Photo tour: How Echo Street West aims to bridge English Avenue’s past, future
West of Midtown, eight-block site is neighborhood’s largest investment in generations
Three streets. Eight individual blocks across 19 acres. A BeltLine segment piercing through a mixed-use village. And hundreds of millions of dollars being channeled into English Avenue, a hardscrabble Westside neighborhood where large-scale private investments—until recently—haven’t ventured.
It’s all the makings of Echo Street West, a project led by Dallas-based Lincoln Property Company that’s considered the most expensive bet on English Avenue in generations. But if you’re foggy on how all the components will puzzle together, you’re not alone.
Lincoln, a 9,000-person company with a presence in 450 U.S. cities, began site work on Echo Street West a year ago, and then held an official groundbreaking for the $265-million first phase in June. Designs are meant to mimic the site’s industrial and railroad history.
That includes about 300,000 square feet of speculative, creative offices with mass-timber construction. Other phase-one pieces include a multifamily building, 23,000 square feet of retail (most of it positioned along the Westside BeltLine Connector trail), more than 3 acres of greenspace, and a largely outdoor food-and-drink zone modeled after a funky concept in Texas.
Tony Bartlett, Lincoln’s executive vice president and an Atlanta native, says the company scouted intown for about three years for the right BeltLine-connected site, finding it where Brock Built had once planned to build 800 houses and townhomes. Proximity to Georgia Tech (Bartlett’s alma matter), Westside Park, and now the future Microsoft campus has Bartlett and company more bullish on the site than ever.
“That’s our whole thesis: We think the $6 billion worth of real estate that’s been developed on the Eastside [BeltLine] is coming to the Westside,” he says. “All of those ingredients are here.”
Bartlett is quick to point out Echo Street West’s site had been dormant for years, and that construction has displaced nobody. Community involvement has led to the creation of the Echo Street West Partnership, a grassroots fund that aims to uplift groups “doing good work” on the Westside, as organizers have put it. The first initiative to come from that, a community-led resource center called CoLab, is being operated by Westside Future Fund’s director of neighborhood engagement Joan Vernon, a former English Avenue Neighborhood Association president.
Twenty percent of Echo Street West’s initial 292 apartments will be reserved for households earning up to 80 percent of the area’s median income, which Bartlett notes is 5 percent more than the Beltline overlay district requires. A recent AJC analysis found the project received about $7 million in tax abatements, and it’s also qualified for federal funding.
Zoning would allow for about 2.4 million square feet of development to eventual rise on site, which would rival Ponce City Market.
“Truth of the matter is, we’ll probably never be able to build that much here, because there are some height restrictions,” Bartlett says. “But I think, in terms of order of magnitude for what this can be for the Westside, this can be that type of development.”
To help Atlantans make sense of Echo Street West’s scope and future plans, we toured the site recently and took photos from key vantage points today that are contrasted with phase-one project renderings below.
Meanwhile, in the gallery below, find a tour of completed buildings and context for what this underused section of English Avenue is set to become across the next two years. It’s impossible to predict, given fluctuating market trends, but Bartlett says the full project could take between five years and a decade to build out, consuming adjacent lots in an additional phase, or phases.
The 19-acre site’s context between Georgia Tech and recently unveiled Westside Park. New, under-construction, and future BeltLine segments are shown in blue.
Site plan for Echo Street West’s phase one. The bottom retail piece, which would form a sort of retail canyon along the Westside BeltLine Connector, is financed but won’t be built until an entertainment-concept tenant is found.
The phase one model showing residential (in blue), retail buildings (light gray), and offices. The tree-filled line represents the Westside BeltLine Connector.
Echo Street, at left, and the Guardian Works events venue, the project’s first finished component.
Numerous tanks reclaimed around the property will be flame-cut with the project’s name and internally lit; others will be repurposed as huge planters. “We’ve got a bunch of tanks,” says Bartlett. “We’re going to take one and chrome it, almost a fun-house mirror feel for people on the BeltLine,” which is seen at right
A plaza between the two Guardian Works buildings.
View of the construction site from the event venue’s 6,000-square-foot patio. At the center of the site, two and 1/2 levels of parking are being installed underground now. “That’s incredibly expensive to do—and certainly that will filter its way into the rent structure—but we felt it was that important,” Bartlett says.
Facing Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, the project’s second adaptive-reuse section is turning three automotive buildings into the Westside Motor Lounge. Expect live music, food trucks, bocce, shuffleboard, and bars inside buildings with rotating food menus. “We think it’s going to be Atlanta’s tailgating opportunity, for Falcons, Tech, whatever it is,” says Bartlett. “It’s really taken from Dallas, a funky, gritty place called Texas Truck Yard.” Lincoln hopes to open the public space by year’s end.
The phase one offices, at right, and a centralize amenity area. “We’re trying to create a village feel here, very pedestrian-oriented as you come off the BeltLine,” says Bartlett. “The new Atlanta paradigm.”
Relics of past uses greet visitors upon entry into the 18,000-square-foot Guardian Works event space. According to Bartlett, the building (and a smaller one with 14 artist studios next door) have been idle for five or six decades. Lincoln invested about $4 million into resuscitating them.
This cozy darkened room off the entry has been used as a bridal suite, or men’s smoking lounge, at events.
Once owned by Guardian Companies, the building’s second floor was removed to create an airy space for weddings, bar mitzvahs, beer and wines festivals, and other gatherings organized by Novare Events, which licenses the space.
Retained industrial details inside Guardian Works.
This section of Guardian Works hosts West Atlanta Business Association and English Avenue neighborhood meetings.
“If you walked into this building [prior to redevelopment], it looked like in 1955 somebody said, ‘Get out,’ and they just got up and left,” says Bartlett. “Desks, pads, pencils in place—it was a complete mess and disaster.”
Echo Street, at left, will bisect phase one. The smaller buildings shown here are creative loft offices, retail, and a tenant amenity center. Bartlett says the residential and retail are on pace to open in December next year, followed by offices in May 2023.
AUGUST 25, 2021, 3:26PM
BY JOSH GREEN