Friday, April 16, 2010

Are large development projects set up to fail?

I was reading this article about the Allen Plaza development, and I wondered if projects like Allen Plaza or Atlantic Station can EVER truly succeed.  Now, I think both of these projects have succeeded in many ways, but they are both roughly half-built.  For all the early success of Atlantic Station, the Atlantic condos are sitting empty and there are a lot of unbuilt development pads along 17th Street.  Barry did great with the Southern Company building and the Ernst and Young building.  The W almost went into foreclosure, though, and Barry is barely hanging on to the land for the rest of the project.

These are two projects that started off very hot at the right time - Barry was leasing up the office space in 2004 and 2005, and the Atlantic Station offices started opening in 2004.  Now, who knows when they'll get finished.  Despite how hot things were, there is only so much that you can build and absorb before things begin to cool down.

Frankly, I wonder if you could have EVER expected these not to falter.  The development cycle is simply too short to build as much space as folks were planning.

I actually do agree with Barry that long-term, the pictures still looks good for Allen Plaza.  I admit that I am biased, because I want to see Downtown succeed.  I think one lesson here is that if you want to do something of this magnitude, you have to plan for the long-term and riding out at least one downturn.


  1. The felling around all the low level housing at Atlantic station is horrible. I'm sure they are just great inside but I get depressed every time I drive by. There is no fix for them. They will depress people no matter the economy. They should have been great.

  2. Barry would have been better off it he hadn't upset the neighborhood by coming in and changing the name. It's was called Centennial Hill for years before the Allen Plaza name was floated. He didn't ask the neighborhood if we minded having our name changed, he just came in and did it. No one down here calls it Allen Plaza. He's built on a whopping two blocks and so far has sold a single housing unit in the W. Meanwhile there are close to a thousand housing units in Twelve, Centennial House, Brio Lofts, and Museum Tower, none of which were developed by Barry.

    The arrogance of developers sometimes is stunning and in this case has caused the odd situation where residents are happier seeing the surface parking lots remain than have Barry wipe away the community's identity so he can remake it in his image. Ironically the name Centennial Hill was coined by Hines, who never built anything in the neighborhood but did provide the inspiration upon which the residents built a community.

    Given how nearby Buttermilk Bottom was developed over and every trace of the community removed, you'd think Barry would be a bit more sensitive. Guess when one flies come to the neighborhood in a helicopter and builds with OPM, it's easy to overlook the actual residents who have the bulk of their personal finances tied up in the homes they've created in the community.

    Hopefully someone else buys up the properties, treats the neighborhood with respect and the Allen Plaza signs on the two block micro-development eventually get taken down.

    On the good side of things, at least MARTA has started calling the neighborhood Centennial Hill in its station announcements. Good to see at least someone listened to the concerns of the community instead of developer bucks (or in this case, TAD dollars).

    As a future developer, I hope you'll never treat a community with such arrogance. A motivated community can causes a development millions in trouble or even sink a project altogether. All it takes is a few arrogant actions to get the hostilities started.

  3. As an outsider (i.e. not involved with Barry, nor a resident of Centennial Hill), all I do is make a few observations.

    From my perspective, Barry's Allen Plaza is the name of the development, while Centennial Hill encompasses everything from old Techwood/Centennial Place, to Museum Tower and Centennial House, and yes Allen Plaza and Twelve. Basically from Luckie Street to about West Peachtree. I (personally) don't think the neighborhood has been re-branded or anything.

    I think the present condition of Allen Plaza has much more to do with the larger economic picture than any opposition from the neighborhood. Until your comment, I was completely unaware of ANY neighborhood opposition to Allen Plaza. I know a few folks who live and work in Downtown, but I don't keep up with everything that does on. I'm not saying folks aren't upset by some stuff, but I was unaware of it.

    If you are a regular reader of this blog, I hope you can see where I end up on things like neighborhood context and respect. I'm a native of the city and I think the neighborhoods are the single biggest asset the city has. It simply doesn't make any _business sense_ to try and mess with what attracted you to an area in the first place. However, as a native, I feel I can also say that neighborhood groups can be a bit reactionary and I think there is a lot more room for moderation and compromise than we typically see.

  4. Why would I buy a condo in the Atlantic when the nearby actual houses in Home Park are decidedly cheaper?


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