Underground Atlanta has been home to many tourists searching for the true “Downtown” feel. But over the years, the sea of people has dwindled to the occasional random straggler and Underground has been left to collect dust.
Still, there is hope for the neglected 12-acre lot that is the heart of Downtown Atlanta – maybe.
WRS, Inc., a South Carolina real estate company, made a bid to purchase the property last December. According to the Purchase and Sale Agreement between WRS, Inc. and the City of Atlanta, Sep. 30 was to be the closing date. That day has come and past and the contract sits uninked.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle (ABC) reported the sale has been delayed until Jan. 15 as the “city of Atlanta works through what Mayor Kasim Reed described as a ‘solvable problem.’”
Although the contract is still in the works, Kyle Kennedy, president of the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association, said the public has yet to see a full rendering of the proposed redevelopment.
Kennedy said there has been no update or final development plan since the release of the preliminary site plan this past February.
“Well what I think that the developer is proposing housing and new retail, including a grocery store, [and] it is a great project” Kennedy said. “But there hasn’t been any additional information that has come out that’s helped clarify or provide additional information to how the plan will actually work.”
Whatever WRS, Inc. has envisioned, ABC said the success in reviving the heart of Downtown relies heavily with Georgia State and Georgia Tech students. For a grocery store to thrive, the area needs in-town residents.
How safe is Underground Atlanta?
However, getting students to visit Underground Atlanta, even with a facelift, may prove difficult.
Georgia State senior Adam Chaves said he visited the area as a child, but the influx of crime has kept him at bay from returning.
“Hearing and reading about fellow GSU students getting mugged is a good factor that plays into my not-so-great feelings towards Underground these days, along with the [recent] MARTA shooting [that happened] just a little ways up at the Five Points Station,” he said.
Comparing crime statistics from last year until Sep. 28 of this year within a quarter of a mile radius of Underground, 2015 has seen a drop or an even number of atrocities in the area, according to an email from the Atlanta Police Department (APD). Rape is the only exception.
Chaves isn’t the only one who is cautious to step foot in Underground. Another Georgia State senior, Eric Wightman, reinforced the damaged reputation of Underground by calling it a “shit-hole.”
Redevelopment won’t be enough to change the current culture of Underground, said Chaves. He said the issues of crime and homelessness would require a city-wide cooperative effort between the APD and other organizations.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been offered cocaine or molly while walking to or from my car,” he said. “If nothing is done about these concerns, I can guarantee that this reiteration of Underground will just be history repeating itself.”
If “new life is breathed” into the area, Chaves said he would be willing to give Underground another shot. But until then, he is keeping his distance.
“For now, Underground Atlanta will just serve as a cheap, convenient parking deck for when I have to make a quick stop in Downtown,” he said.