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Midtown Developer is in No Rush to Actually Develop

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The AJC on Sunday gave the in-depth "Personal Journeys" treatment to one of Atlanta's most controversial developers, John Dewberry, who's said to own enough Midtown land to build up to 20 high-rises — and who's irked neighbors by doing essentially nothing with it. The story, which is worth the pay-wall admission price for development wonks, chronicles the former Georgia Tech quarterback's rise to prominence and how he still hopes to be remembered for reshaping Atlanta's skyline and creating a more "livable, walkable" Peachtree Street. But this maverick has been making those lofty claims since the Olympics, and he's managed to build just two intown office buildings, the largest being the 17-story Two Peachtree Pointe in what he calls "Uptown." (Let's hear it: "Uptown funk you up ...") Dewberry tells the AJC he's balked at selling some of his Midtown land holdings at great profit and doesn't plan to build until he feels the market is right.

That being said, Dewberry's near-future plans include a six-story expansion to the Campanile building at Peachtree and 14th streets, though the building is only half-leased now. Farther north on Peachtree Street, Dewberry has proposed a tower with a hotel on the current site of an Exxon gas station. But as of now, nothing's in the hopper for Dewberry's pièce de résistance: the four-acre parcel he owns at 10th and Peachtree streets, where he envisions a "masterpiece" legacy project called Midtown Square. The site, for now, includes Henry's Midtown Tavern, two failed nightclubs, a long-dead Jocks & Jills Sports Grill (aka, the Dewberry Market) and an ocean of surface parking.

The proprietor of the two nightclubs claimed in court that Dewberry's company, Dewberry Capital, blindsided them with unfair rent hikes, forcing the closures. The landlord denied that. And then, looking toward the future, a Dewberry Capital official told Creative Loafing the site's "development potential is larger than that of the Empire State Building."

For years, Dewberry Capital's website has described their vision for this key Midtown corner as follows (excuse the cobwebs) ...

"Four acres located on Peachtree Street across from the Federal Reserve Building. Dewberry Capital envisions the site to be the premier live, work and play environment in Atlanta, Georgia. Dewberry Capital plans to develop approximately one million square feet of high-rise office, 130,000 square feet of retail and 400 units of high-rise condominiums."

In what's sure to irk some Midtown boosters and development watchers, Dewberry (who has recently survived bouts with cancer and a plane crash) tells the AJC that nothing — not even the prospect of death — will force him to build before he's ready.

· The long pass (Dewberry profile) [AJC; subscriber]
· Vanquish, Reign, Midtown nightclub hot spots close [Creative Loafing]
· Midtown's Most Watched Corner Still Keeping A Low Profile [Curbed Atlanta]