbie Campbell with the Georgia Aquarium.

She added, the aquarium contributes to the thriving neighborhood. “We are working closely with our community partners … and our design firm, PGAV,” she said.

A weekly recap of Atlanta’s real estate market.

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