Atlanta Housing Authority to vet proposals for Civic Center’s future

The aging Atlanta Civic Center site is destined to become a mixed-used development, under the guidance of the Atlanta Housing Authority. . (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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The aging Atlanta Civic Center site is destined to become a mixed-used development, under the guidance of the Atlanta Housing Authority. . (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Fulton leaders pitched property as possible site for Grammy Museum.

The eight-year odyssey to transform the Atlanta Civic Center into a mixed-use project may soon start a new chapter.

The board of the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA), which controls the property, is expected to review developers’ proposals next month. Authority CEO Eugene Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the board will consider five proposals at its May 25 meeting, but the agency declined to disclose further information.

Though details of the five proposals are not yet publicly known, the AJC has learned Fulton County officials have pitched the Civic Center site as the future home of a long-planned Grammy Museum as part of a broader mix of apartments, office and retail.

Letters obtained by the AJC, written by Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts and Commissioner Marvin Arrington, show they support the museum as part of the Civic Center redevelopment.

“I write to you in full support of the efforts of Georgia Music Accord and Civic Center Partners, to develop a Grammy Museum at the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center,” says Pitts’ letter, dated March 22, 2021, and addressed to “To Whom it May Concern.” The provider of the letter said it was sent to AHA.

Arrington’s letter, dated January of this year and addressed to one of the potential developers, says, “I personally believe the Civic Center would be the ideal location for the Grammy Museum.”

Neither Pitts nor Arrington returned messages seeking comment. The development teams also declined to comment ahead of the AHA meeting.

The Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, long a money-loser for the city before the city first put it on the block for sale in 2014, has been seen for years as a prime redevelopment site. But redevelopment visions for a mixed-use, mixed-income community that started in 2014 under then-Mayor Kasim Reed stalled and little progress was made by AHA since.

The city once had a deal in place with Texas developer Weingarten Realty to build a $300 million community of offices, hotels, retail and apartments, with 30% of residences reserved as affordable. That deal fell through.

In 2017, AHA bought the site from the city for $31 million with plans to partner with Weingarten. That deal was also eventually abandoned.

The property sits at Piedmont Avenue and Ralph McGill Boulevard near the headquarters of Georgia Power at the intersection of downtown and Midtown. It is close to the Civic Center MARTA station and surrounded by a wave of new apartments that have risen in recent years.

“The planned redevelopment of the Atlanta Civic Center site is truly a transformative project for the region,” David Hartnett, chief economic development officer for the Metro Atlanta Chamber told the AJC in a email. “The center stands as an important anchor for the surrounding community. The redevelopment brings new momentum and greater investment opportunity to the downtown area. We look forward to the selection of a developer and the next phase of this historic site.”

Building a regional Grammy Museum in Atlanta — the main one is in Los Angeles — has been considered since at least 2019, when the state and Fulton County ponied up $500,000 to study the idea.

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April 15, 2022 Atlanta - Exterior of Atlanta Civic Center on Friday, April 15, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

April 15, 2022 Atlanta - Exterior of Atlanta Civic Center on Friday, April 15, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
April 15, 2022 Atlanta - Exterior of Atlanta Civic Center on Friday, April 15, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

There are Grammy sites in Mississippi, showcasing the state’s musical roots, in Nashville honoring country music, and a New Jersey annex highlights homegrown artists including Whitney Houston and Frank Sinatra. Georgia has a rich musical heritage from being a seminal location for genres from early country recordings to Southern Rock and for its hip-hop scene.

The authority’s request for qualifications says that the development must leave intact the Boisfeuillet Jones performance venue, built in 1967, and at least 50,000 square feet of the adjacent 125,000 square foot exhibition hall.

That will leave about 13 developable acres for a mix of retail, green space office, commercial and housing, including some affordable units. Past documents specified about 30% of housing should be affordable. It envisions a “world class” mixed-use development, documents say.

The redevelopment is expected to be a $300 million project, information on the authority website says. Jones told other Atlanta media he would expect groundbreaking in 2023 or 2024.