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Investors' Vision Could Spell New Life for Downtown Block

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Downtown's "Railroad District" could welcome a few hundred more residents and a dose of retail if the vision of Miami investors pans out. Noted real estate flipper Carlos Balzola led a group of investors who recently purchased a tired concrete edifice at 222 Mitchell Street with plans of flipping it into a mixed-use complex, around the corner from Castleberry Hill and a stone's throw from Phillips Arena. Bisnow reports the group bagged the 400,000-square-foot former office building for $6.8 million, which Balzola called an attractive price. The building consumes nearly three acres, and it's not the first time developers have hatched big mixed-use ideas there.

The neighborhood might be a long way from critical mass, but the bones for something special are there, as with much of downtown south of Five Points. If Balzola's personal summary on his LinkedIn page is any indication, perhaps this time will be different: "I have a passion for creating. I don't only see things for what they are, I see them for what they have the potential to become. Having a knack for finding opportunities is one of the many things I am known for." He told Bisnow his tentative plans for the property could include a mix of retail and multifamily, with more than 200 residential units.

Promotional materials for the former NationsBank/Bank of America Operations Center building have touted its 22-foot ceilings, original Terrazzo floors and historic bank vaults — the authentic touches that make Millennials salivate. The structure was built in phases between 1929 and 1979, consuming an entire block bounded by Mitchell, Spring, Forsyth and Nelson streets.

The last plans for the property produced a lot of big talk in 2009, but the timing simply could have been off. Back then, developers from Atlanta (Orinda Corp.) and Virginia (Octagon Capital Partners) joined forces to buy the building with plans to convert it to 205 rental lofts and more than 70,000 square feet of commercial space, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported. In a prepared statement, an Orinda official had this to say at the time:

"The redevelopment of 222 Mitchell Street into rental lofts and retail space will play a significant role in the rebirth of this part of downtown Atlanta … We're certain that living at 222 Mitchell Street will appeal to young professionals who work downtown, as well as to college students, especially those who already attend one of the many fine institutions in the area."

Five years later, they're selling the property to Balzola and company.

· 222 Mitchell St. SW [Loopnet]
· Miami Investor Eyes 222 Mitchell [Bisnow]