There are transitional development projects, and then there is Airport City in College Park.
The College Park City Council unanimously approved a new master plan for a 420-acre mixed-use development that will include almost 5 million square feet of office space, six hotels and 758,000 square feet of retail space. It is a massive development that will be located just west of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. It is, essentially, a mini-city estimated to cost around $700 million to target corporate headquarters in the entertainment, technology, medical, hospitality and training industries who want to be near the busy airport.
The property is just north of Camp Creek Parkway and west of I-85 and the airport. The largely undeveloped property is owned by the City of College Park, which sees this project as something that will transform that part of Atlanta.
“I think in the end they feel like this is the one shot for that side of town south of I-20,” said Bill de St. Aubin, CEO of the Sizemore Group which was chosen to create the master plan, in a recent article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “This one parcel, owned by one entity, is next to the largest job creator in the region south of I-20.”
The project has been compared in scale and style with Avalon and downtown Decatur. It will be urban in nature with city blocks and retail along the ground floors, all sprawled out along the College Park Municipal Golf Course.
In regard to business travelers, it should not be overlooked that it is located next to the airport. With most businesses being located in downtown Atlanta, then north of the city, it’s a big deal if you don’t have to fight normal Atlanta traffic to get to where you are traveling to. It’s also a big deal if you can walk from your hotel to the business you are visiting, and then have a nice place to walk in the evening and find dinner. When the Porsche Experience Center, which serves as the carmaker’s North American headquarters, was built just north of the airport along I-75, many people took notice. Potential customers and other executives could fly in, drive around the track, and fly out. If you are a company with a large contingent of executives who travel frequently, with Atlanta traffic the way it is, being located that close to the airport is a huge time-saver. And today’s employers are looking for any edge they can get in recruiting young talent. Add to that the fact that now you will have six hotels where customers can walk out of and be in an upscale, urban environment, and it’s really a game-changer for Atlanta.
Airport City will include a 5K multi-use loop around the entire development, and will convert the city’s historic golf course to 18 holes. In addition to the office, retail and hotels, the development will include multifamily, townhomes and single-family homes.
While the development is transformative for College Park, it’s really transformative for the entire area south of Atlanta. The cities of Hapeville, College Park and Palmetto are not really known for new upscale developments. Sixteen years ago, I remember working on a house with a friend of mine who was building in a neighborhood called Serenbe. It’s in a city called Chattahoochee Hills just west of Palmetto. When he told me he was building a $1.2 million-house there, I was sincerely baffled. The community was founded by restaurateur Steve Nygren and is a super-upscale town built around his very active farm. It was for me, literally in the middle of nowhere. It has a downtown area closely connected to a network of unique homes. It is an incredibly laid-back and relaxing community where people can go down and stay the night. At the time, with no real economy close by, I didn’t know who was going to be able to live there. But because it was close to the airport, it filled up with executives who lived and worked in other parts of the country, but who came to Atlanta enough to have a second home near the airport.
Now, with the introduction of Airport City, this kind of development south of Atlanta may not seem so out of place.
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