Proposed zoning change could reshape Buckhead's Piedmont Center

At over 2.2 million square feet, Piedmont Center is a sprawling office complex with acres of asphalt. It would look right at home in the Central Perimeter, Atlanta’s single largest office district.

But, Piedmont Center isn’t located on the Perimeter. Built mostly in the 1980s, it occupies over 50 acres in Buckhead in a part of the affluent intown Atlanta neighborhood whose past is rooted in suburban design. Its future includes more office and residential density and connections to the Path 400 Greenway. The planned 5.2-acre multiuse trail will weave through Buckhead and one day link with the Atlanta Beltline.

“As the area redevelops, there will be a greater emphasis on walkability and less focus on vehicles,” said Atlanta City Council member Howard Shook. “These are things that commercial property owners favor.”

The Ardent Cos. is one of them. The real estate investment firm owns about 1.7 million square feet, or nearly 80%, of Piedmont Center.

Shook is introducing a proposed zoning change to the area that could allow Ardent to develop underused parts of the giant office complex. The change is potentially important. For example, it could lead to new apartment towers being built at Piedmont Center and other developments. Mill Creek Residential is following the same model at the nearby Prominence project.

The new zoning change could also give flexibility to Ardent and other developers if they want less parking in future projects. While cars aren’t going away, more people want the option to walk or bike in Buckhead. Besides the Path 400 trail, the Buckhead MARTA station is a short walk away.

Historically, the office complexes on Piedmont Road are less expensive than those on Peachtree and Lenox roads, said Keith Pierce, director of research for Transwestern Southeast. A few office towers on Peachtree and Lenox can rent for close to $50 per foot. Towers along Piedmont can be rented for $30 to $35 per foot.

Several things are pushing the area in the direction of greater density:

  • The popularity of the Path 400 trail.
  • Mill Creek adding hundreds of apartment units at Lenox and Piedmont.
  • Ameris Bancorp’s moving 300 employees into the former Securities Centre. The development will be renamed Ameris Center.•
  • Atlanta Tech Village, one of the city’s growing number of entrepreneurship centers, advocating for turning Piedmont Road into a technology corridor that features a greater emphasis on walking and biking.

The new zoning district for Piedmont Center and surrounding areas will be presented tonight at a Buckhead neighborhood planning unit.

By   – Commercial Real Estate Editor, Atlanta Business Chronicle

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