Inside Atlantic Station’s plans to rebound from post-COVID office lull

Midtown mixed-use district’s post-pandemic strategy focuses on bolstering live-work-play lifestyle
Construction continues on the Amili Apartments near the Atlantic Station on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.   (Steve Schaefer/

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Construction continues on the Amili Apartments near the Atlantic Station on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (Steve Schaefer/

Few development projects have their own dedicated zip code.

But Atlantic Station has 30363 all to itself, and its 138-acre breadth is one of the many things that separates it from other intown live-work-play destinations.

The neighborhood, which got its start in 2005 as one of the nation’s largest brownfield redevelopments, faces mounting competition from a booming Midtown, fast-transforming west Midtown and other mixed-use districts across metro Atlanta. But Atlantic Station’s managers view the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on office culture as its largest challenge.

“The pandemic has caused us to reevaluate where our competition is, and it’s your home office,” said Hines Director Cornell Holmes, who manages Atlantic Station.

Hines, a Texas-based real estate giant, took over as Atlantic Station’s asset and property manager in 2015 and has since pumped new investment into the sprawling district. New office towers, a hotel, several new retailers and a revamped central greenspace have all debuted since 2020, with an apartment tower currently under construction.

Hines representatives said Atlantic Station’s weeknight and weekend sales have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, while weekday traffic is still recovering, mostly due to lagging office occupancy and the persistence of remote work. Nearly 31% of all office square footage in metro Atlanta was available for rent at the end of September, a record for the region.

Company executives said the recent and ongoing improvements to Atlantic Station’s common areas, amenities, retail clientele and event calendar will bolster the district amid a turbulent time for the office market.

“We feel like there’s light on the horizon on the office space in terms of people coming back,” said Tori Kerr, senior managing director at Hines.

Focus on placemaking

The centerpiece of Atlantic Station’s gathering areas is Atlantic Green, formerly known as the district’s Central Park.

Starr Cumming, Hines’ retail director of southeast region management services and retail mixed-use operations, said Atlantic Station outgrew the old greenspace. She said the realization hit her during one of the district’s frequent outdoor movie nights, where the crowd and a famous movie line gave her some inspiration.

“I think we’re gonna need a bigger park,” she said, refencing the iconic line from 1975′s “Jaws.”

The park renovation finished in April 2020, amid the pandemic. But Cumming said the space’s new design, which added new pedestrian walkways with “jewel-box” restaurants, has been a hit so far.

Atlantic Green acts as a central hub outside Regal Cinemas, which added Atlanta’s first 4D theater last year. The green is also home to Atlantic Station’s seasonal events, from Skate the Station in the winter to its summer concert series. It hosts more than 300 events each year.

Chris Keresztes prepares Atlanta’s largest outdoor skating rink for its Friday opening at Atlantic Station on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.   (Steve Schaefer/

Credit: Steve Schaefer

icon to expand image

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Sean Bishop was among the first residents to move to Atlantic Station in 2005, buying one of the project’s 12 single-family homes. More than 6,000 people now live in the neighborhood’s apartment towers, condos and townhomes, and a 300-unit apartment tower by AMLI Residential is slated to open along Market Street in early 2025.

Bishop bought Atlantic Grill, one of Atlantic Station’s two original restaurants, in 2021 after he was laid off from his corporate marketing gig. He said the grill’s longtime owner called it a career after navigating his business through the first year of the pandemic.

The grill’s base of loyal regulars and Atlantic Station’s consistent foot traffic helped the restaurant endure the COVID-19 slump that killed scores of other eateries, Bishop said.

“I didn’t feel a lot of the pain that a lot of people, restaurants and retail did coming out of COVID,” he said.

Midtown’s ‘puzzle piece’

Atlantic Station’s retail center is 94% leased and recently added a Sephora cosmetics store, a Soma lingerie boutique, Angry Crab Shack restaurant and the Museum of Illusions.

On Nov. 15, coffee company Illy became the latest eatery to join Atlantic Station with its first full-service cafe and restaurant in the country. Asad Babwari, managing partner at Illy, said Atlantic Station was lacking a breakfast spot with options for gelato, pastries and espresso.

“This being our pilot, it’ll be a big thing for our brand and Atlantic Station as well,” Babwari said. “... This is just what the market needed.”

Barista Sanni Mohammed works on getting ready for Thursday's grand opening of Illy Coffee Shop at the Atlantic Station on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.   (Steve Schaefer/

Credit: Steve Schaefer

icon to expand image

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Atlantic Station’s office component is a different story.

In the past few years, Hines opened a two-tower campus called Atlantic Yards and the seven-story T3 office building made with mass timber. The former was snagged by Microsoft in a long-term lease, although the company has yet to have the bulk of its workers return to the building most workdays. The latter was 75% leased before a large tenant changed its plans amid the pandemic and was bought of its lease, leaving T3 about 40% occupied.

Hines corporate offices are located in T3, and Kerr said they have “strong prospect activity” for the vacant space. She’s confident Atlantic Station’s office market serves its own niche between Midtown’s high-rises and West Midtown’s creative lofts.

“(Atlantic Station) is the puzzle piece that links tradition Midtown to West Midtown,” she said.