Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson scales back ‘Airport City’ plans

A rendering of a hotel to be built next to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Source: Majestic Realty Co.

A rendering of a hotel to be built next to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Source: Majestic Realty Co.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is abandoning plans for a mixed-use development and gas station next to the domestic terminal, scaling back a years-ago vision for an “Airport City” steps away from baggage claim.

Atlanta airport managers for years have envisioned hotels, office space and a travel plaza just outside the West exit of the domestic terminal where taxis pick up passengers. The airport in 2016 struck a lease with Majestic Carter, a partnership of Majestic Realty and real estate developer Carter, for the development on multiple parcels of airport land.

But the hotel, the centerpiece of the project, has been delayed for years. It was originally expected to be an InterContinental, then two years ago developers decided to instead make it a Hilton. However, the hotel has not yet been built.

Now, the airport is seeking Atlanta City Council approval to remove the gas station travel plaza tract and the mixed-use development tract from the lease and terminate the office development lease. The city council’s transportation committee voted in favor of the measure, which goes to the full council for approval next week.

The concept of commercial development around Hartsfield-Jackson with executives working and staying near the terminal has been a long-held dream to transform the airport area. The term “Airport City” has been used for a variety of projects in the past, including a development in College Park now called Six West and a broader vision for an “aerotropolis” in the South metro area with the airport as an economic driver.

When Hartsfield-Jackson pitched the idea of an Airport City on its land next to the terminal, it envisioned a corporate office wing alongside a hotel that would allow jetsetters to quickly fly in and out of Atlanta to meet with colleagues and clients. There were also plans for more boutique hotels in the future.

But the pandemic drove an historic 60% decline in passenger traffic at Hartsfield-Jackson last year, with full recovery expected to take years. And one of the sectors hit hardest by COVID-19 restrictions and protocols has been corporate travel — which would have been the key market for the hotel and mixed-use development at the airport.

Balram Bheodari, Hartsfield-Jackson’s general manager, said the airport has gone through negotiations with Majestic “and we’re in full agreement” to remove the travel plaza, mixed-use development and office lease from the deal.