Want the revamped Underground Atlanta to make the city proud? Come to South Downtown on Thursday night

Center for Civic Innovation to host free discussion about the redheaded stepchild of Atlanta development


  • WRS Inc.

When a South Carolina developer announced it was buying Underground Atlanta, the city’s albatross and ode to the city’s original streets, its plans for a grocery store were applauded. But that store is just one part of 12-acre development that, once complete, will define the heart of Downtown for at least a generation.

On Thursday night, a group of civic activists, wonks, and residents will gather to discuss the importance of the site. How can the community help shape Underground’s next phase? Will the new development fit seamlessly into Downtown? Or will it be an island unto itself that — gulp — caters just as much to cars as it does pedestrians? What ultimately does the sale of Underground Atlanta mean for the city in the short and long term?

According to a site plan that CL obtained via an open records request, the tentative project proposal that Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based WRS Inc. submitted to city officials shows two slightly different concepts for the proposed 12-acre mixed-use plan. But both show the promised grocery store on Underground’s eastern edge, where the nightlife enigma known as Kenny’s Alley is currently located. And across the railroad tracks sits a state-owned parking lot, which would be connected to Underground by a bridge over the MARTA tracks. WRS needs the state’s permission to use the lot.

The document submitted to the city calls for replacing much of the ground-level buildings with a hotel, conference space, and apartments. WRS’ past experience is in standalone retail developments, such as cellular phone stores, and strip malls. T. Scott Smith, the firm’s CEO, previously said it would partner with another developer for the high-rise buildings, as it has done on another project in South Carolina.

WRS’ plan is still in the early stages — the firm is conducting studies to determine potential building heights — so things could change. More details about the plan can be found here in an interview Smith conducted with Maria Saporta and Amy Wenk of the Atlanta Business Chronicle. We’ve also embedded some of the relevant documents that were included in the city’s response to our records request after the jump (Scribd has flagged one as a potential copyright violation; we’re working to resolve it and will add it to the post).

We could write for hours debating whether a grocery store in the heart of Downtown needs a parking lot. Or whether the massive hole in the ground that leads to Underground’s subterranean shopping center is still necessary. But these are questions worth asking — and ones that might be potentially discussed at tomorrow’s event at the Center for Civic Innovation in the M. Rich Building, just a block from Underground Atlanta (and literally on the same floor as CL’s offices). The event starts at 6 p.m. and is free but does require an RSVP. Read up on the documents and come prepared for discussion.

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WRS, Inc. Underground Atlanta Redevelopment Proposal by thomaswheatley

Underground Appraisal Dated 9.11.13 by thomaswheatley

Purchase and Sale Agreement (Underground Atlanta) by thomaswheatley

Memo to City Council From M. J. Geisler re: possible Underground Atlanta sale by thomaswheatley

Downtown (Atlanta) Development Technical Advisory Committee Recommendations 11.1.13 by thomaswheatley