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Old 04-15-2015, 11:59 AM
 
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Despite living in metro Atlanta almost my whole life, I didn't even know that "South Downtown" existed until a few years ago. Sure, I had been "downtown" even to Underground Atlanta and government offices that fall within the bounds of "South Downtown" but never really paid attention to it. But recently I have begun to really appreciate all the history in the neighborhood and all the potential it has.


Location, Location, Location


I have found that even those that are usually savvy about in-town neighborhoods don't know what you are talking about when you mention South Downtown. It is north of I-20, east of Castleberry Hill, south of Five Points, and west of I-85. It is basically on the site of where Atlanta was started.



Even though it is only about one square mile, it is already served by three MARTA stations (one of which being the Five Points hub) and has the streetcar just a couple blocks north and plans for three new streetcar lines to go through the center of the neighborhood (going north / south to Peachtree & Lee St, West to Atlanta University Center, and East to Summerhill & Grant Park). In addition the MMPT is planned on the north west edge of the area. The neighborhood is on a great grid layout and an easy walk within and also walk to many destinations in Centennial Olympic Park, Fairly-Poplar, and Castleberry Hill.

History

This area probably has more history than any other area of Atlanta. Most of the buildings are still pre-1930s row-style buildings since besides some government buildings and parking lots there has not been much significant development in the last several decades. This was also the site of Atlanta's original "Hotel Row" and it's commercial center where Rich's and many other departments stores were founded and thrived. Many older Atlantans have fond memories of shopping at the Flagship Rich's store, it's crystal bridge, and the lighting of the Christmas Tree on the roof (which has been carried over to Lenox Mall now).

"Hotel Row" seen in 1960 (Courtesy of Atlanta Time Machine):

http://atlantatimemachine.com/downtown/spmitch.htm
"Hotel Row" 2004:



Rich's Flagship Downtown Store (Courtesy of Atlanta Time Machine):

http://atlantatimemachine.com/downtown/richs1.htm

http://atlantatimemachine.com/downtown/richs6.htm



Development Potential. Why Now?

So this area has been in free-fall since the 1950's. It is basically a poster child for urban decay. To be honest, (short of another giant fortress style government building or a low rent suburban strip mall paving over the entire area) it cannot get much worse. There is almost nothing there besides a handful very low-end shops in a few places. There are some "chicken-wing shops" but besides that there is very limited restaurant options (But some great options a few short blocks away in Castleberry Hill and Fairlie-Poplar). The area is largely vacant, a blank slate.

Even the homeless population seems to be significantly reduced from just a couple years ago. Many of the low-end shops have been closed and seen their business drop. It is not unlike what the Edgewood area was 5-10 years ago.

The prices in the area are almost unbelievably low. Condos are available for under $100K and 8,000+ sq ft buildings (that are 100 years old and a block or two from the center of a major international city!) can be had for less than $250k. The price per sq ft is undercutting McMansions in the exurbs (and about everything else). Most of these prices are down even since the 90s too. It is hard not to think a bottom is near for this area.

And even though the numerous surface parking lots that cover the area are largely responsible for its fall from greatness, they present opportunities in their own way. They make for great future locations for developers to do "greenfield" developments which lower their costs to build. But these developments would already be in a walkable, transit connected grid. In a way we should be thankful so many of these lots avoided development of the "fortress" style towers that were entirely unwelcoming to walkers on the street but so popular in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and common on the north side of downtown.

A few loft style conversions over the last decade have started bringing residents in. A couple art galleries have started popping up too. Creative Loafing just relocated their offices to the area. GSU continues to grow. MARTA is planning to renovate the MARTA stations in the area. And probably the biggest thing is the redevelopment of Underground. It sounds like WRS, the developer, has the right idea. The area needs to be a neighborhood where people live, not just a destination. The proposed residential towers above Underground will bring much needed people to the area 24 hours a day. Those residents will want services, those new services will attract more residents and the snowball will roll.

If you look at other cities in the US, it is the downtown areas that are taking the lead in resurgence. Grid streets, historic buildings, and walkability are the name of the game. In Atlanta metro those neighborhoods are in limited supply and our shining example has been overlooked. At least so far.

Additional Reading:
South Downtown - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Pretty cool that our "South Downtown" is what pops up when you put that into Wikipedia)
South downtown must be fixed for Atlanta to thrive | Cover Story | Creative Loafing Atlanta

Last edited by jsvh; 04-15-2015 at 12:17 PM..
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Old 04-15-2015, 12:31 PM
 
Location: Atlanta, GA
298 posts, read 283,741 times
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Love the write up, and I agree. Regarding the buildings for $250,000 - where as you seeing this?
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Old 04-15-2015, 12:32 PM
 
Location: NW Atlanta
4,995 posts, read 3,475,762 times
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Agreed. The place has fantastic bones that could really allow for something special.
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Old 04-15-2015, 12:35 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ATLJR View Post
Regarding the buildings for $250,000 - where as you seeing this?
Looking at recent sales in property records. For example, Mammal Gallery apparently bought their 11,000 sq ft place at 89 Broad St SW for $200K in 2013.
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Old 04-15-2015, 12:38 PM
 
28,113 posts, read 24,646,505 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gulch View Post
Agreed. The place has fantastic bones that could really allow for something special.
I was about to write exactly that, Gulch. South downtown has tremendous potential.
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Old 04-15-2015, 12:46 PM
 
1,979 posts, read 1,700,100 times
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Will we name it SODO?
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Old 04-15-2015, 12:48 PM
 
Location: Atlanta, GA
298 posts, read 283,741 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tryska View Post
Will we name it SODO?
Is there really room for a SoNo annnnd a SoDo? How about Southie?
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Old 04-15-2015, 01:08 PM
 
28,113 posts, read 24,646,505 times
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Everybody's got a Sodo these days. How about something with a southern flair such as SouDow?
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Old 04-15-2015, 01:14 PM
 
9,907 posts, read 6,894,976 times
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Personally I hope the attempts at shortening and re-branding the name of every area is a passing fad. Is "Grant Park" as "GraPa" next? "Ormewood Park" to "OrPa"?

Think we can just call it "South Downtown". People will find a way to make up that lost fraction of a second in their day some other way.
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Old 04-15-2015, 01:27 PM
 
1,979 posts, read 1,700,100 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsvh View Post
Personally I hope the attempts at shortening and re-branding the name of every area is a passing fad. Is "Grant Park" as "GraPa" next? "Ormewood Park" to "OrPa"?

Think we can just call it "South Downtown". People will find a way to make up that lost fraction of a second in their day some other way.

NoGo.


Actually it occurs to me, we already do that in Atlanta Dialect

GranPark
Ormpark
Collipark (where they chop cars)
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