UPDATE: Veil lifts on restaurant, retail conversion overlooking Piedmont Park

Plans call for replacing longstanding Skate Escape corner building with BBQ eatery-retail combo

 

[UPDATE: 1 September 14, 8:32 a.m. Midtown Alliance has shared the first visuals for the adaptive-reuse 12th & Everything proposal (see above and below) across the street from a main Piedmont Park entrance, as presented to the Midtown Development Review Committee on Tuesday. Plans call for a third DAS BBQ location in Atlanta with a building conversion heavy on rooftop and street-level patio space, while the currently shuttered building next door on Piedmont Avenue would see a mix of retail and conference space—potentially Skate Escape and a coffee option, per renderings.

[UPDATE 2: The development team shares these additional details in a press release today, with another rendering included below. The full project is expected to open in mid-2023: “Made of stone and cedar, the design of the 2,315-square-foot building at 1084 Piedmont [Avenue] will draw inspiration from Piedmont Park, housing a restaurant downstairs and an 800-square-foot, upstairs dining terrace with a gable-covered bar overlooking the park. The terrace will also be available for private events. Next door, the 1094 building will be around 1,500 square feet and feature the iconic, historic skate shop Skate Escape fronted by a new coffee shop called PMA Coffee.”]

Midtown’s roster of restaurant and retail offerings along the fringes of Piedmont Park could be in for a boost.

A concept called 12th & Everything is formulating plans to convert longstanding business Skate Escape and an adjacent brick structure into a business that melds outdoor dining with retail and conference spaces, according to Midtown Alliance.

The buildings in question stand at the northwest corner of 12th Street and Piedmont Avenue, across the street from a primary entrance to Piedmont Park, a new Shake Shack location, and Willy’s Mexicana Grill.

Smallwood

The 1084 and 1094 Piedmont Avenue building locations in relation to the western edges of the park. Google Maps

Plans presented Tuesday for the 12th & Everything adaptive-reuse project near a main Piedmont Park entrance. Smallwood/DAS BBQ, via Midtown Alliance

Skate Escape has operated on that corner since 1979 as the “oldest roller skate and skateboard shop” in Atlanta, per the business’ website, but has been offered for sale in recent years as its owners pondered retirement.

The neighboring brick structure, located immediately to the north, was once part of the skate shop business but has been shuttered for several years.

Instead of demolishing the buildings, plans call for adaptively reusing and expanding them as 12th & Everything.

How both buildings in question front Piedmont Avenue. Google Maps

The current Skate Escape structure at 1084 Piedmont Avenue—long a hub of rental bikes—would be expanded by about 940 square feet to create a new restaurant space that spans 2,315 square feet overall.

That would include a new 800-square-foot, canopied rooftop and a patio at sidewalk level for dining, according to a Midtown Development Review Committee agenda for Tuesday’s monthly meeting.

Next door, plans call for fully renovating the 1094 Piedmont Avenue building to create 1,486 square feet of retail and conference space, per Midtown Alliance.

Skate Escape’s longstanding corner-lot location. Google Maps

Between the buildings, a new translucent canopy would be installed, connecting to each rooftop. Below that, “significant hardscape and landscaping improvements” would serve to beautify the spaces, per the agenda. Parking would be offered nearby in what’s described as a “shared parking arrangement.”

Applicants include representatives of the Smallwood architecture firm, Genesis Engineering, and Stephen Franklin of DAS BBQ, per Midtown Alliance.

 

SEPTEMBER 14, 2022, 7:44AM

By JOSH GREEN

Urbanize Atlanta

Link to Article

THE NEW FRONTIER: As Midtown sees record levels of development, the next wave of towers will rise on unconventional sites.

The first land sale Cushman & Wakefield Managing Director Matt Hawkins brokered in Midtown fetched around $35 a square foot. This was in the mid-’90s. The buyer, the now-President and CEO of Novare Group Jim Borders, paid $6 million for around four acres on Peachtree Street.

In December of last year, a private equity giant broke the city’s record price paid per land square foot for a site just down the street from Hawkins’ first sale. The buyer paid $555 per square foot for three-quarters of an acre. In 2018, that same plot of land sold for $138 per square foot.

Within the last half-decade, growth throughout Midtown has transformed the district’s real estate into one of the most valuable commodities in the city. Land values are soaring, and brokers like Hawkins are seeing double the amount of offers on sites within the 1.2-mile district. But real estate opportunities aren’t running out any time soon.

As the development momentum continues, investors are having to approach site selection with an eye for creativity. Sites once considered undesirable to build ambitious projects are now crown jewels in the increasingly site-constrained Midtown core.

“There’s no such thing as built out when you’re talking about any city,” said Kevin Green, the President and CEO of Midtown Alliance, the district’s planning and development coalition. “The sites get more challenging. Maybe some existing structures that you get used to cease to exist. But it’s going to continue to change.”

Take the underused lot next to the century-old St. Mark United Methodist Church, where StreetLights Residential is building a 26-story apartment tower. Or a U.S. Post Office at West Peachtree Street worth $25 million where Rockefeller plans to build a 61-story mixed-use tower. The definition of a “prime site” has changed. Almost anything is fair game.

Where conversations over the redevelopment of unconventional sites intensifies, however, is when the potential demolition or densification of neighborhood landmarks is brought into question. Projects have yet to move forward on the largely-underused parking spaces at The Varsity or the sprawling acres on WSB-TV’s campus at West Peachtree Street, but it’s only a matter of time before the development wave leads to increased interest.

A 26-story apartment tower is rising on top of a once-vacant lot next to the century-old St. Mark United Methodist Church.

A 26-story apartment tower is rising on top of a once-vacant lot next to the century-old St. Mark United Methodist Church.

Surging demand

 

Parking lots, along with seas of broken glass and vice after dark, is what Green remembers of Midtown in the aftermath of the 1996 Olympics. There were MARTA stations within every quarter mile block off of Peachtree Street and a few office towers with “a real pioneer spirit,” but the 1.2-mile core didn’t have much fat on its bones.

The Midtown of today is a completely different beast.

“People might say [the market] has been saturated and is now fully mature,” said Sebastian Drapac of Drapac Capital Partners, which sold Midtown’s record-breaking parcel of land in December. “For me, it’s like it’s still the second quarter.”

Since 1997, over 100 new office, residential, hotel and institutional buildings sprouted from the ground. Residential units have doubled, commercial property tax digest has more than tripled and institutional capital has poured in. New national names like Rockefeller are shimmying up to the city’s longtime development strongholds.

The momentum hasn’t slowed. In 2021 alone, 1.8 million square feet of office space and 645 residential units were delivered in Midtown.

Rising land values in the district indicate a surging demand and constraining supply, a dynamic playing out in gateway markets like New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. This is partially true in Atlanta — pure dirt is sparse. Roughly 15-20% of the district is ripe for redevelopment, planning coalition Midtown Alliance estimates.

Some of this accounts for vacant parcels locked away by entrepreneurial landowners. Dewberry Capital Corporation — led by “Atlanta’s emperor of empty lots,” as Bloomberg once put it, John Dewberry — controls several undeveloped commercial sites, including 7.42 acres at along the east side of West Peachtree Street and 1.70 acres at along the east side of Peachtree Street between Beverly Road and Peachtree Circle.

Another chunk of the percentage for Midtown’s large swaths of parking infrastructure. There are roughly 5,000 spaces spread across three parking garages on the West Peachtree Street Northwest, 4,160 spaces across three garages on Peachtree Street Northwest and 3,120 across three garages on Peachtree Street Northeast, as examples.

Surface parking lots stretch across the Midtown core, some of which have been successfully redeveloped. Noble Investment Group, as an example, brought a new Marriott Courtyard-Element hotel to a public parking lot at 640 Peachtree Street. Noble negotiated with the parking operators who owned the site to build the project on top of a publicly-accessible five-story parking deck. All parties won: Noble built their hotel, the parking operators kept their revenue stream and a concrete open space on Peachtree transformed into a high-density tower.

Few surface lots are too small to build on. Developers in Drapac’s home city of Melbourne, Australia, are building structures on quarters of an acre.

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Drapac said.

The trend of building more ambitiously on smaller sites is slowly catching wind in Atlanta. In 2018, Atlanta developer JPX Works redeveloped a 0.31-acre eyesore of an empty lot at Peachtree Street into a 147-unit, 25-story apartment tower.

Vertically redeveloping parking structures helps to thwart razing over neighborhood landmarks to build anew. But it’s not an outcome the city can completely avoid.

Two Midtown restaurants on Juniper Street — Einstein’s and the neighboring Joe’s on Juniper — were razed in late 2021 after Charleston-based developer Middle Street Partners bought the property to build two 38 and 30-story apartment towers. Both restaurants were stalwarts within the LGBTQ community for decades. American drag queen icon RuPaul lived next door to the property during the ’90s.

The possibility of losing “sacred” landmarks like the Fox Theatre is out of the question, said Karl Smith-Davids, Senior Project Manager for Midtown Alliance.

But shaving off available land on some of these properties is not unfathomable. Construction unraveling on underused concrete at St. Mark United Methodist is an example of this, as are similar redevelopment projects going on at Big Bethel AME Church in Sweet Auburn and Atlanta First United Methodist Church at Peachtree Street.

Mayor Andre Dickens is championing the redevelopment of church-owned land. Early into his first 100 days, he announced the creation of a grant to assist faith-based organizations with building affordable housing on their properties.

Cities cannot run out of room

 

All development inevitably comes with a tradeoff. Low-rise office buildings or stalwart parking structures of yesteryear will inevitably come down to satisfy the needs of a growing market. Apartments are primarily leading this charge, as the number of residents in the center of Midtown have doubled within the last decade.

But Green’s idea of success in Midtown is not every square “getting developed with concrete, glass and steel,” he said. It’s creating an environment where open public spaces for people to gather and come together can coexist with corridors dense with development.

“That’s among our opportunities and challenges. How do you do that with a place that’s as hot of a market as Midtown? Because we’re not just looking at what Midtown needs to be successful for the next five years, but what does it need to be successful for the next 50?” Green said.

By  –  Reporter, Atlanta Business Chronicle
Updated

Remember Atlanta’s ‘Midtown Mile?’ An anchor of it just sold for a record price.

A Florida-based company has purchased a Midtown retail center on Peachtree Street Northeast for a record price.

A Florida-based company has purchased a Midtown retail center on Peachtree Street Northeast for a record price.

A real estate investment firm just paid the highest price in years for a single Midtown retail center.

East Coast Acquisitions, a Florida-based real estate investment firm, has purchased street-level retail and a parking garage at 1010 Midtown along Peachtree Street Northeast for $38 million.

Anchored by Sugar Factory and Piedmont Healthcare, the development also includes Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Chipotle, Panera Bread, RA Sushi Bar, Sage Dental, Silverlake Ramen and Sweathouz.

The deal represents the highest standalone transaction for Midtown retail space in about a decade, said David Kahn, Southeast director of market analytics at commercial real estate research firm CoStar Group.

The center sold far above the average 12-month sales price of $5.7 million for Midtown retail sites, according to CoStar. The property sold for $15 million in 2013, according to the research firm.

The 44,302 square feet of street-level retail sits at the base of a 425-unit luxury condo building. The tower, which stands over 11th and 12th streets, was not included in the sale. The retail portion of the development, completed in 2008, is 94% leased.

More than a decade ago, the original owners of 1010 Midtown marketed the project as an anchor of the “Midtown Mile,” a retail corridor along a stretch of Peachtree Street intended to become Atlanta’s version of the Magnificent Mile in Chicago.

It makes sense for the retail center to trade at a premium, given the area’s strong demographics and tenant roster, Kahn said. More than 216,000 people visit the 2-mile radius around the property each day, according to JLL.

Most of Midtown’s retail and parking income used to be generated by its daytime office population, but that’s no longer the case, said Chris Wild, principal at East Coast Acquisitions, in an email. “… Midtown has transitioned into a live, work, play environment, increasing the productivity cycle for both retail and parking,” he said.

Wild added that several new developments will soon replace surface parking lots in the area, which will steer drivers to the onsite garage acquired by his company.

The transaction comes at a time when companies offering high-paying jobs open new offices in the area, bumping up the demand for retail space as new residents move to the area. The submarket is experiencing a 1.7% retail vacancy rate, lower than at any other time in the past decade.

Compared with other parts of metro Atlanta, Midtown has few contiguous retail spaces, Kahn said. “It’s very difficult to build new retail there, so existing properties are pretty valuable,” he said.

 

By  –  Reporter, Atlanta Business Chronicle
Updated

Affordability initiative to protect historic Midtown apartment building

Renovation of Winnwood Apartments, a Georgian Revival-style landmark from 1931, to include more housing, micro units

A restoration project in Midtown’s northern blocks is aiming to be a win-win for both historic preservation and affordable housing in a prominent Atlanta location.

Built in 1931, the Winnwood Apartments have been the subject of redevelopment talks for more than two years. The two-story brick structure at 1460 West Peachtree Street —built in a Georgian Revival-style by the once-prominent Atlanta firm H.W. Nicholes and Sons—reflects popular residential architecture from the early to mid-20th century.

According to preservation organization Easements Atlanta, it’s one of the last examples of this architecture style left standing in the city.

The Winnwood Apartments’ West Peachtree Street entry and courtyard today, prior to full renovations. Photography by Above Visuals; courtesy of GBX Group, Urban Landings

GBX Group has partnered with Easements Atlanta, along with developer Urban Landings, to refurbish and reconfigure the 90-year-old property into roughly 50 units—all micro apartments and one-bedrooms.

Previously, Winnwood Apartments were all two or three-bedrooms units, officials tell Urbanize Atlanta.

“This project won’t have a dedicated affordable component, per se,” Urban Landings cofounder Bobby Gibson wrote via email. “Instead, it will attempt to tackle affordability by building efficient spaces with A Class finishes at a discount to new A Class developments.”

Photography by Above Visuals; courtesy of GBX Group, Urban Landings

Atlanta development wonks may recall the landmark building and surrounding property were once controlled by Tenth Street Ventures. When four of that company’s managing partners split off to form Urban Landings in 2021, the Winnwood Apartments transferred with them, Gibson said.

Urban Landings succeed in earning a spot for the property on the National Register of Historic Places last year. That enabled developers to access historic tax credits that are helping to make the project financially viable, officials said.

The redevelopment team expects to wrap construction on Winnwood Apartments in the fourth quarter of this year. Cameron Pimm, Urban Landings chief operating officer, said it’s too early at this point to say what rents might be.

The goal, said Pimm, is to provide “quality housing at an achievable price point for the ever-expanding workforce.”

The building in the context of northern Midtown, as seen two years ago. City Realty Advisors

Winnwood’s new ownership group also donated a façade easement to Easements Atlanta. According to project leaders, that move will ensure the complex’s exterior design is permanently protected while making the project eligible for more tax incentives.

Ian Michael Rogers, Easements Atlanta’s president, said the Midtown apartments help “offer a deep connection to our city’s story” in a recent announcement. Drew Sparacia, CBX’s CEO, added that today’s real estate climate favors demolition and new construction, but that chasing quick dollars could pay fewer dividends in the long run.

“Those buildings, many with rich architecture and ties to their local communities, offer untold economic and socioeconomic potential for all community stakeholders if rehabbed correctly,” said Sparacia. “We’ve seen it time and time again across the country. And we’re confident that we’ll see it with this [Midtown] project.”

The building’s Georgian Revival-style facade and courtyard today.Photography by Above Visuals; courtesy of GBX Group, Urban Landings

JANUARY 27, 2022, 2:15PM

By JOSH GREEN

Urbanize Atlanta

Link to Article

Piedmont Avenue SPI-17 District Proposed Code Amendments Seek to Create Consistency with other SPI Districts

Atlanta is working with Midtown Alliance and the Midtown Neighbors Association to create a more user-friendly ordinance.

 

The City of Atlanta has collaborated with the Midtown Alliance and the Midtown Neighbors Association (MNA) to identify critical revisions to the zoning code to regulate orderly growth in the Piedmont Avenue SPI-17 District into the future. The proposed regulations aim to simplify, clarify, and make this district more consistent with other SPI districts. The only changes proposed are text changes and not changes to the zoning map; therefore, no properties are proposed to be rezoned.

The Zoning Review Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on March 3, 2022, or March 10, 2022. The text amendments they will be reviewing include:

  • Providing procedures consistent with other SPI districts.
  • Reformatting and updating text into tables including allowed uses, allowed heights, open space, streetscaping elements. Also, pedestrian and vehicular accessibility are clarified, including parking counts and the building’s active use depths and fenestration (windows).
  • Updating specific design criteria, including prohibiting EIFS, tree grates, arcades, overzealous tree installation, and further regulating criteria for curb-cuts and parking decks. This is intended for better compatibility to the Midtown Garden residential area to the east and greater consistency with the City’s transportation plans.

The Piedmont Avenue Special Public Interest District is divided into four (4) subareas and include Subarea 1: 14th and Piedmont; Subarea 2: Piedmont North; Subarea 3: 10th; and Piedmont. Subarea 4: Piedmont South.

According to City documents, the updated SPI-17 code will reinforce Piedmont Avenue’s strengths, including creating a walkable neighborhood with a balance of low and medium density uses. The district will continue to transition between the high mixed-use densities in the SPI-16 district to the west and lower residential densities in the Midtown Garden residential area to the east. New development will have similar landscape and streetscape design requirements to be compatible with the existing environment along Piedmont Street. In addition, the encroachment of incompatible dense commercial uses and parking into the residential neighborhood will continue to be restricted.

Post by Anita Archambeau

Whatnow Atlanta

January 27th, 2022

Link to Article

Private equity giant Northland pays near record price for prime Midtown development site

Midtown skyline.

Midtown skyline.

A private equity giant has paid a near record price for a prime development site in Midtown.

Northland Investment Corp. bought just under an acre at Spring Street and 17th for a whopping $19 million, or about $555 per land square square foot, according to Fulton County property deeds. It was sold by an affiliate of Drapac Capital Partners, an Australian real estate firm with a big footprint across Atlanta.

The all-cash deal closed on Dec. 22, according to Fulton County property records.

Four years ago, Drapac had paid just $4.7 million for the site, but a construction boom across Midtown since then has eroded the supply of development sites. It has left buyers forced with paying a premium for the top opportunities.

The site Northland purchased sits in the middle of several mixed-use projects and apartment towers either planned or underway. Next door is the site of a proposed 31-story apartment tower at 1405 Spring Street that JPX Works and Zeller Real Estate will develop. For comparison, JPX paid around $459 per land square foot for their half-acre site. Farther south, the Rockefeller Group paid $500 per land square foot for 1.1 acres at West Peachtree and 12th Street.

Northland primarily develops apartment and mixed-use properties. The firm owns several apartment projects across Atlanta, including The Sutton high-rises in Buckhead Village.

In Midtown, Northland is expanding in one of the top real estate markets in the Sunbelt. Nearby, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) is opening its Atlantic Yards cloud computing and artificial intelligence office. It will bring 1,500 jobs. Also nearby is a new office tower anchored by Google.

By  –  Reporter, Atlanta Business Chronicle

Cousins Properties expands Midtown tower concept, buys Ecco restaurant

Updated rendering for Cousins Properties' 887 West Peachtree office tower.

Updated rendering for Cousins Properties’ 887 West Peachtree office tower.

Atlanta’s largest office landlord has acquired a half-acre just blocks from Tech Square, adding another property for its mixed-use project along West Peachtree.

Cousins Properties Inc. paid $6.9 million for the site along 7th Street, according to Fulton County property deeds. Cousins has adjusted its original plans for its 887 West Peachtree project from a single 26-story office tower to include apartments, a restaurant and additional greenspace in a second phase of construction. The new site on 7th Street provides more room for the amenities.

Cousins brought the property from Atlanta-based restaurant group Fifth Group Restaurants, according to property records. The restaurant group’s Midtown location of European-style bar Ecco is located on the property. Cousins intends to preserve the building and has leased it back to Fifth Group. The deal closed on Dec. 9.

For the last two years, Cousins has slowly assembled sites for the project along 7th and West Peachtree. In September, it paid about $3 million for a .15-acre site adjacent to the Ecco building, where a 12-unit apartment building from 1929 still sits. In April of 2020, the company closed on three commercial lots for a combined $6.4 million.

The most recent iteration of site plans presented in December to the Midtown Development Review Committee showed a 26-story tower with 400,000 square feet of office space build over street-level retail.

Previous proposals called for around 31 stories, an additional 100,000 square feet of office more dramatic architecture that resembled a razorblade on the skyline, but Cousins altered the plans to “cater to what we’re hearing from the market,” said Executive Vice President Kennedy Hicks.

“You’re seeing the Midtown market continue to grow and evolve,” Hicks said. “This location as part of Tech Square is interesting, and the more projects that get announced there, the more exciting this particular location is going to be.”

The project is joining an area with several recently developed office towers, including:

  • Selig Enterprises’ Google-anchored 1105 West Peachtree, part of a larger mixed-use development
  • Portman Holdings’ 712 West Peachtree integrated into Anthem Technology Center
  • Cousins’ 758,000-square-foot Norfolk Southern campus.

Cousins expects to begin construction on the first phase of 887 West Peachtree this summer, Hicks said. Phase II will follow. The company has recently added active listings for the site on real estate inventory database CoStar.

By  –  Reporter, Atlanta Business Chronicle

Check out how much Midtown Atlanta has grown in a decade

Since 2010, nearly 60 buildings have risen within a square mile of booming neighborhood

 

Anyone returning to Midtown for the first time in a while has probably had that surreal experience of turning a corner and seeing a new city, a high-rise wall unfurling down the street that wasn’t there before.

Midtown Alliance has lent context as to why that happens.

As part of a debriefing event last week, Midtown Alliance CEO and president Kevin Green presented an updated aerial rendering depicting what’s been built across the booming subdistrict in the past decade and what’s to come.

Across roughly one square mile, 57 buildings have delivered since 2010, with the majority of them classified by Midtown Alliance as “major” developments.

Eight of them have opened this year alone.

Buildings that have delivered since roughly 2010 (blue), with more under construction today (green), plus some other projects in the development review process (orange) now. Midtown Alliance

The groundswell of investment in the once-sleepy district shows few signs of slowing.

Another 16 projects are under construction—including skyline-altering builds like Middle Street Partners’ 1081 Juniper towers—while another 10 buildings have cleared the development review process, according to Midtown Alliance.

In pandemic-addled 2021 alone, 10 projects have come before the Midtown Development Review Committee. If built as planned, they would bring nearly 2,000 more residential units, 60,000 square feet of retail, and more than 748,000 square feet of offices.

Where the bulk of Midtown’s development has been concentrated the past decade. Midtown Alliance

To put those numbers in visual terms, Midtown Alliance color-coded buildings in a recent aerial photo and inserted approximations of where major proposals would stand.

As staggering as that visual may be, eagle-eyed observers online pointed out that it’s actually missing a few under-construction projects, such as Toll Brothers’ 36-story Momentum Midtown and Portman Holdings’ first residential tower in the city. (Labeling Selig’s curvy 1010 Midtown condos as a post-2010 delivery, and calling John Dewberry’s supposedly viable Campanile redo “under construction” could also be described as fast and loose.)

In any case, as the illustration clearly shows, Midtown is evolving at a rapid clip, and former surface parking blocks and low-rise lots have become dense urban scenes like these below, with more on the way:

One major recent project, Norfolk Southern’s two-building HQ complex on West Peachtree Street, replaced what was largely surface parking across 3.4 acres.Jonathan Phillips/Urbanize Atlanta

Most Midtown buildings seen here didn’t exist a few years ago. Jonathan Phillips/Urbanize Atlanta

 

DECEMBER 06, 2021

BY JOSH GREEN – Urbanize Atlanta

Link to Article

Micron chipmaker to open Atlanta center creating 500 jobs

A Micron facility.

Micron Technology, the last major U.S. maker of semiconductors for computer memory, will open a research center in Midtown Atlanta that will create about 500 jobs.

The Idaho-based company said Monday the new development will open in January 2022 and will include offices, a data center and research and development operations.

Gov. Brian Kemp touted the company’s announcement as a sign of the state’s economic strength at a time when manufacturers are facing a shortage in computer chips.

“I look forward to seeing the opportunities this creates in Atlanta,” Kemp said, “and to seeing the innovative solutions that will come from this brand new, world-class technology center.”

Micron executive Scott DeBoer said the company was drawn to Atlanta’s diverse high-tech infrastructure, which offers a way to “expand our talent pool with people who can bring different ideas, backgrounds and experiences” to the process.

It’s not immediately clear what incentives were offered to recruit the firm.

Micron recently said it would spend $150 billion over the next decade and lobbied government leaders to provide more tax breaks and incentives to ensure that the money is spent in the U.S.

It’s among the American-based tech giants that house extensive research facilities in the U.S. but outsource most of the manufacturing. Micron’s semiconductors are now built in Asia, and Bloomberg reported only 2% of memory chips are produced in the U.S.

Tech companies have rallied around a measure aiming to bring back the industry by providing $52 billion in incentives to encourage U.S. businesses to produce more semiconductors.

The measure cleared the Senate in June with support from Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, but it’s stalled in the House amid a broader debate about economic incentives.

The Micron announcement comes as the nation struggles with a shortage in another type of essential computing component — semiconductors.

In October, SK Group announced plans to invest about a half-billion dollars in a manufacturing plant in Georgia where it will build components for computer chips. That plant, to be located east of Atlanta, is expected to open in 2023.

Georgia has spent decades courting high technology companies.

Randy Cardoza, who was the state’s top economic development official in parts of the 1980s and 1990s, said in a recent interview that microchip manufacturers have long been considered to be on par with car factories in terms of the state’s top targets.

”The big deals we chased in the late 80s and early 90s were microchip manufacturers,” he said. “Those were the car plants of the time.

”I wish we could have gotten one at the time now that nobody can find a chip,” he said.

Monday December 6th, 2021

Long delayed revamp of Midtown office tower still happening, owner says

The renovation of the Campanile tower at 1155 Peachtree St. NW has been stalled amid a dispute with a former contractor, but developer John Dewberry says the project will resume, perhaps by Christmas. STEVE SCHAEFFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

At the center of Midtown, Atlanta’s hottest commercial real estate market, stands a 21-story eyesore.

The renovation of the Campanile office tower, at 1155 Peachtree St., has been stalled for about two years, and the neglect is starting to show. Weeds grow through a chain link fence. Sheets of protective plastic wrap are peeling off the building’s exterior.

Meanwhile, across 14th Street, a $400 million renovation of Colony Square was completed this summer. Across Peachtree Street, the 1980s office building that will soon house the credit card network Visa recently underwent a facelift.

Campanile’s owner, John Dewberry, has ambitious plans for the office tower that include encasing the building in new marble, creating a penthouse office suite and expanding floor space by 50%, to 665,000 square feet. And his company has been awarded millions of dollars in tax breaks to help him accomplish that. But the project has hit financial snags along the way, delaying its completion.

A $186 million loan secured by the Campanile tower was recently sold as “non-performing,” meaning the lender considered the loan in distress. Liens piled up as the project came to a halt. The city of Atlanta filed a complaint labeling the renovation “abandoned.”

The pandemic has brought a new set of challenges, as well. Landlords like Dewberry face a market with soft demand and an oversupply of vacant offices. Many companies are reconsidering office space as more employees spend at least part of their week working remotely.

Dewberry said he’s not worried.

“Once we’re through, I think 14th and Peachtree Street is really going to be ground zero of Atlanta,” he said in an interview.

the Campanile office tower is under construction at 1155 Peachtree St. NE in Atlanta STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Dewberry insists everything is in order and says construction will resume soon, perhaps by Christmas.

A work shutdown at a major intersection is enough to garner attention on its own. When it involves a developer whose outsized personality attracts both flattering and unflattering descriptions, it’s even more notable.

A 2017 Bloomberg article called Dewberry the “emperor of empty lots” for his unwillingness to develop valuable parcelson Peachtree Street. He owns about 1.7 million square feet of office, retail and hospitality properties in metro Atlanta, according to data provider CoStar.

Things started well at the Campanile. Dewberry bought the largely empty building at a discount, for $36 million in 2010, with plans to renovate. About three years later, the Development Authority of Fulton County (DAFC) granted a tax break estimated by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to be worth about $3 million. The DAFC justified the incentive because Dewberry’s plan could lure employers and jobs.

But that initial project failed to gain traction with would-be tenants, and Campanile remained about half-empty, according to a DAFC document from 2017. So Dewberry returned with a grander proposal.

That November, the DAFC board unanimously approved a new tax break replacing the 2013 agreement. DAFC did not publish estimated values of its tax breaks at the time, but the AJC estimates the 2017 deal could be worth about $5.7 million over a decade. In return, Dewberry promised an $88 million renovation, adding four floors of office space and street-front retail.

“The project is expected to result in approximately 1,319 new office jobs and 46 new retail jobs,” according to the DAFC meeting agenda. It’s unclear how those job estimates were determined.

It may seem counterintuitive to put so much work into a 1987 office building, but it’s based on sound reasoning, said Keith Pierce, vice president of research at brokerage Transwestern. Older buildings have a difficult time competing with brand-new products.

Dewberry is “essentially delivering a new building with 35-year-old bones,” Pierce said.

Quarterback-turned-developer John Dewberry

In the 11 years Dewberry Capital has controlled Campanile, tech corporations that pay a premium for office space have flocked to Midtown, including Google, Microsoft and Cisco. Law firms like Jones Day are also courted to relocate to the newest buildings.

Even during the pandemic, Midtown has been a bright spot in the overall mixed picture of metro Atlanta’s office market.

Landlords signed 501,411 square feet of new office space leases in Midtown during the three-month period ending Sept. 30, according to brokerage Avison Young. That was up from 156,626 square feet in the same period in 2020, but shy of the 252,615 square feet leased in the same period of 2019.

Over the decade as the Midtown market heated up, Campanile landed Pandora and Northwestern Mutual insurance as tenants, but otherwise missed the wave. It’s currently about 44% occupied, according to Avison Young.

“That entrance is still a mess. For a prospective tenant, that’s a turnoff,” said Henry Lorber, a distressed real estate expert. “You also have vicious competition going on from all the other offices in the area.”

Dewberry predicts that Campanile will soon join the ranks of Midtown’s trophy office towers and will be able to attract top-shelf tenants. But, he said, it’s taken longer than he expected.

The city’s building permit office last month filed an “abandoned project” complaint against Campanile and scheduled an inspection to gather information.

“It’s been a bit painful, and I apologize to all the folks that it looks like it does,” Dewberry said.

He said he’s resolved the abandoned project complaint. A spokeswoman with the city said the department continues to look into the matter.

Delays are part of the development game, Dewberry said. The mid-century building he bought in Charleston, S.C., in 2008 to make into his namesake hotel took eight years to renovate, but it has since claimed numerous awards, including a spot on Tripadvisor’s top 25 U.S. luxury hotels.

Dewberry said Campanile’s delays were caused by several factors, including a disagreement over price estimates with the former general contractor.

Delays can lead to financial problems, depending on the terms of agreements between a lender and borrower, said Nellie Shipley Sullivan, a commercial real estate attorney at Womble Bond Dickinson who’s not involved in the project. Some loans will place a borrower in default if construction stops for an extended period, she said.

Dewberry said he’s current on Campanile’s renovation loan.

“We have never been a penny short or a second late” on a loan payment, he said.

Privately owned Dewberry Group isn’t required to disclose financial details on a project. But a few red flags have appeared.

The Campanile loan was sold in August to a California-based investor that specializes in distressed debt. Dewberry said he doesn’t know why the loan was classified as distressed since he’s never made a late payment.

“We’re not happy about it,” he said.

Liens or construction delays can lead a lender to classify a loan as non-performing, experts say.

The newly completed Campanile building at 14th and Peachtree in 1987. Colony Square is in the background.

Some lenders might choose to sell their interests in a commercial loan deemed “non-performing” at a small loss because of doubts about the borrower’s ability to repay the loan. Some might run out of patience with the borrower and sell the loan.

The Campanile loan purchaser, Dornin Investment Group, and a seller, H.I.G. Realty Partners, did not respond to requests for comment. The other seller, Square Mile Capital, declined to comment through a spokesman.

The Campanile project has hit other potholes. In late 2020, at least nine liens were filed against Dewberry Group by Campanile subcontractors, according to Fulton County court records. The vendors, including concrete supplier Ready Made and heavy-equipment distributor Sunbelt Rentals, claimed that Dewberry owed a total of about $1.6 million.

In January and February, Dewberry paid all the subcontractors but one, and the liens were withdrawn.

The final lien, for about $163,000, was filed by general contractor Gay Construction. A notice of withdrawal or cancellation of the lien has not been filed in Fulton County court.

Gay Construction’s lien was a dispute over the final estimated cost, Dewberry said. Although he initially agreed to the estimate, the amount of which he declined to disclose, Dewberry said he later realized it was too expensive.

Gay Construction and Dewberry Group later reached a settlement. Calls to Gay Construction seeking comment were not returned.

The COVID-19 virus played a role in the renovation delay. After parting ways with Gay Construction as the general contractor, Dewberry tapped himself as general contractor in partnership with British architectural engineer Gary O’Connor.

Dewberry picked O’Connor because he developed a new method of attaching stone to a building’s exterior that’s not as heavy as traditional methods. But he was delayed for months from entering the U.S. due to COVID-19 restrictions, which have since expired.

Dewberry also had to replace a large tenant. When SunTrust merged with BB&T to create Truist Bank, it consolidated office space downtown. SunTrust’s move-out further delayed construction work, he said.

Dewberry continues to plan for restarting construction. He’s decided to use marble on the Campanile’s exterior that comes from the same quarry used for The Dewberry hotel in Charleston.

“I’m probably the only fool on the planet to do what we’re doing,” he said.

Revised architectural plans will be filed with the city early next year. Construction will resume, pending delivery of half a disassembled crane he recently purchased.

But there’s a delay. One half of the crane is in Texas, and he’s waiting for it to be delivered.

“We bought the crane ourselves,” Dewberry said. “Now I own it.”

 

By – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

– The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

November 16th, 2021

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