Seattle-based Olson Kundig has formally unveiled a highly anticipated mixed-use project set to transform one of the myriad old industrial sites along the Eastside Trail of the BeltLine, Atlanta’s ever-expanding rail-to-trail corridor.
The redevelopment of 760 Ralph McGill Boulevard, a nearly 12-acre site formerly home to a Georgia Power operations center, has generated real estate headlines in Atlanta city for several years now, beginning in 2017 when developer New City acquired the property from the Southern Company-owned electric utility for a reported $34 million. (Georgia Power has historic ties to Atlanta’s old rail network as it got its start in 1902 as a streetcar operator known as the Georgia Railway and Power Company.) Extending from the fabled Piedmont Park, the first stretch of the Eastside trail was completed five years prior in 2012.
Located along the Eastside Trail next to the sprawling Historic Fourth Ward Park, 760 Ralph McGill has evolved and grown since the $1 billion project’s approval. The park, described by New City president Jim Irwin in 2019 as being “so complicated and multifaceted,” is being master-planned by the Atlanta office of Perkins&Will. The permitting process kicked off in late 2019 with construction work commencing last summer.
The first phase of the project will see the completion of Olson Kundig’s dual mid-rise office towers, fused by a multi-level sky bridge and centered around what’s envisioned as a bustling central plaza that will eventually provide a direct connection to a planned light rail station adjacent to the BeltLine. The 1.1-million-square-foot development, which also includes street-level retail in addition to the office space (Mailchimp has already signed on as an anchor tenant) above, is organized around two portals. The first will frame views of downtown Atlanta and “symbolizing a look towards the future,” while the other will connect to Historic Fourth Ward Park, per Olson Kundig.
“The building and its dynamic central plaza create a new link between the historic Fourth Ward Park and the rapidly revitalizing BeltLine corridor,” elaborated Olson Kundig principal and owner Kirsten Ring Murray in a statement. “This project showcases Atlanta’s position as a leader in innovation, as well as its vision for a walkable, livable business district that responds to the evolving needs of office tenants.”
Joining Olson Kundig is executive architect HKS and general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie. The larger project team includes, among others, the Brooklyn-based Future Green Studio as design landscape architect, Uzun + Case as structural engineer, and Kimley-Horn as landscape architect, civil engineer, and parking and traffic engineer.
HKS, coincidentally, is serving as co-chair of AN’s upcoming virtual summer conference, Facades+Southeast: Breaking the Georgian Mold. The 760 Ralph McGill project was teased by Shelby Morris, director of commercial practice for HKS’s Atlanta office, in a recent conversation with AN program manager Katie Angen and will be presented during the conference.
As detailed by Olson Kundig in its reveal, sustainability was a top priority in the design of 760 Ralph McGill. Among the many environmental impact-lowering strategies of the firm’s high-efficiency Atlanta office block is the custom facade screen, which was created using advanced daylight and thermal modeling to “enhance building performance while maintaining access to natural daylight and thermal comfort for occupants.”
The establishing of strong pedestrian/cycling/public transit connections between 760 Ralph McGill and the BeltLine is also a key sustainability strategy to help bust Atlanta’s long-held reputation as a car-dependent sprawl monster. According to the Atlanta Business Journal, 30 percent of employees working for the building’s future anchor tenant, Mailchimp, use the BeltLine to get to and from its current headquarters at Ponce City Market, a tradition that will no doubt continue once the marketing giant moves to 760 Ralph McGill. Per the Business Journal, Mailchimp will occupy the entire north tower of the complex as well as a section of the sky bridge.
The building, described by Tom Kundig, principal and owner of Olson Kundig, as a “high-performing project [that] merges a future-looking sustainability agenda for the city with a design that activates the public realm,” is targeting LEED Gold certification.
Alongside Olson Kundig’s commercial office building at 760 Ralph McGill, the development will reportedly include a boutique hotel and 350-unit apartment building as part of its first phase. Construction is slated to wrap up at the end of 2022.