The megaproject transformed nearly a city block of Midtown’s Arts District

Nearly all of Atlanta’s landmarks are visible from Midtown Union’s new 26-story towers.

To the south, the glassy office and residential buildings offer views of Mercedes-Benz Stadium and downtown’s skyline. Pan to the north and there looms Kennesaw Mountain, Truist Park and the luxury high rises of Buckhead.

But John Robbins, senior manager director of Granite Properties, mostly fixed his eyes on the surrounding Arts District, the new home to one of the largest and most expensive developments in the city.

While standing on the 14th floor of the office tower in front a wall of 14-foot-tall glass windows, Robbins pointed to all of the residential high-rises in the area that have redefined Midtown’s skyline in recent years, including Midtown Union’s own luxury apartment tower.

“Adding those people makes this even more of a 24/7 town,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Midtown Union, a project by global insurer MetLife estimated to be worth $1.1 billion, began to open this summer along Spring and West Peachtree streets. The 8.5-acre site boasts two towers — one for offices and another for apartments — in addition to a 14-story boutique hotel. Steps from the Woodruff Arts Center, the three buildings were designed to mirror the neighborhood, highlighting local artists and promoting an urban way of life.

The doors are now open, but the work isn’t over.

Global investment giant Invesco will soon move into the upper half of the officer tower, but the rest is yet to be leased. Dozens of residents have begun to move into the luxurious Mira at Midtown Union apartment tower, but most units remain empty. The Kimpton-branded hotel will open in a few days and managers there hope that coincides with an upswing in travel since the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The development team is also seeking restaurant tenants.

ExploreWith new public plazas, office workers set to return to a greener Midtown

Georgia’s labor market, a key driver of real estate demand, remains strong, but stubborn inflation and a risk of recession are storm clouds on the horizon.

But Robbins, whose company helped develop the office tower, said he’s confident the new Class A space will be leased quickly.

Given the pandemic’s upheaval of the office market, he said having Invesco as effectively an anchor tenant provided security, and he’s not concerned about leasing out the remaining floors in the hot Midtown office market. Midtown’s office vacancy rate is below average for the city at less than 22%, according to CBRE.

“People have been at home sitting in their offices, and they may feel like it’s better for them, but I think long-term, they’re going to realize that it’s not,” Robbins said. “... We have tried to create a place where people are going to want to come here and they’re going to feel comfortable when they’re here.”

Touchless technologies and an advanced climate control system are two ways the pandemic influenced design.

Focusing on aesthetic

Designed by Cooper Carry, the project was first announced in 2016 under the name “Midtown Heights.”

It was initially pitched as a two-phase project, but Robbins said all aspects of the development were merged so they would open at roughly the same time. General contractor Brasfield & Gorrie began construction in November 2019.

The office tower and apartment building named Mira at Midtown Union opened in late July. The branded Kimpton Shane Hotel will open Sept. 21.

In 2019, the Development Authority of Fulton County approved an estimated $57.6 million worth of tax abatements for the development, which MetLife representatives touted would be worth $1.1 billion. The original proposal included a second office building instead of a residential building. A final buildout price was not released, but a recent news release said it was completed under budget.

Two murals by Atlanta-based artist Joe Dreher decorate the outside of the sleek towers, making the entire mixed-use district difficult to miss.

Rob Bratton, vice president of development for the apartment building’s developer Streetlights Residential, said the Arts District heavily influenced his building’s look.

“The team came up with the concept of paying homage to the arts district right next door,” he said. “The exterior of the building is a white grid which is supposed to represent a sheet of music, and the gold balconies are the music notes that are on that page.”

Filling the space

Invesco announced in mid-2019 it would occupy roughly half of the 612,000 square feet of office space, while adding 500 jobs in the process.

The Atlanta-based investment giant, currently based in a tower on Peachtree Street, will begin moving in employees next year. Robbins said they’re currently receiving interest from multiple financial institutions, law firms and other professional service companies in the remaining office space.

The hotel, which has 230 guest rooms, has two food and beverage concepts that will open with the hotel, and the other buildings have yet-to-be-leased spaces for half a dozen other restaurants.

“It helps (the restaurants) survive having this density,” Robbins said.

ExploreHartley Kitchen & Cocktails, Aveline opening this month at Kimpton Midtown Atlanta

Alan Rae, the Kimpton Shane’s general manager, said the hotel will employ about 150 people. He anticipates a four-star rating once the hotel is inspected. Room rates are expected to start at $200 per night.

A few dozen Atlantans are already living on the property at Mira. The 355-unit tower is only about 9% leased, but Mira Community Director Matthew Rost said it’s uncommon for new apartment buildings to have every unit open at the same time. Midtown is one of the most popular neighborhoods for apartments, and he hopes the building’s occupancy matches the surrounding area within 15 months.

The apartments vary from 496-square-foot studios to 1,743-square-foot units with three bedrooms. Starting rents range from nearly $2,000 to $6,600.

The 9th floor is the lowest residential level, so Rost said all residents will have a high-rise experience.

“Some people are like, ‘Oh I don’t want to be low,’” said Rost, who lives at Mira. “But it’s crazy how when you’re on the 15th floor... you have amazing views.”