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Highlights from the Gulch-replacing Centennial Yards’s coming out party

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CIM Group leaders detail what to expect, tentatively, as the Southeast’s largest mixed-use project gains footing in downtown Atlanta

A rendering with many new buildings, tall and short, highlighted that could be built in downtown Atlanta.
The tentative, overarching vision for Gulch redevelopment that project leaders say could take a decade to fully realize.
Renderings via CIM Group; photos by Curbed Atlanta

Business leaders, media, real estate developers, and no shortage of curious locals gathered Wednesday at Georgia World Congress Center for what felt like a coming-out party for the largest mixed-use project underway in the Southeast, one that could reshape downtown Atlanta atop the long-festering scar that is the Gulch.

Billed as an informational session for Centennial Yards, the white-table cloth event organized by developer CIM Group saw more networking than revelatory bombshells about the 50-acre project.

Project heads were restricted from giving media interviews. But scrumptious tidbits for development wonks were found.

A rending of construction projects underway.
Former Norfolk Southern properties currently undergoing adaptive-reuse development are depicted at the bottom. Future pieces, colored above them, are expected to be the site’s first new construction.

In November, the Atlanta City Council narrowly approved legislation that could funnel nearly $2 billion in public monies to help fund the planned $5 billion redevelopment of downtown’s Gulch.

CIM Group, a 25-year-old real estate fund manager, has offices in California, on the East Coast, and now in Atlanta. Locally, their plans call for swapping the sunken rail-yards and parkings lots with 12 million square feet of residences, retail, offices, and hotels.

In his address to the room, Shannon Crowell, CIM Group’s vice president of real estate development, noted that redevelopment work within the scope of Centennial Yards had been ongoing for months before the city council’s controversial blessing.

The former Norfolk Southern Buildings overlooking Castleberry Hill at 125 and 99 Ted Turner Drive are being renovated as phase one of the first step in the Gulch redo. The southernmost building is expected to welcome apartment residents by the end of next year.

Meanwhile, Crowell said, the 99 building will be occupied by a boutique hotel. He didn’t specify which flag might fly there, but said to expect 150 to 160 rooms.

The second phase of what could eventually cover 4 acres is planned to bring a 260-unit residential building and a 50,000-square-foot boutique office building, Crowell said.

A rendering of two buildings shown on a slide with people moving about.
The planned boutique offices, at top, and a new building with roughly 260 residences, near the edge of Castleberry Hill.

Requests for proposal from qualified firms are expected to be issued soon for phase two. Also planned is a two-story, 500-space parking structure upon which the new buildings would stand.

The new pieces are expected to launch construction by the second quarter of next year, with completions scheduled for 2023, Crowell said.

From there, the Centennial Yards’s outlook is less certain, as of now.

A rendering with many tall structure and existing buildings.
This represents what roughly 12 million square feet of density would look like, spread across the Gulch footprint, with green space worked in to satisfy city requirements. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is the jagged piece at bottom.

Crowell stressed that the site is complex with serval elevations, varied building conditions, and other constraints that planning and design teams have been analyzing the past 12 months.

Figuring out where to plan columns, for instance, for a massive platforms that would support vertical construction is one challenge.

The general game plan calls for a buildout of five to 10 years. From foundations to possible high-rise construction, the balance of tentative plans are in various stages of design, officials told Curbed Atlanta.

A fly-through video was played on loop that lends some idea of what Atlantans might expect.

An aerial rending of infrastructure required for a huge downtown Atlanta development.
How the requisite platform infrastructure could look, prior to vertical construction.
An overhead rendering of many new buildings proposed near Atlanta sports stadiums.
This vision, noted Crowell, presents “many exciting opportunities for the business community, general contractors, design firms, subcontractors, vendors, material men, laborers, et cetera.”
A massive rendering of a many new buildings near Atlanta’s football stadium.
An aerial view from roughly above Centennial Olympic Park shows what tourists might encounter when venturing into Centennial Yards.
An overhead view of the huge proposed project’s central courtyards.
Peering into the project’s core, where various illuminated signs and billboards would boost the feel of an entertainment district between stadiums and downtown government buildings.

Not mentioned during Wednesday’s soiree was a lawsuit filed by Centennial Yards’s most vocal detractors, a group called Redlight the Gulch, who have cried foul over the use of billions in public money to get the project off the ground. As of August, the group was appealing a Fulton County Superior Court judge’s earlier ruling that city officials had acted lawfully when crafting and approving the incentives package.

In coming years, the project’s RFP process will follow standard protocol, noted CIM procurement manager Brigitte Broyard, with all documents available as projects move forward via an “Opportunities” tab on the Centennial Yards website.

Bid conferences have yet to be scheduled, but special efforts will be made to loop female and minority businesses into the mix, Broyard said.