Downtown redevelopments a huge win for the city, university

If developers have their way with plans to remodel both the Olympia and Flatiron buildings along Woodruff Park, Downtown Atlanta could soon see two if its historic and oldest buildings returned to their original splendor.

Sold last November for $2.2 million to CSH-23 Peachtree LLC, the two-story Olympia Building most well known for the Coke sign that rests above it could become a classically-styled Walgreens Pharmacy, according to Atlanta Curbed.

Built in the 1930s, the triangle-shaped building at Five Points would have the pharmacy’s name etched into a new black aluminum canopy marquee designed to restore its historical look based on preliminary plans released last week.

Meanwhile, across the park, investors have been eyeing the Flatiron Building – one of Atlanta’s oldest skyscrapers – for redevelopment for use as a 65,000-square-foot startup incubator since last year.

With Michael Tavani, co-founder of Atlanta-based deal site Scoutmob, at the helm, the site may one day host dozens of small design and consumer-brand startups, just as other incubators around the city have helped gestate numerous tech and web-based companies in recent years.

That could mean jobs, internships and a deeper economic footprint in the heart of Atlanta – all of which is good for the Downtown community, which has shrunk over the past 50 years but has the opportunity to become a vibrant, relevant neighborhood once again.

We’ve already seen movement toward that direction. Take the Atlanta Streetcar Project, for example. Later this year, electric trolleys will once more carry passengers through the busy streets of Atlanta after their removal nearly 60 years ago.

Beginning in April, this project will connect Downtown to premium travel spots like the CNN Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center – in addition to other planned streetcar lines that would network the project to Midtown or beyond.

Or take the resurgence of Broad Street by the Aderhold Learning Center as another example.

Over the past 15 years, the two-block stretch at the far end of the Fairlie-Poplar District has transformed into a primetime lunch destination with a colorful mix of options for students and office workers alike.

With investment from young developers and entrepreneurs, we have the opportunity to make more of Downtown like that.

While preserving their historical nature, sites like the Olympia and Flatiron buildings can serve as a hub for other businesses looking to relocate to Atlanta that may have previously overlooked Downtown for the suburbs or other neighborhoods –especially in the area near Underground Atlanta and south of Five Points, where property values are lower and there’s lots of available space for savvy entrepreneurs.

Just this week members of City Hall have announced willingness to revisit the Underground Atlanta contract, which has cost the city millions over the years and generally hurt the reputation of the area as a institutional pariah no one wants to visit.

It seems obvious, but those kinds of redevelopment help improve the overall student experience at Georgia State and make the University a more attractive place to prospective students. And they could drive momentum for future growth in places like Underground that have obviously seen better days.

Therefore, to counter that perception, Georgia State and the city should everything possible to attract investors interested in expanding into Downtown by offering everything from attractive business loans – as in the case of the Flatiron building – to University-level commercial partnerships similar to Georgia Tech’s Venture Lab.

Even if it may seem costly now, in the long-term, these types of investments have the potential to be both a win-win for the city and the University.