A rendering of Colony Square's newest open space, the Plaza.
BY ELLIE HENSLEY
When North American Properties undertook a sweeping redevelopment project of Midtown’s Colony Square in 2016, it had no plans to think small. The developer wanted to turn an aging mixed-use complex at Peachtree and 14th Streets with lots of vacancies into “Midtown’s living room,” a lively mix of modern office space, hip restaurants and bars and open space.
Colony Square’s reimagining had a few other hiccups unrelated to COVID-19 — a few restaurant concepts bowed out, and it replaced its food hall operator. But the pandemic has not impacted construction, and there is much to celebrate on the horizon.
We spoke to Mark Toro, Chairman of the Board at North American Properties - Atlanta, to get the latest on Colony Square’s upcoming openings and events, new tenants and other announcements.
Creating a Flexible Work Environment
Toro said office occupancy has remained stable, at north of 85 percent, but new leasing activity at Colony Square has “dropped like a rock” during COVID-19. In response, North American Properties and Cushman and Wakefield introduced a creative short-term leasing program, “Flip the Switch,” that allows employers to lease 3,000 to 20,000 square-foot spaces for six to 18 months.
Colony Square also has two coworking spaces on the premises, WeWork and Spaces.
“We have lots of options for a flexible work environment, and I think that’s what people are seeking,” Toro said.
Meanwhile, Whole Foods Market started moving admin employees into Building 300 over the summer for its Southeast Regional Headquarters. A new six-story office building, Building 500, actually is ahead of schedule and will be occupied entirely by global law firm Jones Day upon its completion, with the exception of some ground floor retail. Jones Day’s first employees will begin to move in this month, and are scheduled to fully occupy Building 500 by January 2021.
Rounding Out Restaurant and Retail Offerings
New restaurant and retail signs are also blinking on at Colony Square, with recent additions that include Sukoshi, Freshii and Aya Med Spa. Chicago-based Brown Bag Seafood Co. and American Barber are set to open this month, with a Holeman & Finch, Rumi’s Kitchen, Lush Nails and a sunglasses retailer called Sunnies coming in 2021.
On December 1, luxury movie cinema IPIC is scheduled to open with eight screens and affiliated Northern Italian restaurant called Serina Pastificio. The theatre was announced long before the pandemic, but its concept is well suited for social distancing — seats are set up two by two, and auditoriums range from 18 seats to 72.
“It is a vastly different cinematic experience, and that is why we recruited them,” Toro said.
However, the biggest news in recent weeks was the announcement that Politan Group will be taking over as operator of Colony Square’s planned food hall. Previously, Indigo Row Hospitality Group was set to be the operator, and the company still operates Sukoshi at Colony Square.
More than half of the food hall’s square footage will be dedicated to outdoor dining, called The Plaza, the Patio and The Grove. The interior space will be connected by a glass wall system.
The food hall, “Politan Row,” will have 11 food and beverage concepts, a central bar, three event spaces and a “secret bar.” It is slated to open in spring 2021 and will coincide with Colony Square’s grand reopening.
“[Politan Group] emerged as a premier operator nationwide with six food halls, and they really impressed us with their capabilities,” Toro said. “They are recruiting vendors as we speak. Especially during the COVID era, there are many talented chefs who have been on the sidelines and who are unemployed or underemployed. We see it as making lemons into lemonade.”
A map of Colony Square's new and upcoming retail offerings.
Signature Events Returning This Fall in Outdoor Spaces
This month, Colony Square is rebooting its event calendar. On Oct. 8, it is hosting The Gathering, a special night to celebrate City of Refuge, a non-profit that helps individuals and families out of crisis. The event will be held in its outdoor Plaza space, located between Buildings 100 and 300, and feature a tapas dinner from the Castellucci Hospitality Group.
Colony Square’s signature events, which will all take place outdoors, are also back in October. The Laughing Hour will take place on Mondays at 7 p.m. and feature acts from Dad’s Garage, Whole World Improv and Punchline Comedy Club. Yoga on the Square will be held on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. with classes by Dancing Dogs Yoga and exhale Midtown. And the Andrews Brothers will kick off every weekend on Fridays at 6 p.m. with Groovin’ on the Square.
Like everything, the events might look a little different this year, with social distancing guidelines in place. But Toro is confident that Midtown’s pre-pandemic energy will return, and his team is dedicated to finding ways for people to connect at Colony Square in the meantime.
“I think this is a temporary pause for Midtown,” said Toro of the current conditions intertwining the pandemic and the economic slowdown. “The growth will continue and it will be what it was — the vibrant urban district in a city of more than six million. It’s a little bit more than a blip.”
Find out more about Midtown's recovery.
“Path to Reopening” is a series on how Midtown businesses, developers and arts and cultural organizations are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Read our other installments here.