When Underground Atlanta opened in 1989, many thought that the downtown mall would be yet another major attraction to contribute to Atlanta’s $11 billion tourism industry. In recent years, however, the development has done little but suck money out of the city; the project costs the city $8 million a year in debt service and only makes the city $100,000 – this is the definition of a poor investment. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the city plans to buy out the remainder of their current lease on Underground Atlanta from its operating partner so that it can market the property to the private sector. The private sector, after all, has been responsible for the major of the in-town development since the recession hit seven years ago. The city has approved a buyout price of $8.8 million.
So who would buy Underground Atlanta, a property that has historically struggled in a submarket that has yet to gain back the full confidence of investors and developers? They have no clue. Mayor Reed was reportedly in talks with Georgia State University to purchase the development as part of their aggressive downtown expansion, but the school decided to pass (at least for the time being). Reed says that the city will continue to market the property as an opportunity to attract the “millennial” generation that has been creeping in town from the suburbs in recent years. A redeveloped or revitalized Underground Atlanta would be a great addition to the projects currently underway downtown, including the new Falcons Stadium, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.Share