Memorial Drive Joining Intown Renaissance

From the Atlanta Business Chronicle
SUBSCRIBER CONTENT: Apr 24, 2015, 6:00am EDT

Amy Wenk and Douglas Sams
Memorial Drive joining intown renaissance

The intown developer behind Krog Street Market is on an acquisition spree that would reinvigorate Atlanta’s Memorial Drive with new offices, housing, shops and restaurants. 

Atlanta based Paces Properties has at least $175 million in acquisitions and new developments planned along the corridor, which could transform the state highway into a more walkable district connecting long established intown neighborhoods such as Grant Park, Reynoldstown and Cabbagetown.

Paces Properties, led by CEO David Cochran, this week presented plans for an adaptive reuse project at 519 Memorial Drive, the former Habitat for Humanity building. The development will repurpose the brick warehouse buildings into a mix of loft offices, new restaurants and neighborhood shops.

Also this week, the developer was expected to close on two other Memorial Drive properties, including “The Jane,” a project that includes the popular Octane Coffee and Six Feet Under, and the retail portion of the Oakland Park condo building that includes Doc Chey’s Noodle House.

Last month, Paces Properties acquired 670 and 700 Memorial Drive, including the former Bar One restaurant.

In late 2014, the developer bought the nearly 10 acre Parmalat Atlanta Dairies site at 770 Memorial Drive, where they plan to develop a mixed use project including 317 apartments and a three story office and retail building. The development will renovate some of the existing warehouses, creating at least one music venue that could hold up to 800 people. It also will feature a half acre green space and elevated catwalks that connect the project. 

Paces Properties is part of a broader real estate investment and development trend across intown Atlanta.

For years, developers, especially those backed by capital from Wall Street, invested and developed properties along Peachtree, from Buckhead’s glitzy shopping centers through the city’s cultural heart in Midtown to downtown. Other intown corridors have served essentially as thoroughfares to those districts.

Now, spurred by the popularity of the Atlanta Beltline and the migration of companies and their educated young professionals back to the city, developers such as Paces Properties see the chance to pioneer those overlooked corridors.

Paces Properties continues a wave of new investment and development on Memorial Drive that began about 10 years ago and stalled amid the recent recession. Urban Realty Partners built the Oakland Park condos. This spring it finished The Leonard, a four story apartment project. The city of Atlanta’s development arm, Invest Atlanta, hopes to create a linear park from the State Capitol to Oakland Cemetery.

Paces Properties is already scouting additional sites along Memorial, where it plans to create a walkable commercial district that links to the surrounding, but disconnected, intown neighborhoods.

“Then, you can facilitate the growth of more cohesive neighborhoods,” Cochran said. “It’s all about the ripple effect.”

Since the recession ended, Paces Properties has found a niche in adaptive reuse projects. In Inman Park, it redeveloped the former Atlanta Stove Works, once a factory for cast iron skillets and pot belly stoves that dated back to the early 20th century, into a combination of loft offices, apartments and retail that includes Krog Street Market, a food hall with more than 20 tenants such as Superica, Fred’s Meat & Bread, and Little Tart Bakeshop.

In downtown, it took an aging 20 story office building at 250 Piedmont and is converting it into 327 high rise apartments.

Paces Properties’ plans to transform Memorial Drive come about a decade after neighborhood groups fought to create a zoning district (Special Public Interest District 22) that set standards for future development, preventing the corridor from becoming a row of fast food chains and strip malls.

Rick Hudson, Land Use Chair for the Grant Park Neighborhood Association, said Paces’ interest in the corridor proves the SPI is a success.

“I think you will see a very vibrant Memorial Drive — a Memorial that is a great catalyst, a place to go and enjoy yourself,” he said.

Amy Wenk covers hospitality, retail and restaurants.

Douglas Sams covers Commercial Real Estate

Land Use & Zoning