Midtown project seen as mixed use Peachtree development: Office, residential, retail and hotel space planned. (2000)

Former Georgia Tech quarterback John Dewberry is running with plans for a large mixed-use development at the Midtown site where First Union once considered building a parking lot.

Dewberry’s preliminary plans call for the development of up to 2 million square feet of office, residential, retail and hotel space on the Peachtree block between 10th and 11th streets. The project, Midtown Square, will fit in with the area’s trophy buildings, including Promenade II and One Atlantic Center, he said.

"It’s that important a piece of real estate," he said. "In Atlanta, you need to be on Peachtree Street."

Dewberry Capital Corp. acquired the block on Peachtree Street across from where the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is building its future headquarters on Dec. 30. The seller was First Union Corp., which bought the property in 1996 for $6.1 million. Dewberry paid about $9.2 million for the property, according to Databank Inc.

Several developers proposed plans for the high-profile tract.

In the 1980s, Dallas developer Trammell Crow planned to develop the property as part of a large mixed-use complex that included office towers.

In 1998, First Union considered demolishing the restaurants on the property and replacing them with a parking lot. It abandoned those plans when they met with stiff neighborhood opposition.

More recently the Chicago-based real estate unit of Orix, a Japanese international services firm, and a partnership between local office developer Hal Barry and St. Petersburg, Fla., retail developer Sembler Co., made bids to buy the property. Neither succeeded.

Dewberry closed the deal by putting up one-third of the purchase price in cash.

The property is in an area Post Properties Chairman and Chief Executive John Williams has said offers the best chance for Atlanta to cultivate a 24-hour shopping and entertainment environment. Dewberry agrees. He has been interested in the four-acre tract, currently occupied by a strip shopping center, since First Union bought it.

"It’s something that I’ve worked on for a long time," he said Wednesday. "We need to take our time and do something special for Atlanta. Candidly, I don’t want to mess it up."

The project likely will start by the end of the year with a high- rise apartment building and 200,000 square feet of retail space, Dewberry said. He expects the project to extend over five years.

Dewberry, who has developed several apartment communities in Atlanta, said he will talk with Post about building the high-rise apartment building. Post had considered teaming with Dewberry to buy the land, but First Union wanted to sell the property before year- end 1999, and timing constraints led to Post bowing out.

Dewberry’s new site is one of several intown sites Post is interested in, said Morris Ewing Jr., development associate at Post Apartment Development.

Dewberry Capital will develop the office and retail. The company recently completed the 165,000-square-foot Peachtree Pointe office building near Pershing Point.

Dewberry’s plans are preliminary; he will meet Monday with Cooper Carry architects to begin design of the site. The process will take six to nine months, and construction will begin after that, Dewberry said.

Tenants such as Pasta da Pulcinella restaurant and Jocks & Jills sports bar will remain open during the planning process, and most will be allowed to stay until their leases expire, Dewberry said.

The office, and possibly a boutique hotel such as Starwood Hotels’ “W” brand, will follow. “The market can clearly absorb the retail and the residential,” he said, “but the office we’ll only do as demand dictates.”

Midtown’s Class A office market was the tightest in the Atlanta area throughout 1999, according to CoStar Group, which tracks real estate transactions.

Credit: Wilbert, TonyThe Atlanta Constitution [Atlanta, Ga] 06 Jan 2000: ; E.1.