After decades of waiting for a rebirth, one of Atlanta’s most significant historic buildings might finally be in luck. The former home of the Atlanta Constitution could get a much-needed renovation and become part of an office and residential redevelopment, according to a proposal Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, is negotiating with developers.
Next to the Gulch, a vast jumble of pavement and railroad tracks near Philips Arena where a developer connected to the owner of the Atlanta Hawks wants to build an estimated $1 billion mixed-use project, a joint venture hopes to renovate the five-story Art Moderne building located at Forsyth and Alabama streets and build a new 112-unit residential building on an adjacent parking lot. The sale price is $2 million, according to the deal’s fact sheet. The plan is still being negotiated, says Invest Atlanta spokesman Matt Fogt, so it’s subject to change. The agency’s board must grant final approval before selling the property.
Built in the 1940s, the building originally served as offices for the Atlanta Constitution, the more liberal-leaning sister to the Atlanta Journal. After the paper exited in the early 1950s, Georgia Power occupied the space until the mid-1970s. Since the 1990s, however, the building has been owned by the city and has sat vacant, used mainly for shelter by the homeless and a nesting area for pigeons. Historic preservationists and building buffs, protective of one of the last surviving examples of the architecture style left standing in the city, pushed back against a proposal in the 2000s to demolish the structure. In 2014 the city cleaned up and secured the building and last year finally asked developers to submit their ideas for the property.
Under the current proposal, Pope and Land would convert 67,000 square feet of the historic building into office space—the city’s city planning department would relocate there—and add a rooftop restaurant. The $40 million project would also include ground-level retail. Place Properties would build the adjacent residential building. Thirty percent of the units would be set aside for households making no more than 80 percent of the area median income, which equates to roughly $39,050 for a 1-person household and $55,750 for a 4-person household. Despite being located in one of the city’s most walkable neighborhoods and across the street from the Five Points MARTA station, more than 140 parking spaces are also included in the proposed vision.
For neighborhood boosters who have advocated for saving the Constitution and other historic buildings in one of the oldest parts of Atlanta, an adaptive resuse project is good news. “It’s been exciting to see the City’s leadership role in encouraging the renovation of this unique and historic building at the heart of our city’s transit system,” says Kyle Kessler of the South Downtown Initiative, a nonprofit effort aimed at revitalizing the neighborhood that includes the Constitution building. “The Department of City Planning’s inclusion as a primary tenant shows a prioritization and commitment to good urbanism that will have a long-term, positive impact well beyond the project itself.”
Winter Johnson Group, which renovated downtown’s historic Flatiron Building, would serve as the general contractor. Smith Dalia, the Atlanta architecture firm that designed White Provision, King Plow Arts Center, and other historic properties, is also on board. If the deal goes through, construction could begin next June and take roughly 20 months to complete.