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The amazing potential of South Downtown Atlanta in 20 photos

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Come, take a tour with developers who’ve bought a significant chunk of historic South Downtown, a long-overlooked area rich with character

A photo of a downtown street leading to the new Mercedes-Benz stadium.
German developer Newport now owns most of these buildings, which boast Atlanta’s new football coliseum as a backdrop.
Photos: Jonathan Philips, Curbed Atlanta

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.

A sample rendering of Newport’s vision.
Renderings: NewportUS

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:

The two attached buildings as well as the one-story red brick are part of the 40 properties in Newport’s plans for South Downtown. These are near the corner of Mitchell and Peachtree streets.
Photos: Jonathan Philips, Curbed Atlanta
Two of the buildings along Mitchell Street owned by Newport. The alleyway in between also leads to more property under their control.
As of now, wrought-iron fencing keeps the private property secure from would-be explorers.
A view of the property behind the buildings.
An alley leading to a property behind Mitchell Street. There are bricked-up windows and doorways along the covered alleyway.
A historic marker along one of Newport's buildings on Mitchell Street.
Although the Star Hotel property on the right corner is not part of Newport's repertoire, the majority of the block on Mitchell Street is, and it has great views of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Movie-crew scaffolding is up while a production transforms Broad Street into Tokyo in South Downtown. This building’s mural was applied by artist HENSE several years ago.
More of the buildings along Broad Street, which belong to Newport, were in the process last week of being made over to look like Tokyo for an upcoming movie shoot.
The Mammal Gallery on Broad Street—part of a significant presence of local artists—occupies another building Newport acquired.
A photo of this Rexall Drugstore served as an album cover for Paul McCartney once upon a time. It now belongs to Newport, too.
Yoyo Ferro helped with the makeover of the Atlanta Eye Care building on the corner of Broad Street and M.L.K. Jr. Drive.
The H.L. Green building is another property scooped up by Newport.
Although walled up for the time being, the backside of the Kessler's building overlooks Broad Street in between M.L.K. Jr. Drive and Alabama.
The McCrory and Keller’s buildings on Broad Street.
Some of the amazing details of the Bookhammer's building along Peachtree Street.
Three of the buildings along Peachtree Street in Newport’s possession.
Most of this block of Peachtree Street between Alabama and M.L.K. Jr. Drive belongs to Newport in a quest to transform South Downtown.
South Downtown may be reshaped after Newport is through, as the Germany-based developer has bought 40 buildings within an eight-block radius. Perhaps these photos will seem like one big “before” scene in coming years.

intro by Micheal Kahn, Curbed Atlanta