At long last, Atlanta’s housing authority is on the hunt for developers that could revive the Atlanta Civic Center.
Built in the late 1960s and anchored by an impressive performance hall that once hosted opera singers, ballet dancers and political icons, the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center has been deserted since 2014, aching for a comeback.
On Tuesday, Atlanta Housing (AH) dispatched a request for qualifications (RFQ) — a document that outlines the agency’s hopes for the legendary Old Fourth Ward site — calling on developers to flex their revitalization muscles and, ultimately, apply for the job.
The project entails revamping more than 13 acres of what AH called “developable land,” 4.3 million square feet of which could be turned into “affordable and market-rate housing,” the RFQ says.
That much square footage could spawn thousands of new housing units, according to Darin Givens, co-founder of urbanist blog ThreadATL. And with the site’s current zoning, he told Atlanta Civic Circle, “You could build apartment buildings as tall as anything in Midtown.”
All of that, of course, could be complemented by new offices, hotel rooms, retail and green space.
“AH’s vision is to embrace the site’s diversity while transforming it into a true civic anchor at the heart of a new livable, equitable and resilient mixed-use, mixed-income community,” per the document.
Breathing new life into the languishing Atlanta Civic Center the way the RFQ lays out would not only reinvigorate the historic performance venue, it would also pay homage to the site’s life before the existing structures were erected.
“The site was originally home to Buttermilk Bottom, a community of approximately 16,000 people that took root in the early 1900s,” the RFQ reminds would-be developers. “By the 1940s, the community was well established as an African American enclave.”
In the 1960s, however, city officials deemed Buttermilk Bottom blighted and “targeted it for urban renewal,” leveling the community “to make way for a new plan, which prioritized grand civic venues over neighborhood housing,” the document says.
Urban planning experts, city officials and the five top contenders for Atlanta mayor told Atlanta Civic Circle last month that it’s crucial for the rebirth of the property to be a boon for intown housing affordability and community services — and not another engine for rampant gentrification.
The deadline for the RFQ is Oct. 15, and a shortlist of development firms is expected to be identified by Oct. 28.
Once AH has narrowed its options down to two or three developers, the request for proposals (RFP) will go out, meaning detailed plans for the site will begin to materialize. A development team is likely to be assembled by early 2022.
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