On the west side of Atlanta in an area by the old Bellwood Quarry and near the Bankhead MARTA station, planners set in motion a new phase of the Atlanta Beltline, and construction started on two parks.
You know what happened next? Private developers submitted plans for $650 million of mixed-use projects, and nonprofits committed to two new spur trails linking the area to the river and to downtown.
Folks, I’m here to tell you that this does not happen everywhere. In many major cities, when you build a park and a trail, you end up with a park and a trail. In Atlanta, things are different. We have a diverse economy with so many growing industries that it’s hard for any investor to see a future where Atlanta isn’t still growing.
We are a transportation hub, and the logistics industry is one of the biggest in the country. We are a leader in the fintech industry with 75 percent of the nation’s financial transactions running through Atlanta. We have become a tech hub because of large investments years ago to build infrastructure to move data quickly, and because of huge investments in incubator programs at Georgia Tech. Our state has become the number one filming location in the world for major motion pictures.
Our businesses in the metro area add about 60,000 new jobs every year and about the same number of people move to Atlanta every year. If you need a job in Atlanta, it should not be hard to find one.
We are a city in demand and people want to invest money here. As such, our level of expectations elevated several years ago for what we want for new projects. We now have really talented developers, architects and planners who are being set free to build some of the most admired projects in the country. The Beltline started with a great idea and was implemented because smart people pushed it and our major corporations and donors trusted them and put a lot of their money behind it.
Avalon was created through years of creative planning that skillfully combined economies of mixing the different uses of high-end residential, retail and office. The planners even dove deeper to consider specific mixes of retailers, types of homes and types of office space and to consider how every detail played off one another. This model of planning and development is being implemented throughout the country and locally in Halcyon in Forsyth County and the Battery next to Suntrust Park.
North American Properties paid good money for this planning and made good money selling half of the project a couple years ago.
Jamestown Properties who is known for turning around an area in New York City by creating the Chelsea Market, came to Atlanta to do the same to the old Sears building. It is now known as Ponce City Market.
There is serious talent scouting the Atlanta area for places to invest serious money and build something interesting. If you are a city in the metro area that can show off your amenities and your ability to listen, then you will have a lineup of some of the country’s best developers and planners lining up to meet you.
At the Bellwood Quarry, the city of Atlanta spent $26.5 million to build a park that converted the old quarry into a reservoir and park. The Atlanta Beltline found funding to expand its trail in the area. And now an area that three years ago was largely considered an undesirable place is getting $650 million in investment that will result in 575,000 square feet of class-A office space, 75,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, almost 1,500 new residential units and a 300-key hotel. And because of that, a group called The PATH Foundation partnered with Atlanta Beltline Inc. and the City of Atlanta to build the first trail that would connect the Beltline to downtown Atlanta. It will run from Centennial Olympic Park out to the Beltline somewhere near the Bellwood Quarry.
What do you think will happen all along that trail? It shouldn’t take much imagination to figure that out.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group