Atlanta Civic Center, make way for mixed-use development

Weingarten Realty’s design of what the new development will look. Submitted photo | Weingarten Realty

The Atlanta Civic Center sits off of Piedmont Avenue awaiting its upcoming redevelopment Photo by Justin Clay | The Signal
The Atlanta Civic Center sits off of Piedmont Avenue awaiting its upcoming redevelopment
Photo by Justin Clay | The Signal

Atlanta’s gentrification is chugging along Downtown’s Piedmont Avenue.

Weingarten Realty is planning to purchase the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center property on Piedmont Avenue to tear down the theater and build a nearly $300 million mixed-use facility. According to Atlanta Business Chronicle, the plans for the lot are still under negotiation.

The Texas-based property investment company has developed a variety of complexes in Norcross, Perimeter Village, and Dunwoody. Ann Cleator, senior development manager at Weingarten Realty, told The Signal the new ‘live, work, play’ space is expected to bring further growth to the Downtown area.

“That area is undergoing a whole renaissance in [Downtown] Atlanta,” she said. “[Invest Atlanta] is being very generous and is invested in revitalizing that part of the city.”

Live, work, play

As of last September, the prospective plans for the Civic Center are to build apartments, townhouses, condos, a grocery, retail stores, and a large area of office space, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

Weingarten Realty’s design of what the new development will look.  Submitted photo | Weingarten Realty
Weingarten Realty’s design of what the new development will look.
Submitted photo | Weingarten Realty
However, current plans are tentative, and nothing is set in stone, according to Cleator.

“It’s a very high density, mixed use project. Projects of this nature take a while to get to know exactly what you’re going to do and who you’re going to do it with,” she said. “We are still in the preliminary stages… exactly what it’s going to look like and how long is going to take is a work in progress.”

Cleator also described tentative structural plans for the lot, which include three to four vertically-integrated units, meaning that each building will house several developments within the unit.

Mayor Kasim Reed is also focused on creating employment opportunities through this development, and hopes that the plans for the lot will develop beyond current plans.

Spokeswoman for Reed, Jewanna Gaither, said that this renovation and others like it are movements to redevelop the city.

“City properties like the Civic Center represent a major revitalization opportunity and a chance to bring new jobs and investments to neighborhoods such as Downtown, Midtown and the Old Fourth Ward,” she said.

Mixed impact

Although this development could significantly stimulate Atlanta’s economy, what that change will look like remains to be seen. Residents have expressed concerns over these moves towards gentrification, and how that could affect their cost of living.

Andre Dickens, Atlanta city council member, said in an interview with The Signal that Atlanta and Weingarten’s plans for the lot are open it to a variety of socioeconomic classes.

“The hope for the Civic Center is that there will be mixed-incomes in this mixed-use development,” he said. Dickens then explains the term “mixed-income.”

“‘Mixed-income’ means that people in various stages, income levels, and occupations in their life,” Dickens said. “I made sure with Invest Atlanta that [rental units in the Civic Center] should be affordable from the start of [the development] to make sure that folks can live throughout our city.”

Gentrification anxiety

The city of Atlanta has recently passed the Affordable Housing Impact Statement ordinance, requiring developers to declare the amount of affordable housing provided per area.

However, gentrification anxiety is still prevalent in Atlanta. Current median listing prices correlate strongly with the rise in gentrification. According to, Inman Park’s median listing price is approximately $259,900, while values in Ponce City average about $559,000. Property values have also skyrocketed around developments like the Beltline and Old Fourth Ward.

“What you see city-wide is very real. We have a problem that is bubbling up with affordability in recent developments,” Dickens said. “In the last two years, 11,000 units have been built, and they are all luxury or mostly luxury units. There are very few affordable units included in that… All units going into the Civic Center are going to have to have 10 percent affordability.”

Invest Atlanta, the city’s financial investment arm, is currently negotiating the final price tag with Weingarten. The bid was pitched at around $30 million, and the deal will be finalized in summer 2016, according to Dickens.

While the city and companies invest in the downtown areas, undertones of further socioeconomic imbalance loom.

Atlanta has been ranked highest income inequality for years. According to a study by the Brookings Institute, the average household income of the 95th percentile ($288,159) is nearly 20 times that of the bottom average household income ($14,988). Trends presented in the Atlanta Magazine show that 87 percent of the poor population in Atlanta live in the suburbs.

Residents of the area will have the opportunity to voice their opinions and desires as the closing of the deal approaches, which will be facilitated by Invest Atlanta.

This new development could impact Georgia State students as well. Stephanie Ekey, a sophomore at Georgia State, said she hopes the new mixed-use development will offer affordable housing for students and young adults.

“A lot of students move off campus after their first or second year, because it’s expensive to live on campus,” she said. “The thing is, it’s really difficult to find a place that’s affordable on a student income.”

But Ekey said “affordable” can have a wide spectrum of meaning within Georgia State’s and Atlanta’s diverse communities.

“It seems like [Weingarten and Invest Atlanta] are trying to make this a place that different income levels can access, but it really depends on how affordable is defined,” she said. “What’s affordable to someone who has a Masters and a full-job isn’t necessarily going to be affordable to a full-time student.”

While the plans for the Civic Center are still up in the air, it appears that attempts are being made to allow for greater accessibility for the Atlanta population. Time will tell what gentrification has in store for the city.