September 1, 2010
Thirty-two streets named Peachtree run through the Atlanta, Ga. metro area. The oldest of these streets, downtown Atlanta’s main North-South artery, is home to the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, the Woodruff Arts Center, Georgia-Pacifi c Tower and designer shops ranging from Armani to Versace. Now, with a $12 million funding boost from new markets tax credits (NMTCs), one of their oldest neighbors, the former Macy’s building at 200 Peachtree, is a third of the way through a nearly $35 million makeover to become the area’s most sought-after mixed-use events, retail and entertainment destination.
The fi rst redevelopment phase of 200 Peachtree yielded
a 29,000-square-foot atrium with Greek columns,
Corinthian capitals and marble fl oors for special
events, the addition of a mezzanine level, and streetlevel
retail and restaurant space. Developer Davisons
Downtown LLC opened the Grand Atrium at 200 Peachtree
in June, and by mid-July the space had already been booked
for more than 20 weddings, a Microsoft corporate event and
the National Black Arts Festival. The venue also hosted the
July premiere party for “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta,” a
TLC reality show that follows local brides on their quest to
find the perfect wedding gown.
More events space, including a gallery and a nearly 14,000-
square-foot conference center connecting 200 Peachtree to
the Westin Peachtree Plaza, the second tallest hotel in the
Western Hemisphere, according to the building database
Emporis, is expected to open this month.
“We’ll have two special events spaces with two completely
different personalities,” said Robert Patterson, Davisons
Downtown LLC’s president, who contrasted the atrium’s classical,
elegant atmosphere with the gallery’s open, urban lofttype
feel. The company is still deciding whether to develop
or sell the basement level “Macy’s cellar.” Patterson said the
company may convert it into a space for traveling exhibitions
because of 200 Peachtree’s close proximity to other tourist
attractions such as the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia
Davisons Downtown LLC will be able to complete the second
redevelopment phase thanks to a below-market rate
NMTC mezzanine loan provided by community develop
ment entity (CDE) Imagine Downtown Inc. (IDI), an Atlanta Development
Authority (ADA) subsidiary. Fifth Third Bank served
as the NMTC investor. “This is truly a catalytic investment for
our major arterial spine in downtown Atlanta,” said IDI president
Tyrone Rachal, noting that the redevelopment of the Peachtree
corridor is one of the city’s major priorities. “When Macy’s closed,
it left a hole in a major downtown asset.”
After Macy’s fl agship department store at 200 Peachtree went dark
in 2003, the building and its fi ve 14-foot teardrop crystal chandeliers
endured years’ worth of dust and disuse. A tattered “for
lease” sign hung in one of its windows. More than one passerby
recognized the 1927 building’s worth as a prime piece of real estate,
but the amount of work needed to reopen it kept most wouldbe
developers away. The owner tried in vain for several years to
attract a big-box retailer to the space and eventually secured an
offi ce tenant for the eight-story building’s upper fi ve fl oors. Save
for a year-long stint as a Delta fl ight attendant training area, the
building’s bottom three fl oors – including Macy’s main shopping
fl oor that is now the atrium – remained empty.
“People from all over used to come just to ride the escalator,” Patterson
said of Macy’s heyday, noting that the Atlanta Macy’s,
originally called Davison’s, was the South’s first major department
store. Davisons Downtown LLC, a partnership among 26
individual investors, acquired the building in 2008, planning to
use it primarily for retail space with a possible conference center.
Shortly after the company purchased the building’s lower fl oors,
catering companies that Delta had hired for occasional employee
parties at 200 Peachtree approached the developer about converting
it into special events space instead. “They said it had a lot of
the ingredients to be a top-notch events space. That was around
the time the economy crashed, and we realized that retailers
weren’t going to show up in droves,” Patterson said.
Luckily, the building’s interior was still in the demolition phase in
2009, so it wasn’t too late for a redesign. Davisons Downtown LLC
and CNNA Architects Inc. tailored each planned use to the most
suitable section of the building, with ground-level retail space
facing Peachtree Street and events spaces deeper in the building.
Instead of leasing out most of the space, the developer now owns
and operates the special events spaces and the conference center.
Allison Schultz, 200 Peachtree’s social sales manager, said groups
have been thrilled with the atrium’s “old Hollywood glamour”
and have considered 1920s themes for their weddings or other
Atlanta has no shortage of large convention centers, including the
Georgia World Congress Center’s 3.9 million square feet of space.
But that space works only for groups of thousands or tens of thousands.
And despite Peachtree Street’s dozens of hotels, it lacked
suitable conference spaces for smaller groups or conventions. For
example, the Westin Peachtree Plaza has 1,068 rooms but only
95,000 square feet of conference space. 200 Peachtree’s conference
center and two events spaces will bring its available connected
events space to 145,000 square feet. The nearby Ritz-Carlton has
also expressed interest in using the conference center.
ADA expects the redevelopment to create 500 jobs in the construction,
retail, restaurant and hospitality industries in a distressed
area of Atlanta. “Projects like this would not occur without the
NMTC program,” Rachal said. “It’s been a great tool in ADA’s