The City of Atlanta has been trying to close a deal to sell Underground Atlanta to South Carolina-based WRS Real Estate Investment group, going to great lengths that have included — of all things — a Buckhead land-swap with the State of Georgia.
While the sale process has been in the works for more than two years, little new information has surfaced about what the developer — best known for suburban strip malls — really plans to bring to the heart of downtown.
So when "new" renderings surfaced on the WRS website in the last week, local media had a feeding frenzy, freaking out over an image that shows a large surface parking lot adjacent to Underground.
While the drawings exhibit some pretty terrible urbanism, if you can call it that, anyone who's lost their head over this might not have been justified in doing so.
We've reached out for clarification, but in the meantime, here are a few important notes about the drawings:
- The parking lot that appears in the hand drawing is one that already exists, potentially indicating that initial plans call for the parking lot to remain a placeholder as the first round of development materializes.
- Upon closer inspection of the drawing that's attracting the most consternation — well, it seems that it's merely the black and white version of a drawing that's been floating around since June 2014.
- The color drawings show a building on the site of the parking lot that is shown in the 2014 drawing, hinting that WRS has gone back to the drawing board to beef up the urbanism of the proposal. (Hypothetical high-five!)
- While the newer renderings show the preservation of the facades of historic buildings along Alabama Street — some of the oldest surviving in Atlanta — it's unclear if the buildings are truly safe from the new development, or if WRS only intends to keep the facades (or worse, is merely quieting critics by showing the facades in drawings, without actually intending to keep them).
Representatives from WRS have been quiet on the subject, adding to the mystery. The discrepancies between the renderings seem to indicate that things still have a long way to go before they are sorted out, but the community concern indicate it may be past time for WRS to engage Atlantans in the design process.
So really, the recent uproar just adds to the mystery of what will happen on the site.