Two high-rise towers are soon to rise from the gaping hole in the heart of Downtown Atlanta as part of the $5 billion Centennial Yards project to transform the area into a vibrant mixed-use district.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Nov. 17 for the two towers — one a hotel and the other an apartment building — to be constructed across from Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena. The area, once known as The Gulch, includes dozens of acres of parking lots and train tracks that lay 40-feet below street level.

“The first two high rise towers in Centennial Yards, formerly known as The Gulch, what has been a massive 50-acre hole in the ground generating zero revenue, will now serve as a catalyst for future revitalization of Downtown Atlanta,” Mayor Andre Dickens said at the groundbreaking event.

Mayor Andre Dickens said Centennial Yards is a ‘catalyst for future revitalization of Downtown Atlanta’ at the Nov. 17 groundbreaking for the mixed-use development’s first two high-rise towers. (Dyana Bagby)

Centennial Yards “is uniquely Atlanta” by bringing about public-private partnerships and nonprofit sectors together to “dream big” and bridge the gap between the east and west sides of the city, Dickens said.

One tower will be the 18-story Anthem Atlanta hotel with 292 rooms, a pool deck, and 8,000-square-foot ballroom. The other tower will be an 18-story apartment building with 304 units ranging from studios to three-bedrooms. Together, the two towers will have 21,000-square-feet of ground-level retail and restaurant space. A public green space is also part of the project.

Both are slated to be completed by 2025 and open for business when the 2026 World Cup comes to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The towers are designed by Atlanta-based architecture firms Goode Van Slyke Architects (GVSA) and TVS Architecture + Design.

A view of the Gulch in Downtown Atlanta before construction began on Centennial Yards. The acres of parking lot and train tracks across from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena are surrounded by elevated streets and viaducts. (Photo by Collin Kelley)

Centennial Yards is expected to span some 12 city blocks and include 4 million square feet of new residences when completed. An additional 4 million square feet of commercial space with a mix of hotel, retail, restaurant, and office space is expected to create one of the largest sports entertainment districts in the Southeast. The overall site plan is designed by a global team led by world-renowned architecture firms Foster + Partners and Perkins&Will.

City leaders for decades have tried to redevelop the downtown eyesore. In 2018, the city selected Los Angeles-based CIM Group to redevelop the 50 acres in a deal that included $1.9. billion in public subsidies.

CIM Group’s co-founder is Richard Ressler, brother of Tony Ressler. Tony Ressler and NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill own the Atlanta Hawks.

The groundbreaking comes a year after the city signed a community benefits agreement with CIM Group. The agreement includes $28 million planned for affordable housing, $12 million in citywide economic development, and $2 million for workforce training.

The overall development plans to deliver:

  • 20% affordable housing for 99 years;
  • 38% goal of minority and female owned business participation in the project including design, development and property management;
  • 25% of entry-level construction jobs at Centennial Yards — and 10% of all construction jobs — are targeted for workers from around Downtown Atlanta, with hundreds of jobs.

Centennial Yards Company is the master developer of Centennial Yards and is an affiliate of CIM Group and a private investment group led by Tony Ressler and Grant Hill.

Grant Hill, co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, is a major investor in Centennial Yards. He said 25 of Atlanta’s Black leaders are also investing billions into the project. (Dyana Bagby)

Hill said at the groundbreaking that the group of investors backing Centennial Yards includes 25 of Atlanta’s top African American leaders who have already committed billions of dollars toward the project.

Centennial Yards also continues toward its goal of 38% target participation of its contracts to female and minority-owned local businesses, Hill said.

Michael Russell, CEO of H.J. Russell & Company, said Centennial Yards was a “catalytic development” that will help minority businesses.

“Centennial Yards is one of the most ambitious developments in the country and [this] groundbreaking on the first ground-up towers not only marks an extraordinary day in Atlanta history but also the celebration of our shared vision for a vibrant Downtown coming to life,” said Centennial Yards Company President Brian McGowan in a statement.

Centennial Yards has already renovated the historic Southern Railway building into 162 residential and mixed-used retail spaces known as The Lofts at Centennial Yards South. Residents moved in last year and the buildings first commercial tenant, Wild Leap Brewing Co., is opening in December.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.