Atlanta Business Chronicle

Building the bustle: Midtown’s redevelopment hits new stride

December 10-16, 2010, Special Section, page 39A

By Giannina Smith

The Midtown machine is rumbling forward, fueled by a variety of community players all looking to keep a spotlight on one of Atlanta’s most promising hot spots for growth.

With the help of the community’s real estate developers, residents, business owners and the success of Midtown Alliance’s Blueprint Midtown — a comprehensive future plan developed in 1996 — a variety of restaurants and retailers have taken up residence in the area, helping elevate the community’s image as an ideal place to live, work and play.

And, despite the down economy, the plan is working. As new retailers open their doors, a slate of new events are drawing crowds from all over the metro area.

“[Midtown] is the best hope for Atlanta to offer the so-called work, live, play 24/7 environment that so many folks, young and old, crave. You can walk to the arts or the park, you can take a class at Georgia Tech or Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), you can enjoy restaurants and shops and you can live and work in the area as well. And you can do it all without, if you choose, getting in your car. No other submarket in Atlanta offers this promise,” said Matt Bronfman, managing director of Jamestown Properties, which owns the 999 Peachtree building in the heart of the community.

As key leaders continue to rally around the neighborhood’s success, Midtown’s collaborative spirit and competitive marketing strategy has put it in a position to flourish.

“The marketing strategy is not something that is built around you having to have lots of new development to talk about because obviously, in this economy, new development is going to be something that is very slow to come back,” said Larry Gellerstedt, president and CEO of Cousins Properties Inc. and chairman of the Midtown Alliance.

A big draw to Midtown is its walkability, an attribute strengthened by Midtown Alliance’s cityscapes project — a multiyear, $82 million public improvements program for 10 major corridors in the community and encompassing more than 25 miles of streetscapes.

Midtown Blue, a neighborhood public safety force that works with the Atlanta Police and patrols Midtown’s streets, and Midtown Green, an environmental maintenance crew cleaning the streets daily, have also made Midtown a favored venue for events and festivals.

Events like Midtown Festival of the Arts, which attracted more than 20,000 people to five blocks of Peachtree Street in its inaugural year, proved to be a huge driver of business for area retailers and restaurants.

“Almost unanimously, the retail shops that were in the festival area and nearby had one of the best days they’ve ever had in business,” said Leslie Johnson, director of Midtown Festival.

“What we are doing to keep the area booming in this economy is just to take it to the streets,” said Susan Mendheim, president and CEO of the Midtown Alliance.

A new farmers’ market is taking place every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. in the plaza of 999 Peachtree building, and in early December Midtown hosted a Pop-Up Shop event as part of a partnership between Atlanta developers Jamestown Properties, Rohrig-Loudermilk, and Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate and the Midtown Alliance, Atlanta History Center and SCAD. The event created a “pop-up” shopping experience with various brands, including new CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund recipient Billy Reid, setting up temporary shops in available commercial real estate spaces.

“The goal of the developers, real estate brokers and the Midtown Alliance was to showcase the potential of the Midtown Mile as a shopping venue — we wanted retailers to get great exposure, have great sales, and want to stay,” said Tucker Berta, director of communications for the Midtown Alliance.

This retail component of the Midtown Mile has become a key focus area for the Midtown Alliance. “We realized we had another asset on Peachtree Street itself, which we have named the Midtown Mile,” Mendheim said. “We are working on 1 million square feet of retail and are about halfway there.”

The Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, debuting in Midtown in May, is hoping to add to the vitality of the area when foodies from around the country will spend four days experiencing some of the best culinary creations of the South.

“We see Midtown as the new heart of the city. It’s a vibrant growing part of the city,” said Elizabeth Feichter, chief operating officer of Atlanta Food and Wine Festival.

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