Stuck In The Dirt: After Years Of Promises, Atlanta’s Fabled Luxury Skyscraper Clouded In Mystery

Five years ago, a New York developer bought a plot of land in Midtown Atlanta, declaring its intentions to build the tallest residential tower in the Southeast, with prices and finishes more in line with Midtown Manhattan.

Brokers for the project — called No2 Opus Place — say they have dozens of buyers who have committed to buying units in the building, some of which are being offered for north of $10M.

But many real estate brokers and experts who Bisnow spoke to have doubts that it will ever get built.

Perkins+Will Olympia heights Management

ArX Solutions Rendering for the proposed No2 Opus Place, designed by Perkins+Will and being developed by Olympia Heights Management

Several announced dates for an official groundbreaking have come and gone, the developers continue to refinance the land with short-term loans, and the construction firm working on the site told Bisnow there are no plans to go vertical anytime soon.

“Opus, which we call ‘Nopus,’” said Jeffrey Taylor Johnson, the founder of Above Atlanta Brokers, among the top condo brokerage firms in Atlanta. “It’s a joke.”

After purchasing the property at 98 14th St. for $22M in 2014, developer Olympia Heights Management has reshaped plans for the project three times. In the latest iteration, unveiled last year, Olympia Heights envisions a 53-story building with 182 condominium units and more than 200K SF of office space, still the tallest residential tower in Atlanta at 730 feet.

No2 Opus Place could be the project that gives Atlanta one of its first glimpses of luxury and lifestyle typically found in markets like New York, Tokyo, Miami or Los Angeles. Its residents would have sweeping views of Midtown and Downtown Atlanta and access to a resort-style pool, high-end restaurants, a spa, a wine tasting and storage room, an IMAX theater and 24-hour concierge services.

Since buying the land and announcing the ambitious project, the New York developer behind Olympia Heights was investigated by the attorney general in his home state for fraud and shoddy workmanship on several condo developments. Three years ago, he agreed to a two-year ban from selling condos in a deal with the attorney general.

That developer, Shaya Boymelgreen, built thousands of luxury apartments in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the 1990s until his business essentially collapsed amid the Great Recession.

Olympia Heights has maintained that the building is moving forward, and that they have pre-sold dozens of units. It still predicts a 2021 opening, despite the fact that foundation work has not yet begun. But the development team’s shifting dates and marketing tactics have led some buyer’s agents in Atlanta to steer their customers clear.

“I don’t think that project is viable,” a local broker told Bisnow. “Because it just doesn’t seem to go anywhere, and the story changes all the time.”

A Luxurious Plan

Olympia Heights
The $3M sales center operated by Berkshire Hathaway and Olympia Heights

Olympia Heights spent $3M building out No2 Opus Place’s sales center, located on the property, which contains a wall filled with video screens showing models of the skyline views, inside a model of a condo unit.

The units are being designed by Champalimaud Design, which has designed condos and hotel rooms for the Waldorf Astoria and The Plaza in Manhattan and Ritz-Carltons and Four Seasons overseas. They range from one to three bedrooms, with Falakron marble countertops and backsplashes, Miele appliances and airy and spacious bathrooms lined with marble.

Residents in the building would be members of The Opus Club, a three-story amenity with two pools, a wellness center, a spa and Mozart’s 41st, “the ultimate lifestyle club with private lounges, chef’s table, and screening room,” according to the project’s website.

Asking prices in the building, designed by Perkins+Will, range from $600K to $12M, according to Berkshire Hathaway’s website. Prices start around $600 per SF for lower-level units, but will rise to above $1K per SF for the homes closer to the top.

The prices Olympia Heights is targeting have rarely ever been achieved in Metro Atlanta, a market where the average first-generation condo unit sells for around half as much per foot, Engel & Volkers CEO Christa Huffstickler said. On the highest end, condos have sold for $800 per SF, she said.


Yates Construction
A poster hanging on a construction trailer at the No2 Opus Place site details where cranes will be positioned for future construction.

JPX Works founder Jarel Portman knows the difficulties of getting a luxury condo project off the ground in Atlanta.

His firm pursued a project in Buckhead called Emerson. He designed the 41-unit project with the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and chased a price point of $1,100 per SF. Units in the building started at $2M.

Portman was a known quantity in Atlanta. He is the son of the late, renowned architect and developer John Portman, and has developed two successful commercial projects in his own right: the mixed-use Inman Quarter project and the Lili apartment tower. But even after pre-selling 32% of the units, JPX Works was unable to land financial backing to go vertical.

In 2018, Portman pulled the plug on the project and sold the land to another developer.

“Clearly, we thought Emerson was going to be sold out even before we opened the design office, but maybe that’s because we fell in love with the design,” Portman said. “It’s very difficult to build the kind of product that we were trying to build and [the No2 Opus Place developers] say they’re trying to build in Atlanta right now.”

Stuck In The Ground

Yates Construction
A digger was excavating Olympia Heights site in Midtown in early June

Stolz Partners founder Will Stolz, who is developing two luxury condo projects in Texas, said lenders today typically require between 40% and 50% of the proposed units locked in, with buyers putting down at least 10% of the purchase price before granting construction funding.

He sold half the units of his Giorgetta project and 40% of the units on The Sophie, both mid-rise projects in Houston, before securing construction financing, he said. Convincing customers to buy units before any actual construction begins is difficult, and can make pre-sales slow going, Stolz said.

“If you’re realistically doing one a month, then you’re doing as well as you can expect to be doing,” he said. “Now in a high-rise, that could change. You could pro forma more aggressive absorption in a high-rise.”

Despite having financed projects for Olympia Heights in the past — including an apartment project in Brooklyn and an office project in Nashville — Terra Capital Partners Managing Director Dan Cooperman said Terra has no interest in financing the construction of No2 Opus Place.

Terra Capital previously held the mortgage on the property for two years prior to Ardent Cos., which currently owns the debt on the land.

“I think we saw a package from a broker on it,” Cooperman said. “But we’ve done a number of deals with them, and we’ve been in that land for a couple of full years and we sort of went full circle on it, and that was a good result for us.”

Cooperman said it will be difficult for Olympia Heights to find construction financing for their project, especially at their hoped-for price point.

“The for-sale market in Florida or New York is one that is much more sort of proven,” he said. “So I think the condo component and the size make this a challenge from a financing standpoint for the best of developers.”

At the end of 2018, there were 82 condo projects on the market in Atlanta, either under construction or delivered, according to multifamily tracking firm Haddow & Co. Nearly 40% of the more than 4,100 units in those projects remained unsold.

In No2 Opus Place’s neighborhood, Midtown Atlanta, there were nine active condo projects and more than 400 unsold first-generation units, Haddow & Co. reported. Of those, 64 were under contract by year’s end. Haddow & Co. Managing Partner Ladson Haddow said that No2 Opus Place is not tracked among those statistics since it has not officially gone under construction.

Olympia Heights’ plans for 182 condos are part of the submarket’s 407-unit future pipeline. On May 13, Olympia Heights’ Roni Avraham — who is spearheading the development in Atlanta — told Bisnow the developer had pre-sold 70 units, which would be 38% of its proposed stock.

Olympia Heights’ debt on the property is coming due shortly. The developer secured a loan for $22M from Ardent Cos., which matures in January 2020. It has an option to extend the maturity date by three months, according to Fulton County deed records. Officials with Ardent declined to comment.

The Ardent loan refinanced Olympia Heights’ previous loan with New York-based Terra Capital Partners. It initially borrowed $24.5M in 2017, and in June 2018, Olympia Heights refinanced that loan with Terra, this time for $27.5M, which matured at the end of the year, according to Databank. That loan was fully satisfied, Cooperman said.

View from North American Properties managing partner Mark Toro’s balcony at The Four Seasons in Midtown Atlanta
Courtesy of Mark Toro View from a balcony at The Four Seasons in Midtown Atlanta

Moving Targets Throughout all this time, Olympia Heights officials have publicly insisted its project would deliver by 2020, even as the dates for construction’s start shifted in the media and its overall plans changed.

In various media reports, Olympia Heights offered various dates that construction would begin:

In July 2016, What Now Atlanta reported construction was to start that fall.

In February 2018, Atlanta Magazine reported that the firm had short-listed general contractors and would likely break ground later in the year.

In a May 2018, Avraham told Curbed Atlanta that the developer would start going vertical in September or October.

In February of this year, Atlanta Magazine reported that construction would start in the middle of this year with delivery now pegged for 2021. Midtown Alliance’s website, which tracks new commercial developments in the area, shows No2 Opus Place as “under construction,” having started in 2017 and finishing in 2020.

When Olympia Heights first announced plans in 2014 for the project on the site, which was once targeted by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for a potential new music hall, the developer envisioned a three-tower project that would include a hotel and a condo skyscraper that would rise 60 stories, the tallest building in the Southeast, surpassing Bank of America Plaza.

Since then, Olympia Heights has tinkered with its plans, condensing the project into a single tower, nixing a hotel component, reducing the height to 53 stories, shrinking some of the units and capping the project at 182 condos.

When asked about when the firm would break ground, Avraham told Bisnow, “You should see some action next week. Probably [in] June, July, we’re going to start with the foundation.”

Since that brief May 13 exchange, in which Avraham said to have pre-sold more than a third of the units in the project, he has not responded to multiple calls and emails from Bisnow seeking comment for this story.

It is difficult to verify pre-sales in Georgia. A sale is not typically recorded in local deeds until it is fully consummated, according to Haddow.

Earlier this month, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Managing Broker Lori Lane, who is leading sales marketing efforts for No2 Opus Place, told Bisnow that she would provide an update that’s “really positive” after a meeting with stakeholders in the project over the past week. She also said the sales team “met our quota” with pre-sales, describing them as traditional.

“[The buyers] all put money down,” Lane said, but couldn’t verify how many buyers put down hard money or refundable deposits.

After that meeting, in an email June 19, Lane wrote, “the sales team is not able to answer questions as much as they would like to … I can tell you everything is moving forward and we are very excited about the future of No2 Opus Place … If you can bear with us I will make sure you get the accurate info when I have it to share.”


No2 Opus Place Olympia Heights site
Bisnow Yates Construction inserted a trailer and installed fencing around the site that is being pushed by Olympia Heights for a condo tower

Behind The Curtain

While Avraham has served as the public face of Olympia Heights Management, alongside Eugene Zlatopolsky, who signed the loan agreements for the mortgages, a New York developer with a spotty reputation is involved in the company.

Cooperman confirmed to Bisnow the Boymelgreen family was involved in the project. And Sarah Boymelgreen, the wife of Shaya Boymelgreen, is the authorized signatory for the LLC registered with Georgia for the property — OHM Atlanta Owner — according to state documents.

The Boymelgreen name is well-known in New York real estate circles. According to the New York Times, patriarch Shaya Boymelgreen’s “break came in 2001” when he met diamond magnate Lev Leviev, and they built more than 2,400 apartments together.

By 2009, the Israeli-born Boymelgreen had trimmed his staff to 15 from 200, was in the process of being evicted from his Brooklyn office and was already facing lawsuits from his buyers over unfinished work at their buildings.

The New York Attorney General’s office starting investigating him in 2013. In 2016, Boymelgreen entered into a settlement agreement with then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The deal meant Boymelgreen couldn’t sell any condos in the city for two years. Boymelgreen also agreed to repair issues at six of his projects.

The settlement put “an end to Mr. Boymelgreen’s perpetual fraud and abuse in New York City real estate securities,” Schneiderman said at the time.

The investigation found that Boymelgreen and Leviev had, in one instance, made $360M by selling out a Lower Manhattan condo project, 15 Broad, then “abandoned efforts to finish the work and drained the escrow funds, while assuring buyers that the money had been set aside,” the Times reported.

While Boymelgreen was being investigated in New York, his Olympia Heights company was pitching No2 Opus Place. While multiple people involved in the project have confirmed then Boymelgreens’ involvement in No2 Opus Place, they have not been mentioned in any of Olympia Heights’ public statements or plans.

“That’s part of some of the challenges with the site,” a source close to the project, who was not authorized to speak to press, told Bisnow. “If you’re the developer and you have a questionable equity partner, you’re going to do all you can to defer attention away from that partner.”

Bisnow offered numerous opportunities to Olympia Heights Management for further comment on the story.

“They don’t do press,” Lane said.

What Comes Next

Yates Construction was recently tapped to perform site work for No2 Opus Place, a move that spawned local chatter that perhaps the tower was finally breaking ground. But a source familiar with the contract said Yates is undergoing design assist work, in which it is assessing the potential cost to develop the project, as well as digging out dirt at the site all the way to the bedrock.

No one has been hired as a general contractor as of press time. Officials with Yates Construction declined to comment.

A handful of senior real estate professionals told Bisnow that Olympia Heights and Berkshire Hathaway have used activity on the site in its marketing outreach to insinuate that actual construction had begun.

The No2 Opus Place sales office posted a 28-second video to YouTube in December 2017 called “No2 Opus Place Groundbreaking” that shows dirt shooting out from the ground like geysers, but no people or construction equipment on the site. Another video, posted in July, shows excavators hauling dirt into trucks. The page has not been updated in 11 months.

The repeated false starts have made it difficult for brokers to sell their clients on committing to a unit at the project. One broker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she had a client back away from putting a down payment on a unit.

“I did have one person make an offer. [But] they got cold feet because they felt they weren’t getting a straight story from the sales office,” said the broker, who has sold homes in Atlanta for 20 years. “It was really just based on lack of confidence in the sales office.”

If clients ask today about No2 Opus Place, the broker said she still takes them to the sales office, but will have a word of caution after the tour.

“I [tell clients], ‘Let’s go have a look,’” she said. “And then I tell you, ‘Let me be honest with you. I don’t think that project is going forward.'”

The site was quiet when Bisnow visited it this week, a digger sitting idle on the dirt. It had been raining the previous day, and it would shower later that afternoon as well.

But there were signs that at least some work had recently been done. Olympia Heights’ contractor had dug the hole where No2 Opus Place is supposed to go even deeper.

If you have bought a unit at No2 Opus Place or represent clients who have been interested in the site, email Jarred Schenke at All correspondence will be kept confidential.

June 20, 2019

By Jarred Schenke, Bisnow Atlanta


FDA to head south, leaving behind prime Peachtree Street property in Midtown

The building at the corner of 8th Street could be ripe for redevelopment along the Midtown Mile 

Could this Midtown lot soon have a new look?
Google Maps

As first speculated in 2017, the Midtown office of the Food & Drug Administration has indeed given notice it will relocate.

The FDA will move 350 employees to the southside, where they’ll set up operations at the Fort McPherson facility in the former forces command, or FORSCOM, office building, the AJC reports.

One of 13 FDA field labs, this particular location will serve as the Atlanta district office as well as the FDA’s Southeast Food and Feed and Southeast Tobacco labs.

The new facility joins Tyler Perry Studios, which bought approximately 330 acres of the former military base from the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority, or Fort Mac LRA. The latter group purchased the decommissioned post in 2015.

However, in the wake of this move, the FDA leaves behind its low-slung, nondescript building on the corner of 8th and Peachtree in Midtown, and, in doing so, opens the door to redevelopment for a property more in line with the neighborhood’s burgeoning cityscape.

With new high-rise apartments, office towers, and mixed-use developments already in the works, logic says this could be a site for Midtown’s next big idea.

That all depends on what the property owners decide to do, of course, now that their government tenant has moved south.

Soaring Land Values Have Atlanta Churches Exploring Ways To Work With Developers

Two historic Episcopal churches in Atlanta, which combined control more than 8 acres of prime Midtown land, are mulling the redevelopment of their land as its property value soars.

Midtown Atlanta
Google Maps: All Saints Episcopal Church in Midtown Atlanta

Leaders of All Saints Episcopal Church off West Peachtree Street and Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church off Peachtree Street are evaluating potential redevelopments of sections of their church land into mixed-use projects with private developers. After acquiring the rest of its block, a string of aging retail spaces across from The Varsity sandwiched between West Peachtree and Spring streets in Midtown, in 2015, All Saints convened a committee of prominent parishioners to study what to do next, including the possibility of building housing or a mix of uses. “Developers are calling us more. But developers are looking for land that is able to be built in high density,” Emory University Candler School of Theology professor Lang Lowrey said. Lowrey is also an ordained Episcopal priest, a member of the All Saints committee and regularly consults with other Episcopal churches across the country on real estate issues. All Saints and Saint Luke’s, which sits a block from the Emory University Midtown Hospital, are just the latest churches in the heart of a major city finding themselves on a virtual gold mine as major cities across the nation experience an urban renaissance.

Midtown Atlanta has especially been the target of developer lust as residents and corporations flock back to its confines. Next to All Saints, Norfolk Southern is constructing its new global headquarters and the owners of The Varsity have been evaluating potential redevelopment plays for their property. Bull Realty founder Michael Bull said the continued development in Atlanta has helped to inflate land values in its three prime submarkets: Midtown, Buckhead and Downtown. That has forced many churches to consider what to do with the dirt they sit on.

Today, an acre of land in Midtown averages north of $10M, Marcus & Millichap Senior Director Paul Johnson said. A decade ago, that price tag would have been less than half that much. “All of it comes because these people are building 20- to 40-story products,” Johnson said.

Soaring Land Values Have Atlanta Churches Exploring Ways To Work With Developers

Midtown Alliance Rendering for the proposed apartment tower next to Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Midtown

Recently, Saint Marks United Methodist Church in Atlanta sold a portion of its campus to StreetLights Residential to develop a high-rise apartment tower that will loom over the historic church. In 2013, Friendship Baptist Church parishioners agreed to sell their historic church on Mitchell Street for nearly $20M to the Atlanta Falcons, which used the land to develop Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In turn, the church developed a new facility just two blocks away.

“If you’re sitting on several million dollars of equity that you could trade … and have millions to help people, then why shouldn’t you do it?” Bull said. Justifications for redeveloping urban church properties can vary. For Saint Marks, the agreement with StreetLights was simply for parking, Senior Pastor Beth Lorocca-Pitts said. “Originally we had purchased the parcels behind us with the intent of putting in a surface parking lot,” Lorocca-Pitts said. “One of the things that kills an intown church is not having the parking on a Sunday.” After purchasing the parcel for $1.3M, church leaders soon discovered that Atlanta prohibited surface parking on that lot. Any deck parking would cost in the millions of dollars, so getting that critical extra parking space was out of reach without the help of a private developer, she said. But selling underused land or an entire church itself is never an easy decision for a congregation. Sometimes, these explorations lead to a conclusion by congregations to do nothing at all, despite the underlying values of their land. That was the case with Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Buckhead in 2016. For a year, church leaders considered selling their building and the 4.6 acres it sits upon, sandwiched between 3630 Peachtree and Phipps Plaza, for what would have been a big payday. But ultimately, the church — then led by Mark Wilbanks — voted to stay put where it has been since 1956. “I mean, people have been calling us for years to say, ‘Hey we want to buy your back parking lot,’” Lorocca-Pitts said. “It’s never interesting to a church unless there’s some reason that will benefit them.”

For Saint Marks, that benefit is clear. StreetLights is reserving 150 of the 568-space parking deck for church use. For All Saints, the church is creating an alternative revenue stream as younger generations of churchgoers tend to be less generous with their tithing, Lowrey said. Baby boomers and church elders make up 10% of churches’ tithing (giving at least 10% of one’s income) versus 3% for Generation Xers and 2% for millennials, according to a 2017 Barna Group report. That is forcing churches to come up with other ways to raise capital. “We also believe now … you need other sources of income. That’s why people are looking back to the real estate,” Lowrey said. “I just don’t think the millennials have the money that the baby boomers have. So there’s a need for alternative sources of income.”

The Episcopal Church has taken this tactic elsewhere, including with Cathedral Church Saint John the Divine in New York City, which sold a portion of its land to Brodsky Organization. The developer built Enclave at the Cathedral, a 15-story apartment tower next door to the 120-plus-year-old church. Episcopal churches in Pasadena, California, Miami and Nashville have also partnered with private developers for various commercial developments on church-owned properties, Lowrey said. Officials with the Episcopal Church said they are not looking to sell the land holdings themselves, but instead enter into long-term land leases with developers, giving the church some control over the vision and use of those properties. “You got to balance the excitement of the real estate play with sort of the mission of the institution,” said Diversified Trust principal Michael Gragnani, who also is a member of the All Saints planning committee.

Church leaders are studying the trends shaping Midtown overall and how they can fit into that mix, both from a commercial perspective — such as fitting Saint Luke’s property into the proposed park over the interstate in Downtown — and from a mission perspective, including speaking with various nonprofit organizations on what the area’s greatest needs are, All Saints Rector Simon Mainwaring said. “I certainly think that a question of housing is one of the questions we should look deeply,” he said. All Saints has various programs already, including a small amount of housing for those recovering from drug addiction and the homeless. Mainwaring said with commercial development, there will likely be some social awareness aspect to the projects. For instance, the church could require multifamily developers to build affordable or workforce housing, or at least units small enough to be affordable to nurses and staff who work at Emory’s hospital. The committee is expected to study the potential uses of its land at both parishes and come up with a potential master development plan by 2021. “We’re finding ourselves in this great location at a time and place and at the heart of our mission as a church,” Mainwaring said. “We have a phrase that describes it for us: It is in the city and for the city.”

By Jarred Schenke, Bisnow Atlanta
June 18, 2019

Original Article Link:

Vision surfaces for proposed Midtown condo project ‘The Ansley’

Dewberry Group development is pitched as a modern-day classicist landmark on Peachtree Street

The initial project sketch.
Dewberry Group

A development group founded by a man coined “Atlanta’s Emperor of Empty Lots” appears to be planning a significant condo build on one of its many Peachtree Street parcels.

Developer Dewberry Group, founded by former Georgia Tech quarterback John Dewberry, recently posted early sketches on its website for “The Ansley” condo development. Alongside projects such as Midtown’s J5 and Buckhead’s The Charles, it could be one of the clearest signifiers in recent years that for-sale condos have made a comeback in Atlanta. Dewberry owns scores of high-profile acres along Peachtree Street, in and around Midtown

Named for the adjacent Ansley Park neighborhood, the Dewberry condo concept promises “stunning views of the city skyline, as well as the lush greenscapes on display in nearby Ansley and Piedmont parks,” according to a blurb about the development. “For Atlantans, think a modern-day classicist Midtown bookend to the Reid House, the Neel Reid and Philip Shutze-designed masterpiece which still stands proudly on Peachtree and 16th streets across from the High Museum,” the page states.

Where exactly the residential development would be sited isn’t clear, although property records indicate it could be replacing a gas station at 1521 Peachtree Street, which is owned by “Dewberry Ansley LLC.” Dewberry officials have not yet responded to Curbed Atlanta’s request for comment.

Dewberry Group owns several lots in the northern reaches of Midtown, including the one at left.
Google Maps

The condo complex would feature 80 residential units and ground-floor retail, according to the website. Dewberry Group is also the firm behind the long-awaited expansion of the Campanile tower at the corner of 14th and Peachtree streets in Midtown. Officials told Curbed in April that more details about that project, which is well underway now, would surface in coming months.

Emory scoops up more Midtown land for campus expansion

Area around the shuttered Peachtree-Pine Homeless Shelter is being primed for a makeover


Part of Emory’s campus expansion plan entails the creation of a 3,000-space parking deck with 
street-level retail.
Atlanta Department of City Planning

Emory University could be becoming the development catalyst for Atlanta’s so-called SoNo district that Georgia State University and Georgia Tech have long been for downtown and Midtown. Emory has recently been on a roll, scooping up property around the former Peachtree-Pine Homeless Shelter with plans to expand its already massive Midtown campus footprint.

Last month, the institution procured almost an acre of land around the shuttered shelter in the 400 blocks of Peachtree and Courtland streets, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. That $8 million buy comes six months after a $6.2 million purchase, which netted the university 477 Peachtree Street, the former home of Peachtree-Pine. Emory has said the property could become an “innovation hub” for arts, sciences, and humanities programs, according to the paper.

What could become of the rest of its newly acquired land remains unclear, although Emory officials have said they want to transform the campus into a sprawling “active urban hub,” according to Atlanta’s Department of City Planning. Those ambitions include, among other developments, the creation of a 3,000-space parking deck, which, at first glance, seems ironic for a densifying urban setting.

But officials say the proposed structure, which is slated to include abundant base-level retail, will allow Emory to consolidate neighboring parking lots. Doing so, Emory officials hope, would free up those nearby lots for future redevelopment.


Link to Original Article:

At prominent Midtown intersection, revised hotel project launches construction

Atlanta planning officials pushed back against earlier, blander designs for 282-key project

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 5.33.35 AM

The planned, upgraded hotel design. Renderings: Noble Investment Group

Last year, Atlanta planning leaders and rapt urbanists cheered as the developer of a planned hotel abandoned a flavorless design for something that better gels with Midtown’s historic aesthetic near the Fox Theatre. After a three-month (re)design process spearheaded by City of Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane, officials with developer Noble Investment Group had reworked plans for a 14-story, dual-branded hotel that all parties involved believe is a better fit. Today, construction launches on the 282-key hotel, which will rise on a parking lot at the corner of Midtown’s Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue, Noble officials tell Curbed Atlanta.

The planned hotel bar.

The project, designed by Charleston-based LS3P Associates Ltd., shares the intersection with a host of historic Atlanta structures, including The Fox Theatre, The Georgian Terrace hotel, and the Ponce Condominium building—three early 20th century landmarks. The upgraded hotel design, according to Keane, integrates much better with its neighbors than the bland mockup Noble was asked to change in January 2018.

The lounge.
The lobby.

“It is critically important that Atlanta expect more from its designers and more of its buildings,” Keane said last year, in a prepared statement. “City Planning is focused on design at every scale, so we can make a more vibrant public realm in Atlanta. Buildings are essential to this.”

The hotel is slated to feature 154 rooms under the Marriott Courtyard Flag, as well as 128 more in its Marriott Element section. The nearly 300 rooms would be stacked above a five-story parking deck. The hotel project also plans to introduce a new bar and restaurant to the bustling area. A Noble spokesperson told Curbed the project is expected to deliver by mid-2021.

The former design.

This story was updated to include the name of the architecture firm behind the revised design.

By Sean Keenan – Curbed Atlanta
Link to original article

Invesco adding hundreds of Atlanta jobs, will move to new Midtown HQ

Invesco Ltd. confirmed Thursday that it’s adding hundreds of jobs and moving its Atlanta headquarters to a new mixed-used development in Midtown.

Gov. Brian Kemp‘s office announced that Atlanta-based Invesco (NYSE: IVZ) plans to expand its global headquarters and add 500 jobs as part of a $70 million expansion in Atlanta. Invesco will relocate to an 8.5-acre mixed-use project called Midtown Union at 17th and West Peachtree. Invesco will anchor a 26-story tower in the development, which is being led by MetLife Investment Management (NYSE: MET). The project should be a catalyst for the northern edge of Midtown to transition over the next several years into a denser, more walkable node — more like those to the south at 14th and Peachtree and Technology Square.

The announcement comes on the heels of the May 24 announcement that Invesco acquired Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s Oppenheimer Funds Inc. unit.

The agreement for the $5.7 billion deal was first reported last fall. Invesco is Atlanta’s top money manager with about 550 staff and $164 billion under management out of the Midtown headquarters. The expansion will more than double the Atlanta workforce.

“We’re excited by the opportunity to build on our 40-year presence in the city and meaningfully expand our local team to nearly 1,200 professionals,” said Invesco President and CEO Martin Flanagan in a news release. “We’re also pleased to join MetLife Investment Management & Granite Properties in the development of one of Atlanta’s premier locations at the corner of 17th Street and West Peachtree Street.”

The Oppenheimer purchase vaulted Invesco into being the sixth-largest retail asset manager in the United States and the 13th-largest globally, with $1.2 trillion in assets under management. For now, Invesco occupies space for its headquarters at the 18-story Two Peachtree Pointe building at 1555 Peachtree Street. It moved there 12 years ago and has a lease that runs at least through 2023, sources said.

In January, Atlanta Business Chronicle reported the company had kicked-off its headquarters search and issued a request for proposals to landlords and developers of several proposed towers. As new towers for Norfolk Southern Corp., Anthem Inc., Google, and Smith, Gambrell & Russell begin to rise over the Midtown skyline, Invesco was one of the few big, high-profile tenants remaining for developers to pursue.

“There will always be large companies looking at Atlanta and trying to decide if it’s the right fit for them, but as of now this is one that’s right there at the top,” said Jeff Shaw, CEO of Bridge Investment Group. “The reality is these large corporations that are out there looking in the Atlanta market are not always finding a lot of available space.”

Russ Jobson, a longtime Atlanta real estate broker with Colliers International Atlanta, said, “To maximize leverage in the marketplace, and get maximum value, starting a search early is always better. You need enough time to say no to projects.”

Midtown was the front-runner among intown neighborhoods to retain Invesco, which has well over 500 staff in Atlanta and now has even more slated to join the office as a result of the Oppenheimer deal. Flanagan’s ties to Midtown include chairing the Woodruff Arts Center’s 2016-2017 annual corporate campaign.

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In Midtown, Invesco was leaning toward a location on the north side of the neighborhood for quicker access to cities along the city’s Perimeter and into the suburbs. That’s where many Invesco staff live. Unlike companies such as NCRCorp. or Anthem, Invesco didn’t necessarily seek close ties to Georgia Tech, which made a new building close to Technology Square a less likely destination. Midtown Union is expected to be completed in 2022. Architect Cooper Carry is designing the 26-story office tower. Granite Properties will also serve as development partner for the project.

Earlier this year, Invesco said it engaged CBRE Group Inc. (NYSE: CBRE) to evaluate its space needs in Atlanta and identify amenities in potential projects to attract and retain talented employees.

By Douglas Sams – Commercial Real Estate Editor, Atlanta Business Chronicle
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Inside a Midtown apartment building renovation inspired by Studio 54

Where rents start at $1,425 monthly for 500 square feet

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Pop culture abounds in a hallway bisecting the renovated building. Photos courtesy of Tenth Street Ventures


A Midtown apartment building flip with a twist is ready for the paparazzi. Just don’t expect a red carpet.

As announced earlier this month, a small rental complex at 940 Piedmont Avenue, about a block south of 10th Street’s rainbow crosswalks, has been transformed into a more colorful venture called studio9forty, which is said to have taken design inspiration from legendary Manhattan club Studio 54.

Now finished and leasing, the project by Tenth Street Ventures, which provided Curbed Atlanta with photos of designs, carries the risqué motto: “It’s not the size of the unit, but what you do with it.”

On that topic, the building’s 24 units start at just 500 square feet. Also unique is that tenants will be encouraged to Airbnb their rentals while out of town, earning side income from flats they don’t own.

Some larger floorplans are being marketed as one-bedrooms, although blueprints show a more open concept with walls for privacy but no doors.

By the look of things, Studio 54’s pop culture influences are limited to hallways, public areas, and names of floorplan options.

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The building undergoing renovations in December. This image: Google Maps


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The building today.


Elsewhere in Atlanta, Tenth Street Ventures recently converted the 1920s rental community Park at Peachtree Memorial into refurbished condos called Portico Buckhead, where prices begin in the high $200,000s. That project marked one of the first condo conversions in Atlanta’s current real estate cycle.

The company is priding itself on a knack for finding “hidden gems” in vibrant places like Midtown and “rehabbing older buildings while keeping them more affordable than what’s on the market,” per a press release.

“We’re motivated to breathe new life into established neighborhoods,” noted Brian McCarthy, a Tenth Street Ventures principal, “with imaginative and affordable projects.”

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Decatur-based Office of Design architecture firm led the makeover, while LC Design handled interiors, with décor inspired by artist Srinjoy Gangopadhyay of Deljou Art Group.

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The cheapest floorplan’s name nods to a glamorous artist, while the largest option is called “15 Minutes of Fame.” (The starting rent has been adjusted to $1,425). studio9forty

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By Josh Green – Curbed Atlanta
Link to original article

Digitization of massive Midtown billboards faces legal challenge

Some contend the prominent signs were illegally permitted decades ago

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An effort to digitize two of Atlanta’s most prominent billboards has been met with a legal challenge.

In February, the City of Atlanta’s Office of Buildings issued permits that would allow Tazmedia Group, which owns the massive advertising signs on the side and top of a 1960s office building at 1655 Peachtree Street, to upgrade the billboards to digital changing-message signs.

The Trivision billboards, which adorn the same building as a recognizable metal peach, are marketed by the owner as the “world’s largest,” passed by hundreds of thousands of commuters daily on Interstate 85.

But a few parties who could be impacted by the potential glow of the gigantic signage are calling foul.

The Hebrew Benevolent Congregation—best known as The Temple—Hament Desai, and Selig Enterprises are appealing the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment to invalidate Tazmedia’s permits, arguing that the signs are illegal now.

“They did not comply with the ordinance, they were illegally permitted, they exceed the allowed sign sizes by several multiples, and they are general-advertising signs masquerading as business-identification signs,” say a summary of the BZA appeal.

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Midtown Alliance is backing the appellants. An organization rep told Curbed Atlanta this week, via email: “The signs may have been improperly permitted at the outset when they went up 25 years ago, and digitizing them would create an even more outsized visual impact on the city.”

In 1992, Tazmedia founder Taz Anderson, a former Georgia Tech and Atlanta Falcons football player, and the building’s owner sought a BZA variance that would allow them to triple the size of the rooftop “business-identification sign” from 243 to 720 square feet per sign face, according to documents related to the appeal.

In April that year, the BZA approved the variance, with a few caveats:

This rooftop sign could be no longer than 49 feet, no larger than 486 feet, and must have the same information on all three sides.

The other three BZA-imposed conditions were aimed at ensuring the rooftop sign remained a business-identification sign and not a general-advertising sign.

In May 1993, Anderson’s company secured a building permit for a rooftop sign.

Interestingly, the sign mentioned in the permit would be 917 feet, almost twice the size of what the BZA said it would allow.

Then, Anderson’s company took things a step further, procuring yet another permit for a wall-hung “identification” sign that would span more than 3,800 square feet—“more than 19 times larger than the size allowed,” according to documents.

The appellants now say that allowing the signs to be converted to LED light boards would be “further rewarding the sign owner’s illegal conduct.”

In a statement emailed to Curbed, Tazmedia President Geoff Anderson said, “Our company did comply with the ordinance, [the signs] were legally permitted, they did not exceed the allowed sign size, and they are legal business-identification signs.”

The appellants also assert the billboards are liable to distract drivers, even in their current form.

The building hosting the signs, which has been abandoned since a pre-recession condo conversion failed, was recently pegged for an adaptive-reuse upgrade by architecture firm Smith Dalia.

The firm planned to build on the progress from the ill-fated condo project and create more than 100 residences there.

But, according to Midtown Alliance officials, that plan “is currently stalled without any current permits.”

A BZA hearing regarding the appeal is scheduled for June 6 at noon at Atlanta City Hall.

By Sean Keenan – Curbed Atlanta
Link to original article