If all goes according to plan, the organically urban swath of Atlanta just south of Five Points and Underground could feel like a new world in the not-so-distant future.
Major changes are in store for an eight-block section of South Downtown, as German development team Newport US RE begins to craft plans for its major reinvestment in the long-overlooked neighborhood.
Renderings released last month offered a glimpse of a utopian walkable district, peppered with restored historic buildings and connected by planted pedestrian plazas, the likes of which modern Atlanta has never seen.
For a better understanding of Newport’s plans, we took a walk with the company’s president, Jake Nawrocki, and executive vice president, Katherine Kelley, around the district.
The duo, both formerly of Jamestown Properties (Ponce City Market’s developer), were clearly excited by the area’s prospects.
While concrete plans are still being drafted—forthcoming community input will factor into development decisions, leaders say—Kelley noted the historic buildings are “where the value is” in the neighborhood, and will be retained and restored.
Nawrocki echoed the sentiment, adding, “We’re finally in a place where capital markets are valuing the historic real estate. You couldn’t have done [this project] 10 to 20 years ago.”
The project will include dozens of existing buildings and acres of parking, totaling some 1,000 spaces.
No new parking structures are planned in the district. One of the project’s stated goals—remember, it’s located between Five Points and Garnett MARTA stations—will be to “ween people off of parking,” said Nawrocki.
Ultimately, the vision calls for the neighborhood to once again return to the mercantile roots of early Atlanta. The old buildings and new infill will provide space, developers say, for fine-grained retail in a “contiguous medium density historic neighborhood,” the likes of which don’t exist anywhere else in the city, according to Kelley.
With architecture partner S9, Newport is in it for the long haul, they say, embracing the layers of development while maintaining space for the 35-plus local tenants that currently occupy the buildings.
Planning is still in the early stages, as Newport works with store owners and residents to determine how to best bring vibrancy to the neighborhood, so don't expect to see immediate changes.
But clearly Newport is putting money where its mouth is, having bought 40 buildings (and counting) and four acres of parking in the area.
In this installment of Visual Journeys, see a selection of places that could be integral in the rebirth of Atlanta’s earliest core:
— intro by Micheal Kahn, Curbed Atlanta