Photos by Jacob Nguyen

The third reincarnation of Underground Atlanta is still going to happen, according to the developer who first agreed to purchase the iconic and infamous Downtown property in 2014.

Just over a year ago, South Carolina-based WRS announced that a hotel, LGBT-centric nightclub, and an apartment complex would be the first new developments to open at the site, but the COVID-19 pandemic has set the project back. In a statement to Atlanta INtown, WRS said work is set to begin again in the autumn.

WRS said the YOTEL hotel project was still happening but did not offer a timeline for groundbreaking or completion. When announced, the 351-room hotel was set to begin in summer 2020, with an anticipated opening date of Autumn 2022. The hotel will have 234 “cabins” designed for short stays, 117 “pads” for longer stays, self-check-in kiosks, outdoor pool and terrace, rooftop bar, eateries, and a co-working space.

At the southwest corner of Pryor and Alabama, Keith Young and Hoosh Mishu have signed a 10-year lease for Future Show Bar and Restaurant, a night club and eatery geared toward LGBTQ+ patrons. Atlanta-based drag queen, Phoenix, who competed on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” will lead the cabaret show. The 14,000 square-foot, two-story space was slated to open this past spring, but the pandemic has kept most nightclubs from reopening.

“Future simply can’t have the crowds needed to make it operational at this time, so it will most likely need to wait to open until crowd ordinances return to what they used to be,” WRS said in its statement.

Work on the apartment project is set to begin in 2021, according to WRS. The residential project, a partnership with Prestwick Companies,  was announced with 130 one-, two-, and three-bedroom options.

WRS said that “re-modifying” of existing space at Underground will start again before year’s end.

What’s still unknown is what businesses, retail, or restaurants might fill the rest of the  four-block redevelopment. WRS said in its statement that COVID-19 has had a major impact on national and regional tenant plans.

“Most tenants that were looking for new locations during this time have been delayed due to working on making their existing tenants profitable again,” the statement said.

The delayed redevelopment is another chapter in Underground’s storied history.

The retail and entertainment district, which became best  known for hosting the annual Peach Drop on New Year’s Eve, was created after the Civil War as bridges and viaducts were built over Downtown’s railroad tracks. The section of the city, containing about 12-acres, was eventually covered and forgotten as the street level was raised one-and-a-half stories by the end of the 1920s.

Underground was rediscovered in the 1960s and the original store fronts, brick streets and gas lamps were renovated and turned into a restaurant and nightclub district in 1969, including the original Dante’s Down the Hatch. The heyday was short-lived and Underground became home to vagrants until the late 80s, when it was resurrected again in 1989.

The second heyday didn’t last long either as the upscale retailers and restaurants fled and were replaced by small shops, chain stores and fast-food restaurants.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.