Atlanta United FC proposed construction of a 3,500-seat stadium, several practice soccer fields and a two-story corporate headquarters on 41 acres of government land near Memorial Drive and I-285. The team decided to locate its soccer complex in Marietta after discovering issues with the DeKalb site. Credit: Atlanta United FC
Photo: Credit: Atlanta United FC
Photo: Credit: Atlanta United FC

Downtown DeKalb concept surrounds Atlanta United soccer complex

A vision for creating a Downtown DeKalb development near Memorial Drive calls for moving the county jail and building a convention center, concert hall, hotel and 20-story government office tower alongside Atlanta United’s planned soccer headquarters.

The county outlined the concept in documents soliciting architectural design firms to create a master plan for the area, an early step toward bringing the Downtown DeKalb idea closer to a reality. Contractors may submit quotes up to $50,000 by Friday.

Removing the shadow of the DeKalb Jail, a nearly 1 million-square-foot landmark visible from Interstate 285, could be a key part of the area’s hopes for revitalization.

The jail could be converted to an office or apartments, according to the bid documents, but there are no definite plans to do so. The county hasn’t identified alternate locations for the jail, which was completed in 1995.

“None of this is etched in stone, but you have to look to see what’s possible,” said Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May on Thursday. “We know that the jail isn’t the best economic development facility for that corridor, so we’re looking for alternatives to that.”

No timeline or budget for the development has been set, but May said he wants to work toward transforming the area into an place that provides jobs, restaurants, recreation and residences.

May highlighted the idea of relocating the county’s government operations from Decatur in his State of the County address earlier this year. The government tower would house more than 3,000 employees and anchor the Downtown DeKalb development, according to county bid documents.

The master plan should envision a “live-work-play urban mixed use district” covering about 150 acres of government land, according to the documents.

The area could also include a square with fountains, retail, apartments, office space, parks and a movie theater.

The only part of the development that’s been approved so far is Atlanta United’s facility.

The soccer team agreed to locate its headquarters, a 3,500-seat stadium and several practice fields on the site last month, and the DeKalb Commission approved incentives for the team worth more than $12 million.

Atlanta United, owned by Arthur Blank, will build the $35 million complex in time for the teams inaugural season in 2017. The soccer team and the Atlanta Falcons will play their games in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta, which is under construction.

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