Forlorn rows of buildings along both sides of Georgia Avenue in Summerhill have been vacant for years but remain rich in the sort of character builders across metro Atlanta try to emulate.
Now, developers have recognized the potential here, in the shadow of Turner Field, for what could feel like an organically grown new district for Atlanta.
And retailers, those developers say, are queuing up to buy in to that vision.
The interest is such that, come mid-2018, this section of Summerhill could have a whole new vitality, leaders with Atlanta-based Carter believe.
“Next summer, we would expect that many of those Georgia Avenue buildings—if not all of those buildings—are open,” David Nelson, Carter senior vice president, tells Curbed Atlanta. “A lot of [tenant] interest has been driven off the street itself and character of buildings that are there.”
Nelson said work is underway to clean up and secure the existing Georgia Avenue structures, as one aged apartment complex near the site’s south end is demolished.
The goal, pending permits, is to launch construction that will allow for actual occupancy in October. Overall, Carter’s redevelopment team—which is tackling 60 acres evacuated by the Braves last year—includes Georgia State University, Oakwood Development, and Healy Weatherholtz.
Carter’s goal is that tenants will start opening along Georgia Avenue—a section of Atlanta long starved for retail and services—by late winter, eventually occupying roughly 30,000 square feet across a couple of blocks.
Plans call for eight to 10 retail slots, depending on how one building is divided.
News emerged last week that Carter has inked letters of intent with a brewery and barbecue restaurant to occupy two spaces. Nelson declined to name them, but he said several other potential tenants are also in negotiations, and specific names should be divulged in coming weeks.
All businesses in question are local, Nelson said.
By next summer, Carter also hopes to be under construction with an additional 25,000 square feet of boutique offices, retail, and 120 units of multifamily residences along the Georgia Avenue corridor “to fill in the gaps and around the edges of those [existing] buildings,” said Nelson.
Collectively, this section of the Turner Field area’s reimagining will be simply called “Summerhill”—an effort to coalesce with the existing neighborhood.
“While there are new buildings being built, the intent of the design is to take on the character of Georgia Avenue, where it appears to be a more organic, authentic mix of buildings that have been developed over time,” Nelson said.
“With the name, we’re trying to really interlock into the neighborhood,” Nelson continued. “Georgia Avenue is really a cool neighborhood street. We really want to let the tenants and creative folks lead, instead of being [heavy-fisted] and saying this is a master-planned community. This is a neighborhood-driven street. We’re part of the neighborhood—a collection of buildings on a street in a neighborhood, just like is all around Atlanta.”
Elsewhere, Carter expects to break ground in the first quarter of next year on a 700-bed student housing tower that would basically overlook GSU’s stadium, next to The Connector.
Plans call for delivering that project for the fall semester of 2019, Nelson said.
Don’t expect a bustling economic hive to spring from Turner Field’s dead lots overnight.
In the short term, Georgia State University expects to finish by August the first phase of updates to the Braves former digs to allow for the Panthers to play football there this fall.
That work entails reducing the facility’s capacity to 23,000 seats (from more than twice that) and reconfiguring the field for football. Additional phases will add more football-conducive seating and possibly dorms, offices, and even classrooms to the former right-field section.
Beyond that, it’s too early to say when the stadium’s vast asphalt lots will be transformed or exactly what will be there, Nelson said. It could be a decade or more before the full vision is realized, hinging on the physical realities of construction timelines and market demand. Although a large corporate tenant, for instance, could come along and drastically tighten that timeline.
Nelson said the Georgia Avenue phase, combined with investments GSU is making nearby, should serve as a catalyst for the overall project.
“The first phase will really create a place for this part of Atlanta—or anyone who’s interested—to go,” Nelson said. “It’s a part of town that’s lacking in any kind of services or retail offerings. We think it’ll be a great place for people.”
In terms of connectedness, Nelson said developers, city and regional officials, and neighborhood residents represented through the Livable Centers Initiative are on the same page: that transit—be it light rail, a streetcar extension, or something else—should logically traverse the area via Hank Aaron Drive. No plans are concrete yet, and implementation would likely take years.
“We’re big proponents of some form of transit coming down Hank Aaron Drive,” said Nelson. “We think that road has the infrastructure—in terms of width and size—to have dedicated lanes.”
The following, updated renderings show potential looks for Hank Aaron Drive between the stadium and Georgia Avenue.
- Poll: Hey, Atlanta, what should become of Turner Field? [Curbed; 2015]