The Future of Downtown Atlanta

by: Smith and Howard

December 9, 2015

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Smith and Howard was pleased to sponsor and participate in Bisnow’s real estate program, “The Future of Downtown Atlanta.”   With Mark Abrams moderating not one, but two panels of real estate all-stars, we heard many great insights and stats on the future of Downtown Atlanta. 

With thanks to panelists Jerome Russell, president, H.J. Russell & Company; Ambrish Baisiwala, CEO, Portman Holdings; David Cochran, CEO, Paces Properties; David Marvin, founder, Legacy Property Group; Richard Bowers, president, Richard Bowers & Co; Cherie Ong, US Representative, The Creations Group; Rudy Prio Touzet, CEO, Banyan Street Capital; and Kevin Johnson, senior economic development officer, Invest Atlanta, we offer these top insights from the morning:

Downtown Stats and Facts

  • Downtown holds the 6 largest hotels in the city – over 1,000 rooms; the new hotel near the Mercedes Benz Stadium will be the 7th
  • The professional market in downtown: Three of four Big 4 accounting firms are there; many law firms and brokerage firms, as well as the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Georgia Chamber, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Hartsfield Jackson International Airport is only 8 miles from downtown – a differentiator from most other major cities where airports are typically 15-20 miles from downtown
  • Downtown is the educational center: GSU, Morris Brown, Clark and some of Georgia Tech

Melting Pot

  • Individuals from international backgrounds seek a vital, thriving downtown in which to live with their families
  • The global generation wants to “hang out” downtown
  • We must create a downtown environment that will attract millennials


  • Multi-family residential space is in demand downtown
  • There is a lot more fun activity going on downtown than you hear about. Example: The Creative Loafing Best of Atlanta Party in South Downtown
  • Downtown is the area with remaining vacant land and vacant buildings. It is primed for development (and undervalued)
  • Downtown offers great infrastructure: sidewalks, MARTA and easy ingress/egress to highways
  • Office space is still a solid investment downtown
  • A positive move for downtown for many reasons:  Jim Cummings providing the building to the new Cristo Rey School

When asked what they were most excited about, some of what we heard from our panelists was:

  • David Marvin: Luckie/Marietta District
  • Jerome Russell: Castleberry Hill and the Russell Innovation & Entrepreneur Center
  • David Cochran: There IS nightlife downtown and leasing is moving along
  • Ambrish Baisiwala: Portman’s new mixed-use development that will contribute a “Mad Men” kind of 10,000 SF restaurant and a Hotel Indigo to downtown

Last, but perhaps most important – and a fitting close to the event – was this from Kevin Johnson:

“For investors to be invested in a city, the city must invest in itself.”

Looking for more downtown Atlanta insights from one of the top real estate accounting firms? Contact Mark Abrams at 404-874-6244 and or simply fill out our form below and we’d be glad to help.

How can we help?

If you have any questions and would like to connect with a team member please call 404-874-6244 or contact an advisor below.