In a recent interview in Creative Loafing, Scoutmob co-founder Michael Tavani talks about the trouble he’s had with trying to find a place in Downtown Atlanta to build a new tech incubator. His interest in the area’s historic buildings led him to the beautiful — and fairly empty — Flatiron Building (below).
It sounds like a wonderful match that would serve Tavani, the tech community, Downtown Atlanta and historic preservation well. But the hurdles have proven to be significant because of the difficult commercial real estate environment — one that sees empty properties in historic buildings going unused year after year as property owners wait for a payoff that may never come.
Here’s a quote (emphasis mine):
Tavani’s foray into what he calls the “wild west” of Downtown commercial real estate hasn’t been easy. Many families that own the city’s older buildings have been holding out for premium offers and covered property taxes by renting space cheap to reliable tenants or just letting the properties sit vacant. He says that mindset has prevented entrepreneurs who want to move Downtown from making reasonable deals.
"It doesn’t make sense to take all the risk to be in a part of town where you have to turn things around," Tavani says. "If you pull everything off, it’ll be amazing. Otherwise it’ll be a failure."
It’s past time for City of Atlanta leaders to address this problem and get involved in negotiations that help to fill these long-empty Downtown spaces. Particularly with the streetcar set to begin service this year, it makes no sense for leaders to sit by while the same problems that have kept empty spaces unfilled continue.
Curbed Atlanta had a good post last year on the many stubbornly vacant properties around Atlanta, with many of them Downtown.
Here’s the continual result of this real-estate environment: interested parties grow weary of futile efforts in securing property Downtown and take spots elsewhere in the city — in places that will benefit from the vibrancy of new young businesses while parts of Downtown stay relatively quiet and empty. When will city leaders take this bull by the horns and own the problem?
Flatiron Building photo from Flickr user tstuckey: