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MIGHTY MIDTOWN  

As developers flock in to build and renovate, it’s evolving into a live/work/play community

By  
Tony Wilbert
Atlanta Journal-
Constitution

If you haven’t driven down Peachtree Street through Midtown recently, take your car for a spin. Better yet, take a walk from the Brookwood split to Crawford Long Hospital and check out what’s happening.

On practically every block, something is being renovated, rehabilitated, constructed or torn down. and redeveloped. Buildings of all sizes and types are included, from a 23-story office tower at 14th Street to a hip hotel at Seventh Street and new medical buildings near Linden Avenue.It’s not just office and residential space. Georgia Tech plans to build a $148 million expansion along Fifth Street on the east side of the Downtown Connector. The Woodruff Arts Center has big expansion plans itself, with perhaps as much as $350 million of improvements in the works.

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Things were different in late 1997, when Dewberry Capital Corp. acquired a three-acre tract at Peachtree and West Peachtree streets on Midtown’s northern edge. “Midtown was on a few people’s radar screens, like Jim Borders, back then, but not many,” said John Dewberry, president of Dewberry Capital. “Now it’s on everybody’s, for sure.”

Thanks in part to Blueprint Midtown, which provided an overall vision for development, Midtown is becoming one big live/work/play community. Some 5.5 million square feet of new office space is under construction or proposed; 5,600 new residential units are on the way.

High-tech companies such as iXL Enterprises and EarthLink have leased older buildings that they are turning into “funky office space.” The companies’ young workers want to live intown and near work.

The new residents and workers will prompt developers to build new retail space, which is lacking in Midtown. Dewberry is in discussions with major retailers to bring new stores found in Buckhead to his Midtown Square project at Peachtree and 10th streets.

As things fall into place, Post Properties Chairman John Williams thinks Midtown might

develop an around-the-clock atmosphere reminiscent of San Francisco or New York. It will take about 10 years, he has said, but Midtown will establish a true 24-hour atmosphere.

Meanwhile, more developers are discovering areas in Midtown not necessarily on Peachtree. That will help create a pedestrian community where people will be able to walk to restaurants, shops and plays, Dewberry said.

“What’s good is that the market is starting, to some extent, to move off of Peachtree,” he said. “It’s starting to get some depth to it.”

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