Queer City

Ex­plo­sive Growth in At­lanta's Old Fourth Ward and West End a driv­ing force in LGBT me­trop­o­lis

GA Voice - - Front Page - By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

If you’ve ever been to the food court at Colony Square af­ter 5 p.m. on weeknights or any­time dur­ing the week­end, you wouldn’t be sur­prised to see tum­ble­weed blow­ing by. The place is a ghost town, stand­ing in stark con­trast to nor­mal work­day hours when the place is bustling.

Well you’re about to see ma­jor changes at the bustling in­ter­sec­tion of 14th Street and Peachtree Street as devel­op­ers plan to rip the roof off the re­tail core of the prop­erty and con­nect it to the street, trans­form­ing it into a walk­a­ble, open-air space.

It’s one of many changes in store at Colony Square—one of which is al­ready in place as those who’ve driven or walked by there in the last few weeks can at­test.

Own­er­ship change sparks makeover

The makeover’s roots can be traced back to last De­cem­ber, when Hous­ton-based Lion­stone In­vest­ments and North Amer­i­can Prop­er­ties (NAP) ac­quired the long­stand­ing mixed-used prop­erty. Lion­stone might not ring any bells but NAP should—they’re be­hind the turn­around of Atlantic Sta­tion and the de­vel­op­ment of Avalon in Al­pharetta.

“Over the decades, the Mid­town neigh­bor­hood around Colony Square flour­ished while the iconic build­ing be­came sleepy and tired,” said Mark Toro, man­ag­ing part­ner of NAP, in a state­ment. “On July 4, 2018, the 50th an­niver­sary of Colony Square’s ground­break­ing, we will cel­e­brate the grand open­ing of the reimag­ined Colony Square. We will en­gage with the city, with the street and with pedes­tri­ans, and it will fun­da­men­tally change the ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing and work­ing in Mid­town At­lanta.”

In the mean­time, new restau­rants and shops will con­tinue to be added to the space, but the devel­op­ers are seek­ing feed­back from the pub­lic first by ask­ing them to share ideas for Colony Square with the hashtag #Reimag­ineCS.

Some plans in the works in­clude the show­ing of hol­i­day movies on an out­door screen (a nod to Ge­or­gia’s grow­ing film in­dus­try) and a part­ner­ship with Mid­town Al­liance to “adopt” the nearby Arts District Plaza, where events will be staged for Colony Square ten­ants and the Mid­town com­mu­nity.

Toro added, “As with our other mixed-use projects, we will cu­rate the right tenant mix, layer in re­sort-in­spired hos­pi­tal­ity and ex­cep­tional ex­pe­ri­ences, to sig­nif­i­cantly and pos­i­tively im­pact the value of the de­vel­op­ment. Our first step is to lis­ten to the com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers and guests as they are in­te­gral to the trans­for­ma­tion. We look for­ward to pre­mier­ing Colony Square – the Se­quel.”

MID­TOWN sign un­veiled

The first sign (lit­er­ally) of change at Colony Square de­buted on March 12, as col­or­ful 8-foot tall let­ters spell­ing “MID­TOWN” were un­veiled in the plaza at the first an­nual Luck of Colony Square event, timed to oc­cur af­ter the an­nual St. Pa­trick’s Day pa­rade streamed by.

Guests also sam­pled bites and drinks from new Colony Square restau­rants 5Church (which moved into the spot for­merly oc­cu­pied by Shout) and Es­tab­lish­ment (which moved from its pre­vi­ous lo­ca­tion in Buck­head).

“Be­cause of Colony Square’s cen­tral lo­ca­tion, it was a per­fect op­por­tu­nity to launch a new hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tion for the Mid­town com­mu­nity af­ter the pa­rade,” said Liz Gille­spie, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing at NAP, in a state­ment.

Trans­porta­tion op­tions to open up

NAP also an­nounced the cre­ation of a full­time “mo­bil­ity concierge” at Colony Square to work with ten­ants, guests and the Mid­town com­mu­nity to iden­tify trans­porta­tion and mo­bil­ity so­lu­tions and in­cen­tivize their use. The in­stal­la­tion of Tran­sitScreens pro­vid­ing real-time trans­porta­tion op­tions is in store as well. The move makes sense con­sid­er­ing the prop­erty has the high­est pedes­trian count in At­lanta out­side of Ge­or­gia Tech’s cam­pus.

“We are a nexus of bike lanes, streets, side­walks and tran­sit,” said Toro, who says he of­ten walks to work. “On any given day, you are bound to see sev­eral Ubers wait­ing in Colony Square’s round­about. The mo­bil­ity concierge will read­ily help the com­mu­nity uti­lize th­ese trans­porta­tion al­ter­na­tives in or­der to make Mid­town a more mo­bile com­mu­nity and give our ten­ants, guests and res­i­dents a bet­ter qual­ity of life.”

Such ini­tia­tives ap­peal to mil­len­ni­als, who rank tran­sit ac­cess as an im­por­tant fac­tor (ac­cord­ing to a re­cent poll by the Ur­ban Land In­sti­tute) and who make up ap­prox­i­mately half of Mid­town’s res­i­dents ac­cord­ing to the Mid­town Al­liance.

“Walk­a­bil­ity, bik­a­bil­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity to pub­lic tran­sit are huge mo­ti­va­tors for the new gen­er­a­tion of of­fice work­ers and in­town res­i­dents,” said Shan­non Pow­ell, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and COO of Mid­town Al­liance in a state­ment. “NAP’s unique mo­bil­ity ini­tia­tive will make Colony Square and the greater Mid­town com­mu­nity a bet­ter place to work, live and spend time. Their mo­bil­ity concierge will work hand-in-hand with our team at Mid­town Trans­porta­tion to heighten aware­ness of op­tions.”

Colony Square devel­op­ers un­veiled the 8-foot tall MID­TOWN let­ters in the plaza on the day of the city’s an­nual St. Pa­trick’s Day pa­rade. (Photo by Rafter­man Pho­tog­ra­phy)

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