Midtown Atlanta’s iconic Varsity weighing redevelopment options

Gordon Muir, president of the Varsity, prepares a tray at the Varsity in Midtown Atlanta several years ago when the iconic restaurant was turning 90. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

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Gordon Muir, president of the Varsity, prepares a tray at the Varsity in Midtown Atlanta several years ago when the iconic restaurant was turning 90. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Landmark restaurant to remain open as it considers possible development on its property.

The family that owns Midtown Atlanta’s iconic Varsity restaurant said Friday it is weighing options for a possible redevelopment of its property.

But the purveyors of frosted oranges and chili dogs will still be hollering ”What’ll ya have?” for the foreseeable future.

With the city of Atlanta booming, the Gordy family has pledged to keep the iconic spot open even as it said Friday it is seeking ways to develop the increasingly valuable property.

The Varsity, a landmark since 1928 at the corner of North Avenue and Spring Street, has retained the high-powered commercial estate firm of Cushman & Wakefield, as it considers “ways to reinvest and expand our core business to reach more customers,” according to a statement from the family. Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported the family’s redevelopment considerations.

Despite challenges in the early days of the pandemic, the restaurant has prospered and there is no pressure to sell, the statement said.

However, the financial incentives are also clear. The several-acre site, next to the I- 75/85 Connector, is close to the burgeoning Georgia Tech facilities, Coda, a huge, mixed-use development, and a host of large office towers housing a number of companies that have been flowing into the city, including NCR and Norfolk Southern.

With so much growth in the area, the Varsity stands at an obvious spot for a lucrative development, said Kevin Green, chief executive of the Midtown Alliance.

“With almost $11 billion of new development either delivered or under construction in the 1.2 square mile core of Midtown since 2015, there aren’t many development sites of this size and visibility left in Midtown,” he said. “So this should be interesting.”

Close to the highway as well as MARTA, the location is perfect as a platform for visibility to those passing by, but would also be convenient for commuters who could work there, said long-time real estate attorney Abe Schear of Arnall Golden Gregory.

“It’s the last great parcel in that part of Midtown,” he said.

Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the restaurant. It would just have to be “re-purposed,” he said.

“I would like to see the Varsity re-imagined,” Schear said. “There is no reason that they can’t keep the Varsity open and redevelop the property. There is no reason the Varsity can’t be a two-story restaurant with a smaller footprint.”