Craig Lesser, an economic development strategist with Pendleton Consulting Group and the state’s former top recruiter, said his first day with the Georgia Department of Economic Development was when the agency moved to Tech Square in 2004. He said Midtown and the nexus of activity at Tech Square have helped put metro Atlanta on a world stage.
“This adds yet another tool in the toolbox that we have not just for the city of Atlanta but for the entire metro Atlanta region,” he said.
Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson has said at least a half-dozen firms were in talks about putting innovation labs near campus.
“They want to be close, we want a relationship,” Peterson said last year. “They want to work with us, and we want to work with them.”
Georgia Tech has said it plans to rotate “research neighborhoods” that span various academic fields through the campus. The computing center will be used for academic research, financial and econometric forecasting, genetic modeling and other high performance data analysis.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says the complex will help the city compete for major innovation centers and other corporate investments.
“I think that it is continuing to assert Georgia Tech and Atlanta’s dominance in the technology space, certainly around (financial technology), certainly around cyber (security) and it’s a message to America and the world that we are going to compete in this space very aggressively and we are certainly going to be the dominant player in the Southeast,” Reed said in a recent interview.
Here’s what you need to know about the project:
Jobs and investment
The nearly 1 million-square-foot complex will rise over Spring and Fourth street. The cost is estimated at more than $350 million. Georgia Tech will be the anchor tenant, with Portman being the developer and owner of the building in a unique joint venture. The tower is essentially a speculative venture, much like the first phase of Tech Square, with the institute being the magnet to attract other potential corporate moves.
About half of the tower will be occupied by private businesses, Georgia Tech has said.
Officials with Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm, in October said the project will compete with other East Coast innovation districts such as The Bridge on Roosevelt Island in New York. That $2 billion project, part of Cornell Tech, is designed to up New York City’s game as a tech and innovation hub.
The project is estimated to create 2,100 temporary construction jobs, hold 2,400 workers on site and result in an estimated economic impact of $813.8 million, Invest Atlanta projected last year.
Portman Holdings is the developer. Company founder and noted Atlanta architect and developer John C. Portman Jr. is a Tech graduate who has an endowed chair in his name for the dean of the College of Architecture. Portman also founded AmericasMart and John Portman & Associates. His projects, from SunTrust Plaza to the Westin Peachtree Plaza to Peachtree Center, have defined Atlanta’s skyline for years.
The city of Atlanta approved a new incentive structure that provided a 15-year tax break to the project totaling $15 million by one estimate. The land currently isn't taxed as it belongs to a Tech foundation, but Invest Atlanta documents said tax payments from the Portman subsidiary will total $17 million over 15 years, after the discount is applied. These tax breaks will help lower the cost of rent in a building that will likely command some of the highest rents in the city.
Cutting edge computing power isn't the only high-tech feature of the tower. ThyssenKrupp, the German lift company, said the Midtown tower will be the first building in the Americas with its TWIN elevator system, featuring two cars on most elevator shafts.
The computer controlled system increases elevator capacity and makes for fewer stops, the company said. The computers also make sure the cars don’t run into each other in the shaft.
The company says the dual-car system decreases the number of elevators shafts needed in the building, opening up space for more workers or needed climate control or technology infrastructure.
Thyssenkrupp was in the vanguard in metro Atlanta, becoming one of the first major companies to establish an innovation center at Georgia Tech.
More Georgia Tech expansion to come?
Georgia Tech officials have hinted at a third phase near the development, and last year the school got about $600,000 in federal and local grant funding to study a possible expansion of its Technology Enterprise Park to the south and west of the main campus. Such an expansion would center on health and biosciences.