Big Brothers Big Sisters puts Midtown HQ up for sale

Kwame Johnson, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters: “We are not putting a price on the building. We are going to let the market set the price. – BYRON E. SMALL

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta is selling its Midtown headquarters in a move that could bring the nearly 60-year-old organization several million dollars it could put toward its mission.

The property, with slightly more than half an acre at 17th and Peachtree streets, has location going for it. At just over 30,000 square feet, the Big Brothers Big Sisters headquarters is surrounded by nearly a half-billion dollars in new or ongoing projects.

For example, it’s a block from the planned 9-acre Midtown Union development at 17th, Spring and West Peachtree, which could include a 25-story office tower, 250-key hotel, up to 350 apartments and close to 90,000 square feet of retail.

A block east, Parkside Partners is making over a series of Midtown buildings into creative office space, with restaurants, a coffee shop and a 300-foot linear park.

Big Brothers Big Sisters bought its headquarters at 1382 Peachtree in 2011 for $4.2 million, according to Fulton County property records. It was the former home of architecture firm Perkins & Will.

The organization wants to sell the building this year and move out in 2020.

Proceeds from the sale could be a boon for its overarching hopes of addressing severe poverty in American families and finding young men to serve as mentors for boys who have grown up without a father figure. The agency has a similar program for young women and girls.

“We are not putting a price on the building,” said Kwame Johnson, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “We are going to let the market set the price.”

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta is selling its building at 1382 Peachtree Street in Midtown, on the corner of 17th Street. – BYRON E. SMALL

Johnson could be happy with the market, if recent sales and broker estimates are any indication. In late 2017, Parkside paid $19 million for the three nearby Midtown office buildings at 17th and Peachtree.

Several brokers estimated the Big Brothers Big Sisters property could sell for at least $6 million and possibly up to $8 million. It may be more attractive as a redevelopment. The brokers were unable to speak on the record because of confidentiality agreements.

The property is being marketed by Colliers International-Atlanta.

“How often can you find a nicely renovated building in the strongest market in the Southeast?” asked Colliers’ Michael Lipton, who is working on the project with colleague Jodi Selvey. Lipton could not put an asking price on the building.

Finding a buyer to occupy or redevelop the headquarters are both options, said Michele Pearce, chief external relations officer with the nonprofit.

A piece of the property includes a house built near the turn of the 20th century. The rest of the headquarters was expanded and renovated by former owner Perkins & Will, nearly 100 years later.

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A piece of the property includes a house built near the turn of the 20th century. The rest of the headquarters was expanded and renovated by former owner Perkins & Will, nearly 100 years later. – BYRON E. SMALL

The house could be preserved, as it’s one of the few remaining examples of residential mansions on Peachtree, Pearce said.

When Big Brothers Big Sisters bought the current headquarters eight years ago, it offered room to grow to more than 75 employees. Today, it has about 50 staff and the urban landscape has become more crowded and expensive.

Rents have soared to record highs across several U.S. cities including Atlanta. As a result, urban dwellers of all sizes, from fresh college graduates to major corporations, are seeking smaller spaces to live and work.

It’s no different for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“We need to downsize,” Johnson said, suggesting the organization could squeeze into as little as 15,000 square feet.

Its move also comes as the city is still grappling with a long-term challenge of income inequality. In fact, Atlanta had the largest income inequality in the nation as of last year, according to the Brookings Institute.

At the same time, as the city of Atlanta comes off its largest single-year population increase in more than a decade, land and residential costs continue to climb — exacerbating the lack of affordable housing.

As the organization explores the sale of its headquarters and eventual relocation — possibly somewhere close to transit — Big Brothers Big Sisters will create a new model featuring a central location and satellite offices in the hardest-hit communities.

It will likely carry out its plan with other nonprofits focused on a similar mission.

Even as the United States enjoys one of its longest and most prosperous economic periods, many families remain in trouble, making the role of Big Brothers and Big Sisters critical. Consider that nearly 500,000 children in the 13-county metro Atlanta region live in low or very low child well-being, according to data from the United Way.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has about 400 boys and 100 girls on a waiting lists.

“We are laser-focused on poverty,” Johnson said.


By  and   –  Atlanta Business Chronicle

Link to original article

Former Midtown thrift store reborn as high-end auto center, lounge

Atlanta Development news: Piedmont Park

How the renovated structure meets a busy section of Monroe Drive. Photos courtesy of Autohaus Social

Thanks to the recent rehab of an ailing 1950s building in a highly trafficked location, intown automobile enthusiasts near Piedmont Park no longer need to head OTP or visit corporate dealerships when it’s time to service European cars.

Or when it’s time to socialize.

At Autohaus Social, located on Monroe Drive near the intersection of Boulevard, just south of the park, owners of European cars—think Porsche, Volkswagen, Audi, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Mini—can now take their cars in for regular maintenance, diagnostics and repair, alignment, and other automotive services.

An auto shop in such a walkable location may seem unusual to urbanists, but owner Nash Tehrani calls it the perfect spot.

“Two main reasons I chose this location, as opposed to the conventional areas for an automotive shop, were that I wanted to invest in the neighborhood I grew up in, and, also, I wanted to provide a necessity to the intown families,” Tehrani said in an interview with Curbed Atlanta.

Built in 1952, the building originally served as an automotive brake and transmission repair shop, but more recently was known as The Step Up Society thrift store.

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However, at the time Tehrani purchased the property, it was vacant and sorely neglected.

“The building was literally about to collapse on itself,” Tehrani said. “A lot was invested into the structural support of the building.”

That included installing a metal frame throughout the interior, as well as nine sets of helical piers and nine sets of vertical pylons. In addition, the damaged asphalt on the lot was replaced with permeable stone pavers, which help reduce water runoff and minimize stormwater issues.

Tehrani enlisted the services of architect Sarah Butler of Praxis3 to create the design and Lichty Commercial Construction to turn it into reality. Today, the facility includes 4,000 square feet of garage space, a reception area, a downstairs lounge, and an upstairs game room.

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Yes, a game room. “The footprint of the building worked perfectly for what I had envisioned,” Tehrani said. “A portion of the building is used for social events and entertainment. The other portion is used as support space to provide service, repair, and performance upgrades for European automobiles.”

It took two years and approximately $2 million to complete the renovation. Open since September, Tehrani said he’s receiving positive feedback from both locals and customers.

“People who knew what was here before have come in just to thank me for the renovation,” he said. “People who have used our services expressed their gratitude that they have a dealership alternative, and it’s located so close to their homes.”

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By Karon Warren – Curbed Atlanta
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Hotel project by Midtown’s Fox Theatre sets example for ‘better architecture in Atlanta’

City officials: Hotel project by Midtown’s Fox Theatre sets example for ‘better architecture in Atlanta’

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City officials are touting the collaboration on a planned hotel by Midtown’s Fox Theatre as an example of “better architecture in Atlanta.”

Top Atlanta developer Noble Investment Group is planning the dual-branded Marriott hotel on an existing surface parking lot at Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue. The other three corners at the intersection house historic buildings: the Fox, Georgian Terrace hotel and the Ponce Condominium.

When the design for the hotel was revealed to Midtown Alliance in January, the nonprofit group said: ““In light of the architecturally significant neighboring buildings, the committee requested that the design team continue to develop the façades to be more consistent within the surrounding context.”

In March, the city’s Department of City Planning began working with Noble to hone the design to respect the historic intersection. It resulted in a new façade design for the hotel, based on recommendations from the Midtown Alliance.

Charleston, S.C.-based LS3P Associates Ltd. completed the revised design and renderings. 

“It is critically important that Atlanta expect more from its designers and more of its buildings,” City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane said in a media release.

“Zoning can only take you so far,” he added. “Regulations don’t make great buildings, only design can do that. We intend to work in a productive way with developers like we did with Noble to improve the architecture in all of Atlanta.”

Noble had first proposed the project back in May 2016.

According to plans submitted in January, the hotel would have four floors with 154 rooms under the Marriott Courtyard flag and four floors with 128 rooms under the Marriott Element brand. The hotel would sit above five levels of parking.

It would also have a ground-floor restaurant, along with a lounge and bar with a second-floor terrace overlooking the Fox Theatre.

Noble is partnering with Interpark Holdings on the project, according to the Midtown Alliance.

Lindsay Pope Brayfield Clifford & Associates is the architect. That firm also designed the dual-branded Hilton hotels at 10th and Williams streets.

 “We wanted a building that represented the fabric of Midtown, and one that our community would be proud of,” said Ben Brunt, principal and executive vice president of Noble Investment Group. “This collaborative approach benefited all of us. We are thrilled with the result.”

By Amy Wenk  – Staff Writer, Atlanta Business Chronicle
Link to original article

Facing Georgia Aquarium, downtown’s latest large hotel files plans to rise

Plans call for Hyatt Place Centennial Park to offer 174 rooms on Luckie Street.


The explosion of hotel options around the Georgia Aquarium continues.

A joint venture between Atlanta-based developer Songy Highroads and Hyatt Hotels has completed demolition phases and is now angling to go vertical a dozen stories over Luckie Street with downtown’s latest lodge. At the corner of Luckie and Latimer streets, facing the Georgia Aquarium, developers have filed a permit application to begin construction on the first components of Hyatt Place Centennial Park, reports What Now Atlanta.

In announcing the hotel in November, the partnership touted proximity to the “city’s best galleries, restaurants, and attractions,” most notably Centennial Olympic Park and its ongoing, $17-million expansion. A two-story midcentury building, which most recently served as a school, had occupied the .76-acre site but was demolished. The hotel’s footprint also includes a former parking lot.


Plans call for Hyatt Place Centennial Park to offer 174 rooms, a pool, parking deck, fitness center, lobby bar with food service, and about 2,500 square feet of meeting space. It won’t be the only new lodging option in the immediate neighborhood. A Hyatt House was built a block away a few years ago, and on the other side of the aquarium, construction recently finished on a Springhill Suites.

But news hasn’t been all rosy for hospitality ventures in the district.  Two years ago, a large dual-branded Hilton property was slated for a site a block from the proposed Hyatt Place (facing STATS restaurant) but was ultimately put on hold.


Written by Josh Green


How EB-5 Funds Help a Luxury Skyscraper

Extell project would be one of the highest-profile buildings to use the visa program

NYC luxury EB-5

Written by Eliot Brown for Wall Street Journal on June 21, 2016:

A block south of Central Park in Manhattan, construction crews are working on the base of what is poised to be the tallest apartment building in the country and the latest condominium tower to cater to the super rich.

It is also poised to be the latest skyscraper to benefit from a provision of a federal immigration program meant to aid distressed neighborhoods and rural areas, offering a striking example of what lawmakers and critics have called a widespread abuse of the program known as EB-5.

The builder, Extell Development Co., recently began seeking foreign investors through the immigration program in a bid to raise nearly $200 million to help finance the tower’s construction.

Gary Barnett, the company’s chief executive, said he is following all rules for the program, and the tower is expected to create “thousands” of jobs that might otherwise not be created as traditional condo financing is tough to secure today. “Given the financing environment that currently exists, it’s a critical component,” he said of the EB-5 funding.

The EB-5 program grants permanent residency to aspiring immigrants who invest in certain U.S. businesses measured to create jobs. A minimum investment for a standard business is $1 million, but in an effort to aid development in struggling areas, investors can put in a lower amount—$500,000—if a project is considered to be in a rural area or a high-unemployment neighborhood.

Developers like Extell have flocked to the program in recent years, almost always for projects in prosperous neighborhoods that use the category meant for the rural and high unemployment areas, a level at which it is easier to find immigrant investors.

The practice is legal so long as state officials and developers craft special districts that connect the projects with high unemployment neighborhoods—a method termed “gerrymandering” by critics.

But because the program has rapidly ballooned to overcapacity—there is a yearslong wait for the 10,000 visas allowed annually under the program—many of the flashiest and largest projects are crowding out projects in rural and poor neighborhoods, EB-5 professionals say.

That has sparked a fight in Congress. Numerous lawmakers, Obama administration officials and academics have said it runs counter to the intent of the law. A set of real-estate developers who use the program have pushed strongly back against proposed changes, however, successfully winning the ear of some influential lawmakers sympathetic to their arguments.

A showdown could come in September, when the program is set to expire—though last year a similar deadline was extended with no changes.

Consultants for Extell in China this month began seeking up to 380 investors—at $500,000 each—according to multiple websites advertising the project. The skyscraper would be the tallest and most prominent of the recent spate of slender towers that aim at the superrich on the strip of 57th street that has been dubbed “Billionaires’ Row.” It would rise to 1,550 feet, 300 higher than the Empire State Building, and a website advertising the tower to prospective foreign investors says it would set a new bar for luxury, becoming a “new generation of top towers” in New York.

While construction is under way on the lower floors—to be home to a sprawling flagship for Nordstrom department stores—Mr. Barnett hasn’t yet secured all the financing necessary to build the condo tower atop. The super-high-end market has weakened significantly amid greater supply and less demand, causing lenders to pull back.

Despite the pullback, Mr. Barnett is trying to push ahead and secure financing, of which EB-5 would be a relatively small piece of a project expected to cost more than $2 billion. “There’s such a financing crunch that a lot of projects won’t get done without EB-5, and this is one of them,” he said.

Construction is under way on the lower floors—to be home to a sprawling flagship for Nordstrom department stores. But the developer hasn’t yet secured all the financing necessary to build the condo tower atop.  He said he is open to changes to the program that would set aside a portion of EB-5 visas for projects in poor neighborhoods, but for now, “we’re doing what’s available under the current procedures.”