It’s been a big week for Atlanta’s most underwhelming tourist attraction.
On Monday, the Atlanta City Council voted to relinquish control of sections of three of the city’s oldest downtown streets as means to grease the wheels of private development at Underground Atlanta.
That private development would ostensibly be the work of WRS Real Estate Investments, a South Carolina firm known mostly for suburban strip centers, which has been promising for two years to revitalize the languishing property and surrounding blocks.
But not so fast. Sort of.
According to a thorough and borderline bombshell AJC report today, multiple firms are sharking Underground Atlanta with hopes of stepping in if the property’s sale to WRS doesn’t materialize. A longstanding deadline to make the WRS deal happen (or not) looms in January.
WRS was the only developer to offer a bid on Underground two years ago when the city announced the very complex property would be unloaded. But things have changed.
Among the interested groups is Newport Holdings, a German development and investment firm that employs at least two former Jamestown Properties executives, the developer behind Atlanta adaptive-reuse sensations Westside Provisions District and Ponce City Market. Both former Jamestown execs were instrumental in bringing PCM to life, the AJC reports.
And it’s that company — not WRS — that’s now in the driver’s seat to buy and revitalize about 20 downtown buildings near Underground.
That being said, WRS officials told the AJC they’re confident they’ll be able to close on Underground’s roughly $25-million sale by the January deadline, as financing, partner investors, and other developers with expertise in apartment construction are in place. (CORRECTION: WRS has had discussions with both apartment and hotel developers but no partnerships have been formalized).
The molasses-slow sale has been delayed by “technicalities of the sale, including ancient property surveys and real estate records, and complicated easements for MARTA and railroad companies,” writes the AJC.
If all goes according to plan, the WRS official said to expect 18 months of planning and permitting before their vision of building a grocery store, hotel, apartments, retail, and high-rise student housing begins.
NOTE: The headline of this article has been clarified from an earlier version.