College Park breaks ground on $1.5B mixed-use project Six West

The photographer asked College Park’s officials to briefly lower their masks Thursday — that way everyone in 50 years could know who broke ground on Six West.

The officials heaved a couple ceremonial shovels of dirt to mark the start of a decade-long journey for the Southside city of 15,000 residents to build a 311-acre mixed-use behemoth. By comparison, the entire Atlantic Station area is 138 acres.

College Park’s mini city is slated to include 260 multi-family units, 100 single-family units, 120 townhomes, 550,00 square feet of retail for restaurants and shops, 2.3 million square feet of office space, six hotels and other amenities.

Six West — formerly dubbed “Airport City” — will require $1.5 billion in private investment, said College Park’s head of economic development Artie Jones III. The first phase of public money, about $60 million, will come from an existing tax allocation district (TAD), which is a controversial funding method that will redirect property taxes to a pot of money that would fund improvements needed to create infrastructure like roads and electrical connections.

Credit: Ben Brasch

Credit: Ben Brasch

Jones said it would then cost roughly $220 million to build the next level of infrastructure, including parking decks, greenspace and a five-kilometer trail. He also expects an initial need of issuing $25 million in bonds.

The first buildings, which will include apartments and one hotel, should open in late 2025 or early 2026, Jones said. The entire project will likely be finished in 2035 or 2040.

Why would a city go through all this trouble and expense?

“The Southside is undergoing a renaissance. Now is our time, guys,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Ambrose Clay. He said he’s been dreaming of this day nearly all of the 12 years he’s been on City Council. Clay said this project is a major reason he ran for a fourth term.

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This is a big deal for an old city that has dealt with a declining population that earns half the median household income compared to the rest of the county.

College Park in November celebrated opening the $46 million Gateway Arena, which serves as the home of the Atlanta Hawks' development team, the Skyhawks, and the WNBA’s Dream.

Six West has a chance to dwarf all that. The development gets its name, Jones said, from the six streets (named after colleges) that sit west of the airport.

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But the site has needed some help. An Atlanta-based employee of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Derek Street, said College Park has received $1.1 million in brownfield grants to clean up the area.

There are also other considerations. Jones said none of the residential units would be tucked away for affordable housing. From the mid-70s to the early 90s, more than 3,000 people along with eight churches and many businesses were displaced from this area of College Park, he said, to expand Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Many people moved to Clayton or Fayette counties along with what is now the new city of South Fulton.

Mayor Bianca Motley Broom, who took over in January, told the masked crowd Thursday said this is all part of the city’s complicated history. “We shouldn’t run from it,” she said.