In just a few short years, Atlanta’s West End has become one of the hottest real estate markets in the city, thanks in part to major mixed-use developments and redevelopments cropping up in the area.
But if Beltline visionary Ryan Gravel and his new real estate investment partner’s vision for an aging neighborhood mall pans out, some of the negative forces of gentrification could be kept at bay.
Rookie development group Elevator City Partners, run by Gravel and tech investor Donray Von, aims to transform The Mall West End into a $300 million mixed-use development decked out with residences, retail, office space, and hotel rooms, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
And it’s no surprise that Gravel, who left the Beltline’s board of directors in 2016 due to concerns about affordable housing, says this 12-acre overhaul wouldn’t resemble Ponce City Market or any other posh developments that have popped up in recent years.
In fact, if Gravel and Von have their way, the massive project would comprise affordable workforce housing, job training, small-business lending help, and a $10 to $15 million fund dedicated to bolstering local businesses.
The affordable housing component, they say, would be crucial, due to the forces of many market-rate developments progressing in close proximity, such as Carter’s revitalization of the 1.1 million-square-foot Metropolitan warehouse district, now called The MET.
Between 20 and 30 percent of the new housing created would be earmarked for affordable living the AJC reported.
And keeping local jobs local is just as important, per the team.
Gravel and Von aim to keep some of the mall’s current vendors aboard after the building is leveled in about two years.
“The best scenario for community growth is not that somebody else opens a shop in your neighborhood, but that you open a shop for yourself and have the chance to build generational wealth for your family,” Gravel wrote on his blog.
The mall, which Elevator City has under contract and hopes to secure ownership of later this year, sits on the north side of Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard just south of Interstate-20.
The community hopes the freshman developers’ plan will mend the gap between the site and the neighboring Atlanta University Center north of I-20.
Sited about a block north of the West End MARTA Station, the project is also slated to become a media and tech hub that could capitalize on the talent coming from AUC schools, Von told the AJC.
The project site is also an easy walk or bike ride from the Beltline’s Westside Trail, a powerful catalyst for economic development—if not aggressive gentrification.
The Elevator City team wants the West End mall’s redevelopment to be community-oriented, rather than solely developer-driven. That echoes development logic happening in Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown right now and with a project at the cusp of East Atlanta and Ormewood Park.
“By including local voices in the development and catalyzing growth that is authentic to each community, we’ll not only create better places; that authenticity will differentiate the real estate project in the marketplace, making it more competitive, resilient, and profitable,” Gravel’s blog post says.
Once the mall is demolished, phased development is expected to take about five years.
Elevator City is now trying to woo developers to help further the ambitious project, and the property’s place in a designated Opportunity Zone means federal tax incentives should help the cause.