H&LA Development Update: Atlanta, Georgia

H&LA’s recent research for a project in Atlanta, Georgia revealed some exciting new hospitality-related developments happening in the area. These developments will have a major impact on tourism, employment, and the general economy in Atlanta and the surrounding areas in 2021 and beyond. On-going pandemic concerns may alter timelines for some of these projects.

  • A new $380 million hotel is planned for the site of the former Georgia Dome football stadium in downtown Atlanta. The Signia Hotel Atlanta, part of a new concept brand from Hilton, will sit adjacent to the Georgia World Congress Center and within walking distance of Mercedes-Benz Field and State Farm Arena. The property will offer 975 hotel rooms, 75,000 square feet of meeting space, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, and an upscale restaurant. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2021, and the property is expected to open in early 2024.
  • Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group has announced plans for a major mixed-use development called Centennial Yards near State Farm Arena and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in the section of downtown Atlanta known as The Gulch. As envisioned, this 40-acre project would eventually create up to $5 billion worth of new development, including apartments, office buildings, hotels, and retail. While the City of Atlanta is expected to provide significant public financing, it remains unclear at this stage when this project will be completed.
  • The Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta recently completed a $100 million expansion. The centerpiece of this project, a one-million-square-foot shark exhibit, opened in October 2020 and features floor-to-ceiling acrylic viewing windows and interactive educational features. In January 2021, the aquarium began offering guided cage dives, a unique up-close experience for visitors. In addition to the shark attraction, the four-story expansion created new office and retail space, as well as a new entrance and exit.
  • In February 2020, Zoo Atlanta opened a new event venue called Savanna Hall in the historic building that once housed the Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum. Representing an investment of about $55 million, this facility now features more than 25,000 square feet of event space and is used for corporate events, banquets, weddings, and other private events. In 2019, the zoo opened its new African Savanna habitat, with expanded areas for elephants, giraffes, zebras, and other species.
  • The Georgia State University campus in downtown Atlanta has seen significant enrollment growth over the past several years. In fall 2020, freshman enrollment at the Atlanta campus reached an all-time high of more than 5,200 students, compared to the previous record of 4,600 students set in fall 2019. During the 2019/20 academic year, the campus conferred more than 10,500 degrees, up from 10,200 during the prior year. University officials attribute this growth to the relative affordability of tuition and the flexible learning options provided amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Underground Atlanta retail and entertainment district was recently purchased by local developer Shaneel Lalani for an undisclosed price. The prior owner, WRS, bought it for around $35 million in 2017 but failed to follow through on redevelopment plans. Once a major downtown retail area, Underground Atlanta has been mostly dormant since the mid-1990s. The current owner has expressed an interest in redeveloping the property; however, no official timeline has been announced as of our research date.
  • Atlanta hosted Super Bowl LIII in February 2019, which took place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. According to the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, this massive event drew about 150,000 out-of-town visitors to the city over the course of 10 days. In addition to the short-term benefits seen by local hotels and restaurants, Super Bowl LIII bolstered Atlanta’s reputation as a world class destination for major sporting events.
  • A new Airport Travel Plaza is planned at the international terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that will include a $350 million, 541-room Hilton Hotel, 80,000 square feet of parking, a full-service restaurant, and 50,000 square feet of Class A office space. As of our research date, this project remains on hold due to COVID-19 related financing challenges.