Plans for the ‘Gulch’ could change future campus events

Cousins Properties Inc., along with other well-known firms, is currently in the process of developing a mini-city and transit hub in the Gulch, located in downtown Atlanta.

The Gulch is an area that surrounds the CNN Center and Philips Arena downtown. It is used primarily for tailgates and parking for events like college football games.

Construction in the Gulch has not begun, but the biggest agreement in the Department of Transportation’s joint venture with a private company has recently been made. Several competing companies were vying for the area, including teams represented by Jacoby Development and the John Buck Co. and The Dawson Co., H.J. Russell Co. and Hines. On March 14, the Georgia Department of Transportation announced that Cousins was approved for construction.

The factor that kept these other companies from procuring the Gulch was their presentation. Cousins CEO and President Larry Gellerstedt told the truth about the company’s plans for the property: a solid plan hasn’t been developed yet.

“How can you get specific about what that vision is that you’re creating without listening to stakeholders first?” he said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We responded by giving a written vision statement and we spent a lot of time on it. They didn’t ask that you give a picture of an iconic tower or anything like that. We’ve seen… when you do that at the start, it can have a negative impact.”

The other main competitors pitched ideas including images of tall towers, grassy plazas and iconic buildings.

The Public Private Partnerships (P3) Program from the Department of Transportation is helping with this project. The P3 program joins with private companies like Cousins Inc. to secure funding. This program was introduced by the Department of Transportation earlier this year.

The new hub should incorporate transit systems that already exist in downtown Atlanta, including Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), Georgia Regional Transit Authority (GRTA), the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District. The hub will be known as a Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal.

“The Gulch project is moving forward,” said Gov. Nathan Deal, according to the Atlanta Journal- Constitution. “I believe it will be an important part of our transportation system and put Georgians back to work.”

The actual construction may take years, so these changes will not affect any upcoming Panther football games.

The Gulch project is the largest to date in the P3 program. It is also one of the largest transit-oriented developments nationwide.

The project is still subject to collapse if negotiations fall through with Cousins Inc.. This would result in DOT renegotiating with the next most qualified team, according to Vicki Gavalas, a DOT spokesperson.

DOT is allowing people to comment about the project on its website. They will also host a public meeting on March 30 for feedback on the ideas presented by bid teams in addition to general comments and concerns, according to Gavalas.

Published March 29, 2011 in “The Signal


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