Douglas Sams and Amy Wenk
April 1, 2016
A gritty reminder of West Midtown’s industrial past is making way for a $210 million mix of offices, apartments, restaurants and possibly an organic grocer.
The Allen Morris Co. plans to redevelop the Star Iron and Metal Co. scrap yard at 11th Street and Howell Mill Road, where the expansion of Midtown westward from Peachtree is colliding with an area that has a rich blue-collar past.
The new project will try to honor that history. The developer is working with Miami-based architect Chad Oppenheim and Warner Summers Architecture on a design that “places a great deal of emphasis on the authenticity of the West Midtown neighborhoods,” said Allen Morris, chairman and president of The Allen Morris Co.
The 12-story office building, the largest developed yet in West Midtown, is a centerpiece of the project. The developer said demand for non-traditional office space, such as Ponce City Market, validated the need for the building.
Like Ponce City Market, it won’t look like a glass box. Instead, it will feature a steel and nickel exterior, meant to convey an industrial chic look, Morris said.
Rather than symmetrical, its shape resembles a stack of books. That’s because each floor will be a different size. One floor might cover 32,000 square feet, another 18,000. In total, there will be 185,000 square feet of office space.
“We did that for the very reason to keep the building from being boring,” Morris said. “We also want to make it functional for various tenants of different sizes.”
The office building will also have sky terraces, where employees can collaborate in outdoor spaces with views of Midtown and downtown to the east.
The entire project, which will redevelop five properties clustered around 11th and Howell Mill, will be called Star Metals, a nod to the landmark scrap yard it’s replacing.
It will also include a nine-story, 409-unit apartment building, the latest sign of demand for rental housing on the city’s west side.
The project will also feature 30,000 square feet of ground floor retail. An organic grocer is a likely candidate to fill much of that space.
It’s possible the developer may try to land Whole Foods, which is expanding its smaller 365 concept in Atlanta, or another organic grocer concept such as Sprouts Farmers Market.
The project is meant to capture the growing number of people in their 20s and 30s moving to Midtown to be closer to Georgia Tech and surrounding amenities including the Atlanta Beltline.
“We are trying to create a 24-hour living environment for office tenants and residents,” Morris said. “The project is representative of a cultural shift in urban America with very strong growth in the millennial generation, which does not want to live in a suburban house and spend their time commuting to work. They want to live where the action is and spend their money on lifestyle whether it’s their favorite restaurant, or bar, or entertainment. And, they want all of it close by.”
The Allen Morris Co. plans to start construction on the apartments this summer or fall and the office building just after the new year. The company is still trying to secure construction financing, but remains confident it’s only a matter of time, citing its strong financial record and understanding of urban office and residential markets, Morris said.
The project will retain the well-known caboose on the scrap yard property and spare Northside Tavern, a relic of the Westside’s industrial history. “It is sacred,“ Morris said.
It’s not the only office project in the works for West Midtown. Westbridge Partners is part of a joint venture working on an adaptive reuse development called Stockyards Atlanta.
The roughly $30 million project will transform three existing warehouses at 10th Street and Brady Avenue. “We’ve definitely seen interest from large office users who want to be near amenities,” said Westbridge Partners Principal Chris Faussemagne, adding the draw is the vibrant retail and restaurant district, and an influx of new apartments. “Larger users and companies see what the neighborhood has to offer.”