Jake Nawrocki, President of Newport US RE, is shown next to buildings Newport US has purchased on Broad Street on Monday, June 26, 2016, in Atlanta, Ga. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Group plans to rehab blocks of historic buildings near Underground Atlanta

Jake Nawrocki, who grew up in Lilburn and worked on the redevelopment of Ponce City Market during his stint at developer Jamestown, is taking on a new challenge.

Nawrocki opened the American arm of German development group Newport Holding GmbH last year as its president, and the firm started buying up scores of historic structures near Underground Atlanta and the Five Points MARTA station. So far, Newport US RE has acquired 25 downtown buildings and it has about a dozen more under contract in the area bordered loosely by the MARTA station, the Fulton County Government Center and downtown’s federal courthouse.

Interview with Jake Nawrocki of Newport US RE on plans that redevelop dozens of downtown buildings

The idea is the refurbish the buildings and turn them into creative office space, street front retail, restaurants, art galleries and apartments. South downtown has languished for years, but recently the area has developed a vibrant arts community. The area also could soon see redevelopment of Underground Atlanta, along with an entertainment district near Philips Arena.

“In some ways, they’re different and some ways they’re the same,” Nawrocki said of the downtown project and Ponce City Market. “What Ponce City Market taught me is how difficult it is to achieve these mixed-use projects.”

A.J. Robinson, president of downtown business group Central Atlanta Progress, said the success of redevelopments such as Ponce City Market and Krog Street have demonstrated that there is value in reviving older, historic buildings.

“Newport is very serious and very focused on the rebirth of the historic, authentic area of downtown,” he said. “They are looking at this in a way that others have missed.”

He hopes such foresight can catch on. CAP has a list of “downtown eyesores” that he hopes to soon take off the list, including the old Constitution Building on Alabama Street and the Medical Arts Building on Peachtree. If the current trend toward downtown revitalization continues, he may get to throw the list away.

“We’re living in an era where somebody’s eyesore can become someone else’s pearl,” he said.

>> Subscribers get the full story. Click here to read more about Newport’s plans for the historic structures in south downtown.

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