The first phase of an ambitious life sciences district by Georgia Tech will not only be home to cutting-edge lab equipment — it’ll house hundreds of people.
Alongside a central lab and office tower, the first phase of the institute’s 18-acre Science Square innovation district will include a 280-unit apartment complex, both of which are on track to open early next year. The apartments, dubbed The Grace Residences, are seen a vital component of Science Square’s formula to spur growth for Atlanta’s life sciences industry and revitalize a disinvested corner of the city.
“We wanted to be sure, right out of the gate, that we’re going to have a 24/7 environment,” said Katherine Lynch, a principal with developer Trammell Crow Co. “Without residences, it’s hard to do that.”
Trammell Crow and its residential subsidiary, High Street Residential, are Georgia Tech’s development partner on the mixed-use district along North Avenue and Northside Drive, abutting the English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods. The area falls within a federal Opportunity Zone, low income areas in which qualified projects can earn tax credits.
Designed by Rule Joy Trammell + Rubio, the apartments are split among a 14-story tower and a connected six-story building, which wrap around a ground-floor amenity deck and pool. Other amenities include a bike room, club room, fitness center, a pet spa and a penthouse lounge.
Units range from studios to three-bedroom apartments. While months away from completion, units shown during a tour already featured stainless steel appliances, tile backsplashes and wooden cabinets. The penthouse floor boasts 12-foot ceilings with windows almost as tall to offer sweeping skyline views from Midtown to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
A 900-spot parking garage, sporting solar panels on its top deck, connects The Grace to the 13-story lab building consisting of nearly 365,000 square feet of office space. Chicago-based Portal Innovations was the first tenant to lease space within the lab building. Portal plans to convert the building’s 10th floor into incubator space for science startups and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Science Square’s first phase also includes ground floor retail spaces for what will likely be two restaurants and a coffee shop.
“There’s clear benefits of being part of a mixed-use environment,” said Scott Kirchhoff, High Street Residential Atlanta’s senior vice president. “… It’s a huge initiative, creating this node within the city and providing housing both for the Westside and for Georgia Tech.”
Texas-based Trammell Crow is best-known in metro Atlanta as an office and industrial developer, but The Grace will be the company’s first apartment community in the city. High Street Residential pitched plans last year for a 30-story apartment tower on the former Houston’s restaurant property in Buckhead, but Kirchhoff said those plans have been nixed, citing difficulties securing financing.
High Street Residential is reserving 10% of the units within The Grace — 28 in total — for tenants who make 60% of the area median income, which is $42,900 for an individual.
Trammell Crow is also building a pedestrian bridge to connect Georgia Tech’s campus to the west Atlanta neighborhoods. The developer promised $2.5 million to support education efforts in surrounding communities to help nearby residents gain skills to work in the life sciences industry. The Development Authority of Fulton County approved up to $29.4 million in property tax breaks for the development.
Kirchhoff said the institute is currently pursuing financing, which will determine the timeline of both the bridge and subsequent office and residential phases. Later Science Square phases could include another 1.3 million square feet of lab and office space and up to 320 additional apartments.
“At this point in time, given the capital markets, its an evolving situation,” he said, referencing high interest rates and low financing interest for office projects.
Lynch said lab space has been a resilient niche within the office market, which has struggled since the COVID-19 pandemic upended traditional workplace culture. She said demand for the first lab building has been “really encouraging.”
Preleasing for The Grace will begin in early 2024, with the first resident move-ins slated for late March when the lab and office building is expected to open. The Grace is expected to be fully complete by May.