Metro Atlanta’s hot projects and trends for 2017

Midtown will likely get hotter. New stadiums will open. Suburbs will “densify.” The Beltline will grow.

Here are some big projects and development trends in the Atlanta region to watch in 2017.

New stadiums on deck

Metro Atlanta is awash in stadium-related projects and 2017 is a pivotal year for all of them.

The Braves open SunTrust Park and its adjacent Battery mixed-use development in the spring. The performance of the $550 million Battery, with its high-end apartments, shops, bars, restaurants, concert hall, office tower and luxury hotel, will be closely watched.

The $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium downtown is expected to open this summer for the Falcons pre-season and part of Atlanta United pro soccer team's inaugural campaign. The Georgia Dome is scheduled to be demolished and a future convention hotel and a park, which will serve double duty as premium parking for events, will eventually be built on the site.

Those aren’t the only stadium projects.

Georgia State University is set to play football at Turner Field in the fall and plans substantial renovations in coming years. The tougher task: the multi-year process, in conjunction with private developers, of remaking the area around The Ted into a blend of student housing, apartments, homes, shops, restaurants, a grocery store and other GSU facilities.

Meanwhile, the city and the Atlanta Hawks' $192.5 million plan to overhaul Philips Arena is expected to start during the offseason. City leaders, who have committed $142.5 million, hope the project will jolt downtown redevelopment, including in the swath of parking lots and railbeds downtown known as The Gulch.

In Gwinnett County, leaders are exploring a live-work-play community at the Infinite Energy Center, the arena and convention complex off Sugarloaf Parkway near I-85. The Gwinnett County Convention and Visitors Bureau picked Avalon-developer North American Properties to spearhead the project.

Fighting gridlock

Fulton voters last year said yes to a five-year, three-quarter penny sales tax that is expected to raise more than $650 million for roads and bridges. Atlanta voters approved a five-year roads and bridges package that will raise about $300 million, and a half-cent tax for MARTA expansion that will raise $2.5 billion over the next four decades.

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves has said a move to allow for a quarter-penny sales tax for transit expansion outside Atlanta's city limits could be on the table in the upcoming legislative session. Whether the actions of Fulton and Atlanta prompt other metro jurisdictions to follow could become clearer in 2017.

The switch two years ago from a statewide sales tax on fuel sales to an excise tax is reaping about a $1 billion a year in new revenue for major statewide road and bridge projects.

Separately, work on the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange overhaul ramps up this year and toll lanes on I-75 south of Atlanta and the Northwest Corridor project will open.

Midtown land rush

Thousands of new apartment units are under construction or are in the development pipeline in Midtown. Several new high-rise luxury rental towers will open in 2017, including Miami-based developer Related Group’s Apogee Midtown project (and its Whole Foods market).

Expect to also see the evolution of Colony Square by North American Properties, including new retailers and restaurants. Coda, the second phase of Technology Square, broke ground in December and will rise in 2017. The tower, to be anchored by Georgia Tech and including retail and office space for the private sector, will be one of the most closely-watched projects not only in Atlanta but in the country for its high-tech computing and research capabilities.

Selig Enterprises, the longtime Atlanta real estate investment firm, plans to break ground in 2017 on a $400 million project to include an office tower, hotel and high-rise condos.

Whither Underground?

South Carolina developer WRS Real Estate Investments has said it is on target to close on its purchase of Underground Atlanta on Jan. 5. The sale, which has dragged on for two years, and the struggling mall’s redevelopment, is critical to revitalization of downtown Atlanta.

The company has pitched a $300 million project with new shops, a grocery store, apartments and student housing.

But, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in recent weeks, other groups are interested in acquiring Underground if WRS isn't able to complete a deal. A WRS executive has insisted his firm will meet the early January deadline and that will start an 18-month planning process.

Developers look west

From the Beltline to planned development of parks near the Falcons stadium to a recent decision by the YMCA to put its metro headquarters in Vine City, much is happening in neighborhoods to the south and west of Centennial Olympic Park.

A community planning effort is looking at ways to improve disjointed streets and make the area more walkable and accessible to its existing transit stations.

The Beltline's Westside Trail is under construction, awakening interest of real estate speculators. Neighbors want to see revitalization, but also don't want displacement caused by rising property values and other aspects of gentrification.

‘Edge cities’ grow

2017 could bring to life the first phase of GID Holdings' High Street project, a mammoth mixed-use city center near Perimeter Mall that will include lodging, offices, and thousands of apartments and condos over the course of what is likely to be many years. Developer Seven Oaks is building a new tower at Perimeter Summit while real estate powerhouse Transwestern has a high-rise office building in the works adjacent to Perimeter Mall.

In Sandy Springs, work continues on the future headquarters of Mercedes-Benz USA campus along Abernathy Road where developer Ashton Woods is starting a mix of residences and retail called Aria.

Cumberland continues to boom with the Braves project set to open and office projects, including a tower largely occupied by Synovus and a separate headquarters of HD Supply, firmly underway.

A new filming campus — Third Rail Studios — has opened at the former General Motors plant in Doraville. The demolition of the former auto factory is done and developer Integral Group is refining its vision for the site, which the company and Doraville leaders have hailed for its potential for a high-density project attached to MARTA’s Gold Line.

Selling deck parks

Can downtown and Buckhead booster groups sell the public and policymakers to help them build “deck parks” to cap gaping freeways with parks and public spaces?

Last year, Central Atlanta Progress proposed "The Stitch," a $300 million plan to cap three-quarter mile stretch of the Downtown Connector that could open up land for development and create a new street grid and parks. The Buckhead Community Improvement District, meanwhile, offered up its own $195 million to $245 million vision for public spaces, trails and a new gateway to MARTA over Ga. 400 between Lenox Road and Atlanta Financial Center.

The intriguing projects so far don’t have funding, but other cities such as Dallas have financed similar deck parks with a mix of private, local, state and federal dollars.

Suburban identities

Whether it's Avalon in Alpharetta, Halcyon in Forsyth County, Pinewood Forrest in Fayette, or city-backed town centers such as City Springs in Sandy Springs, Atlanta area suburbs are trying to create new identities surrounding denser, mixed-use development.

The Sandy Springs town center project, City Springs, developed by the city and real estate firm Carter will reach a milestone with a topping out ceremony early in January. Halpern Enterprises recently opened the Shops at Belmont, which with the company’s fellow mixed-use concept Jonquil, will bring hundreds of residences, new restaurants and merchants to Smyrna.

Other cities, such as Duluth and Sugar Hill, are pushing for denser development in their downtowns.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

The world's busiest airport is launching the initial projects in its $6 billion, 20-year master plan. One of the most noticeable will be the installation of massive new canopies over the curbside areas — which could cause some occasional traffic issues as the work is done.

Makeovers of concourse gate areas also will get underway, and plans for a new InterContinental Hotel adjacent to the domestic terminal will become clearer, though work isn’t expected to start before 2018.

Nearby Hapeville will soon see its first luxury hotel and developers are eyeing other underused tracts near the airport.