Turner mulls major changes at CNN Center, Techwood campuses

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Turner mulls major changes at CNN Center, Techwood campuses

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October 7, 2014 Atlanta - Exterior of CNN Center on Tuesday, October 7, 2014. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting is planning substantial renovations at its landmark downtown CNN Center as well as to the Techwood complex in Midtown as the media company continues a broader overhaul of its businesses.

The parent of cable networks CNN, TBS and TNT, stressed its planning is just beginning, but Turner told employees Friday it is “evaluating” upgrades to the office space and atrium mall at CNN Center, one of Atlanta’s top tourist destinations and a familiar entryway for Hawks fans into Philips Arena. The company also announced plans to sell its 50 percent stake in the Omni hotel attached to the complex.

The planning coincides with negotiations between the city and Hawks over extensive renovations to Philips, and as the Hawks consider development of a potential entertainment district around the arena. That future entertainment district appears to be central to Turner’s thinking of its CNN Center renovations.

“As we participate with the City and the community to bring this vision to fruition, we will augment our planning work to include a closer look at how we may use CNN Center in the future, and how it fits into this newly declared Entertainment District as part of our ongoing evaluation of Turner’s real estate footprint,” Turner Chief Financial Officer Pascal Desroches said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A Hawks spokesman declined comment.

The evaluation of Turner’s real estate and any potential redevelopment is a multi-year process, and Turner expects to remain in CNN Center for the foreseeable future, a person with knowledge of the situation said. The person said CNN Center, home to about half of its 6,000 Atlanta employees, remains vital to the company’s business.

In recent months, Turner has shifted jobs from its CNN International unit from Atlanta to London and other cities. Meanwhile, the company announced last month a streaming service called FilmStruck for movie buffs.

Ownership in the Omni hotel “[did] not support our core business and brands,” Desroches said and sale proceeds will be reinvested in the company.

Nearly two years ago, Turner started a substantial remaking of its businesses, including job cuts in Atlanta and elsewhere. The company eliminated about 1,500 jobs, about two-thirds of which were in its hometown, as it worked to cut costs, boost revenue through new original content and other avenues. Much of the company’s on-air talent is now New York-based.

Turner’s planned changes to Techwood are no less important to the company’s business. About half of Turner’s Atlanta workforce is based there.

Last week, Turner Chairman and CEO John Martin unveiled “Reimagine Techwood,” a program Desroches said will “rethink and refresh the Techwood campus to better foster the culture of innovation, creativity and collaboration that defines our company.”

A.J. Robinson, president and CEO of Central Atlanta Progress, the alliance of downtown businesses, said the planned reinvestment by Turner into CNN Center adds to the momentum building around Centennial Olympic Park. The nearly $1.5 billion Falcons stadium will open next year, and other projects on the drawing board include the planned refurbishment of the park, a new hotel at the Georgia World Congress Center and the Hawks plans at Philips Arena.

“There’s a lot of excitement and good things happening in this neighborhood,” Robinson said. “I think they are right to be looking at staying if nothing else because there’s a lot going on.”

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