Neighbors fear Microsoft’s halted Westside campus is another unkept promise

Residents worry infrastructure improvements won’t take place unless Microsoft resumes work on its 90-acre Grove Park project
Howell Station Neighborhood Association President Arthur Toal poses for a portrait in the Howell Station neighborhood of Atlanta on Tuesday, February 7, 2023. (Arvin Temkar /



Howell Station Neighborhood Association President Arthur Toal poses for a portrait in the Howell Station neighborhood of Atlanta on Tuesday, February 7, 2023. (Arvin Temkar /

Arthur Toal hopes to one day feel safe biking or riding his Onewheel from his Howell Station home to Westside Park.

Currently, that involves traveling past multiple construction sites along pothole-laden streets and circumnavigating a narrow bike lane along Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. Toal believed Microsoft’s planned 90-acre campus just south of Westside Park would lead to infrastructure improvements and a less car-dependent Westside, but the tech giant’s announcement earlier this month puts that into question.

Microsoft said it has paused all work on its Grove Park campus, a massive project that was expected to bring thousands of jobs and spillover investment to one of the city’s most overlooked areas. Atlanta leaders and the surrounding neighborhoods were blindsided by the announcement, which disrupted years of expectations for one of the region’s most high-profile projects.

Toal, the president of the Historic Howell Station Neighborhood Association, said he and his neighbors are concerned that Microsoft’s decision to halt will leave the area with only the negatives of such a large project — with the positives either never coming to fruition or taking years to materialize.

“The first thing that happens is the stuff that we don’t want,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And then the stuff that we do want is promised and never shows up.”

Since Microsoft paid roughly $150 million to buy the massive property and announced its planned campus two years ago, Westside residents have worried about how their long-depressed and majority-minority neighborhoods would be affected. Many raised concerns about gentrification, rising property values and being overtaken by construction sites. Others were optimistic those growing pains would be worth it.

Areal photograph shows Microsoft's Westside property near Westside Park off Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway (right), Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Atlanta. Microsoft confirmed Friday it has stopped work on its gigantic campus in Atlanta’s Westside that was poised to bring thousands of jobs, act as a new hub for the technology giant and become a defining cornerstone of the area. (Hyosub Shin /


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Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, said it is pausing its Grove Park venture to re-evaluate its real estate assets amid global economic uncertainty. The company, which leases two buildings in Atlantic Station through 2035, recently laid off 5% of its staff — about 10,000 workers.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who was caught off-guard by the news, said at a press event that Microsoft has to “right-size” their operation. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the office market and many large companies, including Microsoft, still have hybrid work schedules for their employees.

“Are they going to have 15,000 employees sitting in seats on Donald Lee Hollowell Road? Probably not,” he said.

Dickens and other city leaders said they plan to hold Microsoft to the company’s word to provide community improvements on a portion of their campus, including a grocery store and affordable housing. But it’s unclear when the tech giant will pursue those developments.

“We intend to re-engage in planning efforts when expansion is warranted,” Microsoft said in a Feb. 3 statement.

Ashley Pruitt Latimore, president of the Grove Park Neighborhood Association, said Microsoft has been absent from recent meetings and community conversations. She said residents are clamoring for updates.

“It helps when people know what’s to come, so there’s just not that unknown factor hanging over our heads,” she said.

‘Promising the coolest, nicest stuff’

Toal moved to his current home three years ago, just before Microsoft purchased its gigantic site.

Microsoft bought most of the property from a development group led by former major league baseball star Mark Teixeira, who played for the Braves in 2007-08 and assembled the land around Bellwood Quarry for a large mixed-use project called Quarry Yards that never got off the ground. All that’s left of it is bold white letters along a black steel building near the Proctor Creek Greenway.

A bicyclists walks past an area that is planned to be used for Microsoft’s Westside Atlanta campus on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. (Arvin Temkar /


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That project is among numerous examples residents cite as unkept development expectations.

“Neighbors feel like they’ve been hit with multiple bait and switches,” Toal said.

Sean Doyle has lived along Herndon Street for six years and sees how his neighborhood has changed every time he opens his front door. Quality Technology Services, a Kansas-based company, is expanding its massive data center complex near his home. The company came to Howell Station more than a decade ago, but announced the expansion in 2021 after Microsoft announced its campus.

Doyle said conversations between the company and his neighborhood have been contentious, with a large concrete structure being built across from his home. He said he’s open to development and sees the long-term positives, but he’s concerned Microsoft and other large companies could lose sight of the surrounding neighbors.

“I’m still scared on seeing what the hell is actually built (by Microsoft), because so far all we’ve seen is people coming in, promising the coolest, nicest stuff and then building whatever is the most profitable for them,” he said.

Sean Doyle speaks about the impact of the construction of a Quality Technology Services data center in his Howell Station neighborhood of Atlanta on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. (Arvin Temkar /


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In addition to technology projects, other developments are under way in Howell Station, including a proposed apartment development by Trammell Crow Company and the renovation of Knight Park’s pavilion. Toal said Microsoft isn’t responsible for all of the growth his community sees, but he believes the tech giant’s plans played a factor.

“The Microsoft development has definitely accelerated development all along this corridor,” he said.

Sky-high home prices

The area’s attention and development growth has sparked skyrocketing housing prices. Howell Station, one of the area’s more affluent suburbs, has experienced modest home value increases since 2020, but the other lower-income neighborhoods have seen prices shoot through the roof.

According to Zillow, home prices in Grove Park have increased 70% from January 2020 to last December, which is double the average residential property appreciation of the City of Atlanta. Some new townhome developments in historically neglected areas, such as nearby Bankhead, have made headlines for single-unit asking prices starting at $600,000.

“In many of the home listings, in addition to all the other amenities coming to the Westside, Microsoft was listed as a selling point,” Latimore said. “So was it the main influence of home prices going up? Maybe not, but did it contribute? I would personally say yes.”

Microsoft previously said a quarter of its 90-acre property will be reserved to address community needs. Affordable housing is near the top of many residents’ lists because of the Westside’s rapid growth.

Councilman Byron Amos, who represents District 3, which includes part of the Microsoft site, said the company’s pause could provide some relief to residents squeezed by rising home values and property taxes. He added that his district needs many infrastructure improvements, but he said those shouldn’t be contingent on Microsoft building out its campus.

“They should not take place because of Microsoft being there or not being there,” he said. “All of these are standalone projects that need to take place just for the betterment of the Westside.”

A proven submarket

The office market continues its recovering from the pandemic, but Atlanta’s Westside has outpaced much of the competition.

According to commercial real estate firm Colliers, West Atlanta offices command an average rent of nearly $31 per square foot, which ranks fourth among Atlanta submarkets. It ranks higher than downtown Atlanta.

“The submarket enjoys some of the highest rents in metropolitan Atlanta,” said Tom Davenport, senior vice president with Colliers in Atlanta. “It’s a remarkable story of growth and evolution.”

Davenport said the Westside has several large projects in the construction pipeline and he doesn’t see Microsoft’s stoppage giving other developers pause.

“The submarket has already proven itself, and I don’t see that changing going forward,” he said.

Spencer Morris, president of Allen Morris Company, a developer, said his team is weeks away from beginning construction on phase two of Star Metals, a large mixed-use project in the Westside. He said rising construction costs may slow down some projects, but he doubts Microsoft’s decision to pause development will have a near-term effect on other projects.

“We were investing in the Westside well before Microsoft made the announcement to build out the Westside campus,” Morris said.

Given the size of Microsoft’s property and proposed campus, Morris said it would undoubtedly take at least a decade for the tech giant to build. His company owns properties near Westside Park, but he said those are long-term bets.

“The properties that we have on the far Westside are not even into the planning phase right now,” Morris said. “They’re kind of longer-term holds with a longer-term development vision.”

The Bankhead MARTA station, which is near Microsoft’s property, is poised for a $50 million expansion, and a MARTA spokesperson confirmed to the AJC that project is unaffected by the recent news. MARTA has already selected a development team.

Toal still has concerns that large, transformative infrastructure projects may fall by the wayside in the Westside if Microsoft doesn’t recommit to building its campus at some point.

“With Microsoft delaying, I’m a little concerned that the city is going to put their money somewhere else,” he said.

Howell Station Neighborhood Association President Arthur Toal speaks about construction taking place in Knight Park in the Howell Station neighborhood of Atlanta on Tuesday, February 7, 2023. (Arvin Temkar /


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