In 2016, developer Newport purchased 48 buildings and sites across eight blocks of south downtown Atlanta, an area east of Mercedes-Benz stadium and west of the state capitol, between the Five Points and Garnett MARTA stations. Their vision: turn the area of mostly vacant buildings and parking lots into a walkable space for retail, offices, and apartments, while at the same time preserving the area’s historic buildings.
Starting in April, Newport plans to show part of that vision to the public with Pop Up Row, a group of temporary spaces that will open along Mitchell Street through the end of July. Once home to hotels serving travelers and business people who arrived in Atlanta at the (now demolished) Terminal Station, the street today has retail spaces—think Friedmann’s Shoes, which caters to NBA players and other people with larger-than-average feet—and residences. Eight spaces will be available, ranging from 750 square feet to 1,400 square feet, according to Newport’s president Jake Nawrocki and vice president April Stammel. The hope is to fill them with local businesses, makers, nonprofits, and more before starting on permanent spaces.
“[The retail spaces] are perfect pop-up sizes,” Stammel says. “We just felt like we owed it to the neighborhood to give them a glimpse of what it will be in the future and to give these local businesses a chance to experiment.”
With the area’s close proximity to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, during Super Bowl LIII, Newport invited six groups to the spaces—including arts organization Dashboard, ticketing agent Seatgeek, and Spiller Park Coffee, among others—to capitalize on Super Bowl traffic. Though the pop-ups only operated for four days, Nawrocki says, the event gave the developer and residents an idea of how the street could have more activity. Newport hopes this next session of pop-ups will draw Atlanta United fans before and after matches. After July 31, the Mitchell Street pop-ups will close to start construction on ground-floor retail, with office space and potentially loft apartments in the two to three floors above.
Part of Mitchell Street’s appeal—and what makes south downtown a rarity in Atlanta—is the collection of historic buildings that have managed to avoid the wrecking ball. Newport says that charm was partly what attracted the developer to the neighborhood in the first place, and it plans to preserve and restore the architecture. Long-term tenants will move in in early 2020, around the same time that Newport begins renovations on the former C&S Bank Building that occupies the entire block across the street from the pop-up spots. Newport says that the “best-case scenario” would be for the early summer pop-ups to become permanent tenants.
“In general, we see [Mitchell Street] as being a local street for local goods and services and nonprofits and food and beverage,” Nawrocki says.
Potential pop-up tenants can begin applying for one of the spaces beginning March 4. Newport will cover rent and utilities for the spaces and will give each pop-up a $500 start-up allowance meant to be used for “minor improvements” such as paint, interior decor, and signage. The businesses will need to have a City of Atlanta business license, liability insurance, maintain certain hours, and participate in events along the street.
“Costs are going up; rents are going up, so this is a chance to test out business ideas,” Nawrocki says.