This past weekend, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution compiled a thoughtful report on the prospects of downtown's beleaguered subterranean mall, revealing that Mayor Kasim Reed and Co. plan to field proposals from developers soon and score them based on financial considerations and the strength of each vision. Among those quoted was prolific Atlanta developer and Glenwood Park darling Jeff Fuqua, who said his firm might be interested in acquiring Underground Atlanta, especially if the city provides incentives. And it sounds like Fuqua would prefer to work with a clean slate. "Sometimes the best redevelopment of the project is demolishing it," Fuqua told the AJC. (We can't help but wonder what the New Underground would look like, built entirely by Fuqua). Other visions tallied by the newspaper's sources include a hotel, office spaces, arts campus or student housing. But could that old troublesome Atlanta edict — "Hey, something beats nothing" — already be rearing its head?
Contrary to what some have hoped, Reed told the newspaper the city's unloading of underground is more about fiscal prudence than a grand revitalization of downtown. While he's mentioned a preference for "university energy" to replace the ailing commercial strip, Reed said the sale of the former City Hall East should be a model, though it could become "a ball field" for all he cares, so long as it thrives on someone else's dime.
The newspaper points out that downtown is in the midst of a wave of new investment not seen since the 1996 Olympics, and some feel a recovering economy and heightened interest in urban living could signal that the universe is aligning for Underground. Finally. Maybe.
· Another new beginning for Underground [AJC; subscriber]
· Recent Underground Atlanta coverage and discussion [Curbed]