Atlanta Business Chronicle: Twenty years later, Lindbergh Center may reach its potential

September 30, 2019

Twenty years ago, BellSouth launched a $750 million plan to relocate 13,000 employees to office space around three Atlanta MARTA stations. In Buckhead, the company chose Lindbergh Center as a national model for transit-oriented development in an era of sprawling projects and soaring gas prices. Today, the project is still struggling to meet expectations. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and subsidiary Cricket Wireless will vacate twin office towers by the end of next year. The planned “Main Street” retail environment has also yet to materialize.

Enter Rubenstein Partners, L.P., the new owner of the project, with an opportunity for a turnaround.

The real estate company, in a joint venture with Monarch Alternative Capital LP, has purchased Lindbergh Center for $187 million. The deal, which closed last week, includes the nearly 1 million square feet of office space and just less than 150,000 square feet of retail.

So, with new ownership in control of Lindbergh Center, what’s next for the project?

In Atlanta, Rubenstein is known for remaking suburban office projects such as Sanctuary Park in north Fulton County and Pennant Park in the Cumberland Galleria area. At Lindbergh, it will eventually need to fill twin 14-story office buildings.

But, it has some things going for it.

The Lindbergh Center project, at Piedmont Road and Lindbergh Drive, has potential.

The Atlanta Beltline Northeast Trail will one day link with Lindbergh. The Path400 Greenway will also enter just north of Lindbergh station. New apartments and a Kroger grocery store have risen around the project.

Also, office development in Buckhead is limited. That’s another advantage. It means Rubenstein won’t have much competition from developers of new projects when office tenants begin looking in the area for a new lease.

What’s needed most at Lindbergh Center is an influx of jobs, said Phil Mays, a principal with Halcyon developer RocaPoint Partners. That can be a catalyst. “The most important thing is to secure quality office tenants,” said Mays.

Rubenstein has added jobs to its Atlanta projects. That includes The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD), which is bringing hundreds of high-paying IT and logistics jobs to Pennant Park, formerly known as Interstate North Office Park, the 11-building development Rubenstein bought a few years ago.
Lindbergh Center stands at the nexus of PATH400, the Beltline, Peachtree Creek Greenway, Southfork Conservancy’s nature trails and the Clifton Corridor Transit line. Ryan Gravel, the prominent urban planner whose graduate thesis at Georgia Tech formed the concept for the Beltline, said Lindbergh Center can be successfully redeveloped around two overarching characteristics.

“The confluence of waterways, nature and trails within a business district and the confluence of cultures, people and talent along Buford Highway with Atlanta’s major business districts,” he said.
MARTA connects the project directly to the Atlanta airport, downtown, Midtown, Buckhead and Perimeter Center, Gravel noted.

“The idea builds Lindbergh into a transit-oriented hub for global business by tapping into the Buford Highway corridor,” he said. “It doesn’t try to compete with Midtown or Buckhead. It builds on its own opportunity and makes its own contribution to Atlanta as a global marketplace.”

If the turnaround is successful, Lindbergh Center could spark additional residential development near the project.Consider that Buckhead planners have advocated for new workforce housing on land owned by MARTA. That could include sites around the Lindbergh MARTA station. Those sites are generally less expensive than areas along Peachtree Road or within the Buckhead Village.
Livable Buckhead, the nonprofit leading calls for more workforce housing near transit, met with Rubenstein Partners in recent weeks. It’s possible a redevelopment of the project could provide a connection to PATH400. A link along Morosgo Drive is one option.

Denise Starling, executive director with Livable Buckhead, said: “They are definitely looking at some of the right components to make it the transit-oriented development that it was envisioned to be so many years ago.”