City files ‘abandoned project’ complaint against Dewberry’s Midtown job

Controversial developer’s retail and lobby redo at Campanile building stalled early last year on Peachtree Street

City inspectors have taken action against a long-dormant Midtown project by a controversial developer that neighbors have decried as an eyesore in a high-profile location.

The City of Atlanta’s Office of Buildings filed a complaint last month labeling the Campanile Plaza building at 1155 Peachtree Street as an “abandoned project” that’s subject to code enforcement.

Campanile’s owners, Dewberry Group, began a renovation of the 21-story tower’s base floors in 2019, encircling a full city block in construction fencing while gutting lower floors and tearing out exterior common areas.

Construction ceased in early 2020, and little or no visible work has recommenced at the site.

The southern section of the project, as seen this month, along 13th Street. Josh Green/Urbanize Atlanta

According to permitting records, the complaint against Dewberry Group—which is led by prominent Midtown landowner John Dewberry, who’s been described by national media as Atlanta’s “emperor of empty lots” for his willingness to sit on land and rebuff big-time offers—was filed by Interim Chief Inspector Tim Rehklau on September 27.

Multiple inquiries in recent weeks to Dewberry officials regarding the project’s status have not been returned.

In a conversation with Urbanize Atlanta this past summer, city planning commissioner Tim Keane said Dewberry had told the city he ceased work at the site after construction had begun because he was unsatisfied with designs and wanted to tweak them with a new architect.

That would require adjustments to permitting, said Keane, but no recent Campanile activity has been logged in city permitting records.

“I think overall, [the project is] a very good thing. They’re obviously trying to make an urban frontage on 14th and Peachtree [streets], and make it a little denser,” said Keane at the time. “[Dewberry’s] particularness about the design, I think, will pay off, but I know it’s frustrating that it’s not proceeding faster. I was hoping it’d be done by now.”

 

Plans for the revised Campanile base as seen from the south.Studio Dewberry

Built in 1987 as Bell South’s corporate headquarters, the 450,000-square-foot Campanile was purchased by Dewberry Group in 2010. Several years ago, the company completed a renovation that purged the Class A building of its 1980s datedness on upper floors, but its lobbies and plazas were still lacking an engaging connection with surrounding streets.

A design update at the tower’s base has been more than five years in the making.

The renovation calls for a 50,000-square-foot addition of two-story retail, plus modernized lobbies that Dewberry Group leaders feel could be among “the world’s most inspirational,” according to the company’s website.

Dewberry Studio, the company’s design component, drew up the Campanile redo in partnership with Berkley-based Wong Logan Architects and architect Peter Logan of New York City. Plans originally called for the revised Campanile to debut this past summer.

Dewberry Group has also mused about adding a 22nd floor to the building, swelling the property to 665,000 square feet—good for Atlanta’s 17th largest office tower.

At this point, however, most Midtown residents we’ve heard from would settle for proper windows around the lower floors, at least in the short term.

As Keane noted, property developers in Atlanta can’t leave sites idle in perpetuity without facing fines or other repercussions, whether they’re redoing a porch or erecting a skyscraper. ​

“If they abandon it, and just leave it, it becomes a nuisance and subject to code enforcement action,” said Keane. “[That applies] to any property owner that has any construction of any scale going on.”

 

OCTOBER 21, 2021, 1:33PM

By JOSH GREEN – Urbanize Atlanta

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Move-Ins Boost Midtown’s Momentum As Developers Look To ‘Land A Whale’

Developers are building nearly 3M SF of new office space in Midtown Atlanta, more than half of all new office construction in the region. And if more developers have their way, Atlanta’s hottest office submarket could see more than 8M SF more rise there in the near future.

While the submarket hasn’t been immune to the office slowdown this year — Class-A offices in Midtown were 23.8% vacant as of June, among the highest rates in Metro Atlanta — developers say Midtown will remain the preferred destination for companies chasing talent and the amenities of larger cities.

View of the Midtown Atlanta skyline from Piedmont Park

 

“If you feel optimistic about job growth in Atlanta, then you’re obviously going to feel optimistic about what’s happening in Midtown,” said Selig Development Chief Operating and Development Officer Steve Baile, whose firm is developing the 1105 West Peachtree tower, which Google has leased.

“It’s not just an office market, it’s not just a residential market,” Baile said. “It feeds all food groups.”

While absorption was weak during the first six months of 2021 — Midtown absorbed just 56,600 SF of office space during that time, according to JLL, despite over 1M SF of deliveries — Colliers projects it will surge back in the third quarter, turning positive by 1.1M SF, thanks in part to Microsoft occupying its 500K SF offices at Atlantic Yards, Colliers Director of Research Scott Amoson said.

Experts say leasing momentum is gaining steam again in Midtown, which could justify developer optimism on the submarket.

“I do not believe that demand is waning in Midtown,” Transwestern Vice President of Research Keith Pierce wrote in an email. “The second half of 2021 will likely show some strong absorption numbers as companies like Microsoft and Google begin to take occupancy of their new hubs.”

The submarket has already lured a number of banner tenants, including names like Microsoft, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and Google, as executives chased talent coming out of Georgia TechGeorgia State University and the various Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the city.

The leasing momentum, along a large pipeline of office prospects, has allowed area landlords to command some of the highest rents in the metro area. Midtown rents today average more than $40 per SF, up from $34.50 just three years ago, according to data compiled by Transwestern.

“I’m still very bullish. If I had this level of activity and Covid had never been around, I’d be pleased,” said Chris Scott, a partner with Greenstone Properties, which is constructing 14th & Spring, a 320K SF office building that is set to be delivered by July. Greenstone has yet to sign any leases for the building.

“In Midtown, being a year out … the level of interest and presentations I felt were on par with what I kind of [was] expecting,” Scott said.

Rendering of the 14th & Spring mixed-use project in Midtown

 

Colliers Senior Vice President Jessica Doyle said Midtown will continue to be a primary destination choice for companies coming from the West Coast and Northeast, especially technology firms.

“The number of large deals out in the market is very encouraging,” Doyle said. “We still are seeing the most large deals that I’ve ever seen in my career.”

Greenstone is far from the only developer vying for those deals: According to CoStar data compiled by Transwestern, developers are planning more than 8.5M SF of additional office projects, including New City Properties and Cousins Properties‘ 200K SF joint venture development next door to 725 Ponce, Cousins’ planned 390K SF tower at 901 West Peachtree St. and Portman Holdings‘ planned 1020 Spring St. mixed-use complex.

Cousins Properties Executive Vice President Richard Hickson noted the demand for space in Midtown and Buckhead during the company’s July second-quarter earnings call.

“Atlanta, our largest market, continues to see an uptick in demand, particularly from the technology sector, and Midtown and Buckhead are leading the recovery so far this year,” Hickson said. “Our current leasing pipelines in both Buckhead and Midtown are equally encouraging. As we look ahead, we believe we will continue to see a noticeable flight to quality.”

Part of the attraction to Midtown from outside companies is the submarket’s design: Midtown is laid out in a grid pattern, like other major cities, and has plenty of access to Atlanta’s mass transit system, Regent Partners Director Keith Mack said. Other submarkets in the metro area — especially out in the suburbs — were designed for automobile dependency.

“I still think Midtown is kind of the most urban submarket that we have,” Mack said. “Midtown proper, if you can find land, I think it’s still ripe for development.”

Of the nearly 3M SF underway, 65% has been already leased up by tenants, according to Colliers. Many of the planned projects may wait to break ground until they sign a significant anchor tenant.

“Companies like [Microsoft and Google] don’t come along every day, and developers are likely to proceed cautiously with new projects while seeking to land a whale,” Pierce said.

Baile said Selig is taking that approach for the second phase of its West Peachtree project, where it could add an additional 500K SF of office along with 400 apartment units. It pre-leased the first phase, securing both Google and the law firm Smith Gambrell & Russell, before putting shovels in the dirt.

“We need to have some momentum on another office lease,” Baile said. “That will be the catalyst for us on breaking ground.”

 

September 22, 2021

Jarred Schenke, Bisnow Atlanta

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Site prep for Midtown’s Tech Square, Phase III is happening

Georgia Tech: Work between now and February to set stage for multi-tower build

 

Georgia Tech is putting plans in motion that officials say will set the stage for the next phase of Tech Square’s evolution: a block-altering, multi-tower project that’s been percolating for more than two years.

Schools officials released a traffic control plan Friday to help usher pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers around demolition set for the block bounded by West Peachtree, Spring, and 5th streets, and Biltmore Place. That’s one block north of Tech Square’s Coda, a John Portman and Associates-designed office tower.

Two low-rise buildings fronting West Peachtree Street will be razed for what demolition permits describe as “an interim parking lot on gravel and grass pavers.”

The two low-rise West Peachtree Street buildings in question.

That eastern side of the block is being converted into a temporary campus “flex area” for additional parking and greenspace, where outdoor concerts, food trucks, and pop-up restaurants are also expected to be staged in the short term.

The flex space will eventually house a complex totaling 400,000 square feet with at least two towers.

The most recent Phase III rendering available. Georgia Tech says designs in this artistic interpretation are likely to change.

Named for philanthropists Penny and William “Bill” George, the George Tower will be home to the highly ranked H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, in addition to other programs, according to Georgia Tech.

The second high-rise, Scheller Tower, will house Tech’s graduate and executive education programs in the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business.

Tech officials say both new Phase III towers are scheduled to open by 2025.

In the meantime, demolition work will close sections of the block’s existing parking lot and sidewalks.

To help mitigate that, part of 5th Street’s westbound lane will be converted into a bike lane, while eastbound lanes remain open to cars and bikes. Biltmore Place will be westbound only, according to project leaders.

This preparatory work for Phase III is set to last until February, and updates on construction are expected to be issued in coming months.

Plans for the Midtown block throughout fall and winter.

The block and bike lanes in question at 5th and Spring Streets, as seen in December.

The first sections of Tech Square opened in 2003, transforming what had been barren lots on the western edge of Midtown into an educational hub on the opposite side of the Connector from Georgia Tech’s campus.

The greenspace-laden Fifth Street Bridge Park debuted four years later as a means to pleasantly connect the two university entities.

 

SEPTEMBER 13, 2021, 8:29AM

By JOSH GREEN

Urbanize Atlanta

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Developer Plans 33-Story, 460-Unit Mixed-Use Midtown Tower

The proposed building would also hold about 75,000 square feet of office space and 15,000 square feet of retail space

811 Peachtree Site
Photo: Google Maps | 811 Peachtree St.
National real estate development firm Property Markets Group has plans for a 33-story, 460-unit mixed-use project in Midtown Atlanta, according the Midtown Development Review Committee‘s meeting agenda for next week.

Planned for 811 Peachtree Street, the newly proposed project would total 330,200 square feet at the southeastern corner of the intersection of Peachtree and 6th Street, which is currently a surface parking lot. Plans call for 76,500 square feet of office space and 15,600 square feet of retail space.

The Midtown DRC will review the project plans during its monthly meeting Tuesday evening, the agenda shows. Listed as part of the project team alongside PMG are global architecture and design firm Cooper Carry, planning and design engineering firm Kimley-Horn, and law firm Morris, Manning & Martin LLP.

The project would provide 455 parking spaces within a six-story podium parking deck.

The building lobby and amenities would be accessible from 6th Street.

A nearly 30-year-old company, PMG has led more than $7 billion worth of development, according to its website. Most of its projects are in New York and Florida, where its two offices are located.

PMG didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

Located two blocks east of Tech Square, the project site of 811 Peachtree St. is also just south of Skyhouse South, a 23-story apartment tower acquired by national apartment owner Equity Residential last month. PMG’s development site was last acquired by an affiliate of developer The Integral Group in 2016 for about $12 million, according to county property records.

Property Markets Group’s plans represent one of two mixed-use tower projects the Midtown DRC will discuss on Tuesday. Also planned is a 30-story, 345-unit project on 10th Street by Mill Creek Residential.

 

180 10th

Renderings: Midtown Alliance | A look at early plans for 180 10th St. and 811 Peachtree St.

 

Photo: Google Maps | 811 Peachtree St.
Photo: Google Maps | 811 Peachtree St.

 

Post by Dean Boerner (WhatNow Atlanta)

July 9th, 2021.

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Mill Creek Residential Plans 30-Story Mixed-Use Project In Midtown

The proposed mixed-use tower is one of two that the Midtown DRC will discuss on Tuesday

180 10th

Renderings: Midtown Alliance | A look at early plans for 180 10th St. and 811 Peachtree St.

National apartment developer Mill Creek Residential has plans for a 30-story, 345-unit mixed-use project to replace a Midtown parking lot on the northern side of 10th Street, according to the Midtown Development Review Committee‘s meeting agenda for next week.

The roughly 400,000-square-foot development would rise at 180 10th St., which is located mid-block between Juniper Street and Piedmont Avenue, and also include about 4,000 square feet of retail space facing 10th Street. The project would also provide 442 parking spaces in a partially buried eight-story podium parking deck, according to the Midtown DRC’s agenda.

The DRC will discuss the proposed development Tuesday evening before reviewing plans for an even larger development, a 33-story, 460-unit project by Property Markets Group.

The DRC agenda shows that architecture and engineering firm Gresham Smith is also involved in Mill Creek Residential’s proposed development.

Along with retail, the project’s 10th-Street facade would feature a covered area leading to the building’s lobby.

Based in Boca Raton, Florida, Mill Creek Residential develops, acquires, constructs, and operates apartment communities throughout the U.S. Its portfolio amounts to about 100 developments, including eight in Atlanta under its Modera brand.

Mill Creek Residential Managing Director Patrick Chesser said the company would provide more details on its plans for its Midtown project next week.

Photo: Google Maps | 180 10th St.

 

Post By: Dean Boerner

WhatNow Atlanta, July 09, 2021

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Einstein’s Closes to Make Way for Middle Street Partners Towers, Joe’s on Juniper to Follow

Midtown is saying goodbye to both long-standing restaurants, which are to be replaced by dual residential skyscrapers.

Einstein's closes to make way for Middle Street Partners Towers

It’s official. Over the weekend, Midtown staple Einstein’s closed its doors after a thirty year run, soon to be followed by neighboring restaurant Joes on Juniper, which is expected to close in October.

Metrotainment Cafes, the parent company of both restaurants, sold the properties to developer Middle Street Partners back in March. Shortly after the sale, Middle Street Partners released renderings for the dual skyscrapers that are slated to be built where Einstein’s and Joe’s on Juniper now stand.

In a statement provided to What Now Atlanta, Metrotainment Cafes confirmed that Einstein’s is now officially closed for regular dining. “The restaurant and space will be available for private events until October for those seeking spaces for rehearsal dinners, wedding receptions, corporate events, and more,” the statement read. “Additionally, Joe’s on Juniper will remain open until October, allowing guests to enjoy the summer season on the famous patio in Midtown.”

The news comes as a blow to Einstein’s and Joe’s on Juniper loyalists, many of whom have been frequenting both restaurants for decades. But as the old saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. Wedding season is upon us, and for those who want to send Einstein’s out with a bang, you can seal the deal with a kiss in your favorite restaurant, before we all move on to a towering new chapter.

By Sydney Rende

Whatnow Atlanta

June 1, 2021.

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Three Midtown Atlanta blocks and 7 new towers in 15 aerial photos

From Norfolk Southern’s new HQ to Coda, a section of the city transformed

 

The amount of new development across Atlanta the past decade has been dizzying, and nowhere are changes more pronounced than Midtown’s core business and high-rise residential district.

Within that construction frenzy, several subsections of Midtown have emerged as epicenters of development by a variety companies betting big on the area’s potential and expected influx of people. That especially applies to three blocks at Technology Square along Spring and West Peachtree streets, located near Midtown’s southern rim and the significant investment driver that is Georgia Tech.

These blocks between Ponce de Leon Avenue and 5th Street are unrecognizable from five years ago. Their transformation has involved several of the heaviest hitters in Atlanta development. Collectively, the seven buildings that have opened since 2018—or are construction now—provide space for more than 8,000 new Midtown office dwellers and almost 1,500 college students.

As part of Urbanize Atlanta’s occasional series of drone tours, we took to the skies over Midtown this week to see how these seven buildings have come together, as three of them prepare to open this fall.

MAY 26, 2021, 9:30AM

By JOSH GREEN

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Judge Nixes Class Certification in Suit Claiming Beltline Property Owners Were Owed for Rail Easements

The putative class action claims that property owners along a 3-mile stretch of the Beltline should have been compensated when Norfolk Southern signed over its easements to the Beltline and Atlanta Development Authority.

Fulton County Superior Court, Judge Henry Newkirk. Photo: John Disney/ALM

Fulton County Superior Court, Judge Henry Newkirk. (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

A Fulton County, Georgia, judge has denied class certification in a lawsuit claiming property owners along a stretch of the Atlanta Beltline should have been compensated for the use of their property when Norfolk Southern deeded portions of its right of way to the Atlanta city government and its development arm to create the project.

The putative class action claimed that owners of residential and commercial properties along parts of the eastside and northeast section of the trail in the area around Monroe Drive and 10th Street should have been entitled to “reversionary property rights” once the railroad signed away its easements to the Atlanta Development Authority and Atlanta BeltLine Inc. in 2007.

The 2017 complaint, originally filed on behalf of the Ansley Walk Condominium Association, said the use of the property for the Beltiine’s pathway and parks constituted an illegal taking and includes claims for trespass and inverse condemnation.

In a recent order, Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk refused to certify the proposed class, which would have included “those fee landowners who owned parcels of property along the Subject Property on the date [Norfolk Southern] abandoned its railroad purpose easement.”

The order Newkirk signed said the proposed class consisted of 76 property owners and relied on 13 original property deeds, some dating to the 1800s, including two that have still not been found and might never surface.

The assortment of titles and agreements related to the various properties and the means for calculating the affected properties would “require an individualized analysis for each putative class member,” Newkirk’s order said.

“Not only have Plaintiffs not shown how this could be accomplished on a class-wide basis, they have not even presented the deeds that allegedly establish the chain of title for the putative class members,” the order said.

Of the four named plaintiffs who joined the case, one subsequently dropped out, it said, describing the Beltline as “the best thing that ever happened to that area of Atlanta, to my property, to people who live in the neighborhood.”

Morris Manning & Martin partner Robert Alpert, who represents the Beltline and Invest Atlanta, the ADA’s development arm, said the issues raised by the lawsuit are not appropriate for class litigation.

“The argument is that, when this real estate was originally deeded to the railroad, it was in the form of an easement, not fee simple [i.e., not permanent ownership], and that when the Beltline acquired it, ownership should have reverted back to the original owners or their successors,” he said.

“That issue has not been resolved; the first issue was class certification,” said Alpert, whose co-counsel includes firm partner Jeffrey Douglass and associate Doug Hance. The city of Atlanta is represented by Dentons partners Jeffrey Zachman and Nathan Garroway and associate Sarah Phillips.

“Jeff and I have been litigating class actions for 20 years,” said Alpert. “We think the individual issues predominating in this case and applicable law make it inappropriate for class certification.”

Plaintiffs counsel includes Holt Ney Zatcoff & Wasserman partners J. Scott Jacobson and Scott Morris and Steven Wald and Michael Smith of Stewart, Wald & McCulley in St. Louis.

In an interview, Jacobson said the ruling presented a couple of important issues.

“First, even if the trial court’s class denial stands, that doesn’t resolve the larger constitutional question: Should the city and Atlanta Development Authority and Beltline be required to compensate property owners for taking their property?” Jacobson said.

“Second, even if the case is no longer pursued as a class action, it just means that each property owner will have to either join the current lawsuit or file an individual lawsuit,” he said. “That was the reason we decided to pursue it as a class action.”

“We think its an important ruling by the trial court, and we’d like to give the higher courts a chance to weigh in,” Jacobson said.

According to court filings, the roughly 3-mile section of the Beltline in question is near Ansley Park and runs south through Inman Park.

In 2007, Norfolk Southern transferred its interest in the property to the ADA, retaining an easement for its freight and passenger trains.

Afterward, the ADA and Atlanta BeltLine Inc. signed at least 60 agreements with owners of adjacent properties.

“These agreements include boundary line agreements, license agreements, access agreements, limited warranty deeds, and a variety of easement agreements, including easements granted by certain of the putative class members to ADA and ABI and vice versa,” said Newkirk’s order, which was prepared by the defense counsel.

When Norfolk Southern “terminated its railroad purpose easement,” the complaint said the property then “became unburdened by all railroad purpose easements, and plaintiffs were entitled to reclaim their ‘reversionary’ right to use, possess, and control their land that they owned in fee simple to the centerline of the Subject Property.”

The complaint accused the city of using Invest Atlanta and BeltLine Inc. “in an effort to defeat justice and avoid a statutory obligation, that is, the avoidance of its Constitutional obligations to pay just compensation for taking property.”

Newkirk’s April 24 order denying class certification said that, while the plaintiffs have not specified the amount of damages they’re due, “in discovery they averred that they are seeking essentially ‘the market value of the land [they] lost plus any damages to [their] remaining property that is next to the BeltLine.’”

The order said that each of the agreements involving the property would have to be examined “to determine, among other things, whether property rights were conveyed between the parties and whether the putative class members agreed to contractual provisions that bar their claims for inverse condemnation or trespass.”

And, it said, “it appears that numerous individual putative class members have in fact authorized Defendants to use the Property as the Atlanta BeltLine transportation corridor.”

“Considering all of the individualized issues concerning the putative class members’ claims, Plaintiffs have not carried their burden of showing that the predominance and superiority requirements of [Georgia’s class action statute] are satisfied in this case,” Newkirk’s order said.

“The one thing our client believes and feels strongly about is that the Beltline has not engaged in any improper activity,” said Alpert. “Just because it may be funded by partly private and partly public sources, they shouldn’t be a target for litigation, and the Beltline is going to defend itself against any claims it does not agree with.”

 

By Greg Land | May 18, 2021 at 02:59 PM

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U.S. Postal Service will vacate Rockefeller Group’s prime Midtown development site

Despite several big projects planned or underway, Midtown still features “significant development opportunities,” says Adam Viente, an executive vice president with Jones Lang LaSalle.

Despite several big projects planned or underway, Midtown still features “significant development opportunities,” says Adam Viente, an executive vice president with Jones Lang LaSalle.

The basics: New York developer Rockefeller Group owns the prime Midtown development site at 1072 West Peachtree St. It’s diagonal from the 1105 West Peachtree project where Google leases most of a 31-story tower.

Rockefeller Group is sending a clear message about its plans to redevelop a Midtown post office.

The U.S. Postal Service says it will move from its spot on West Peachtree Street as its lease is expiring and a new agreement could not be reached. The announcement comes about 10 months after Rockefeller Group paid $25 million for the 1.1-acre site that includes the post office and a parking deck.

In real estate terminology, the New York developer paid just over $500 per land square foot. Only a handful of prime development sites in the city have sold for that much.

What it means: It’s a reminder Rockefeller Group paid a premium to control and eventually develop the property in Midtown, one of the top real estate markets in the Sunbelt, where tech companies Microsoft Corp. and Google are expanding. The technology sector is a catalyst for big, new office leases and Midtown is where much of that activity is focused. Despite several big projects planned or underway, Midtown still features “significant development opportunities,” Adam Viente, an executive vice president with Jones Lang LaSalle, recently told Atlanta Business Chronicle.

At a glance: Rockefeller Group has a development team in Atlanta. It is targeting high-profile sites in walkable, urban neighborhoods.

What’s next: Rockefeller Group could not be immediately reached about its plans to redevelop the post office. It would likely present its concept to the Midtown Development Review Committee when it’s further along. Market fundamentals do not suggest a spec office tower is likely. Office space is over 20%, and companies are only using about 25% of their space across the Atlanta market, as work-from-home remains popular. A high-rise apartment tower is a possibility, but even those projects face soaring construction costs. USPS, meanwhile, is asking customers to send comments on its relocation of the Midtown post office.

By   –  Senior Editor/News, Atlanta Business Chronicle

Midtown Connector Transportation Improvement Project

The team that is staffing the Midtown Connector Transportation Improvement Project – the MCP Foundation – has released its second 15 minute video providing background and an overview of the proposed project. 

This second installment focuses on elevated deck projects in other cities that have been studied, key learnings and other features that have inspired the design of this project. 

It can be viewed here: https://abetterconnector.com/community/inspiring-inspiration/