47-story skyscraper to join rising trend
By WALTER WOODS
By WALTER WOODS / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/25/05
Tower Place's developers plan to raise the tallest building in the metro area since 1992: a soaring, 47-story tower of office suites, sky-high condos and the first restaurant from Pano Karatassos since 2001.
The new high-rise is the latest and perhaps largest example of what's called "vertical mixed use," in this case a skyscraper that blends offices and homes. The big-city concept is taking hold here, and it's likely to reshape, and lift, the metro skyline.
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The building also means different developers, in just the past three years, have invested roughly $500 million along the small Buckhead ridge where Piedmont and Peachtree roads meet.
That corner is Buckhead's high ground, said Tom Tindall, a longtime Buckhead office broker. "It's got cachet."
Tower Place's new skyscraper, dubbed 3344 Peachtree, will have some of the highest addresses in the South: 99 condos 660 feet above Peachtree Road, including a two-story glass penthouse suitable for lottery winners, Michael Vick or Elton John.
Under the homes — they'll cost between $550,000 and $4 million — developer Regent Partners plans 480,000 square feet of offices, while the "new flagship" Pano's, as Karatassos called it, will open at street level. Regent wants to break ground this fall and deliver the building by 2007.
"My commitment was to not under-develop the site," said David Allman, Regent's founder. "The site wasn't for just another office building ... the combination [of uses] allows you to do a dramatic sculpture in the sky."
Regent's tower is not a done deal. The developers are moving forward without signed office tenants, though they said they're confident they'll have inked leases by the ground-breaking this fall.
Still, Regent's project, with office workers, Buckhead residents and upscale diners, will validate high-rise mixed use, Allman said.
Traditional — call them "horizontal" — mixed-use developments like Atlantic Station have become as common as kudzu in metro Atlanta. But in a metro area where land has been affordable and available, mixing uses upward is relatively new.
The 1992 Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, the posh Midtown sleep-over with hotel rooms, offices and homes, pioneered the concept here.
But in the past year, Novare Group and Wood Partners have mixed hotel rooms into their condo high-rises. Post Properties and a partner are topping offices with condos at Phipps Plaza.
And Daniel Corp.'s Midtown condo towers — backed by Magic Johnson — will have a Publix grocery store.
More such projects are popping up now because real estate at key metro corners is harder to come by than it was in 1992 and, what's more, the traffic is worse, said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia Corp.
"Atlanta has traditionally had no constraints, but now that traffic has become one, folks are thinking, 'We should blend retail or residential into our office project,' " Vitner said.
"That's a half a billion dollars in investment in 36 months in a two-block area" of Buckhead, said David Tennery, Regent's vice president. "That's a major investment for anywhere in the country."
And there's likely to be more. People at Cousins and Regent have speculated that larger, skyline developments may replace the retail stores and banks at that intersection today.
But building without tenants, as Regent is doing, is risky.
Many local office floors, in Buckhead and elsewhere, remain empty after the recent economic slowdown.
Hiring, and the office leasing that comes with it, also remains weak.
A building as big as 3344 Peachtree will intrude into the local office market and may shoo away rivals thinking of building more towers, Tindall said.
"Like in auto racing, half the time a bluff is the best thing you can do," Tindall said. "It can put someone out of the market."
National developers Trizec Properties and Equity Office Properties own nearby sites, and Crescent Resources, part of power company Duke Energy Corp., has said it may build a tower at Phipps Plaza.
But there probably are only enough tenants for one or two new buildings, and Cousins was first to the punch, Tindall said. "Regent Partners has the No. 1 position to be the No. 2 man out."