Economic Development Leadership Council Covers Philips Arena Expansion and Redevelopment of Underground Atlanta

May 31, 2018

Atlanta is a city growing at an exponential rate with an expanding population and a position at the center for the world’s most important markets. The region is producing and retaining talent, creating new housing ...

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Atlanta is a city growing at an exponential rate with an expanding population and a position at the center for the world’s most important markets. The region is producing and retaining talent, creating new housing opportunities, and evolving the way people interact with recreational amenities – all while creating a welcoming environment to everyone.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) hosted the second quarter Economic Development Leadership Council meeting this week, with updates from executives at Atlanta Hawks, Newport US and WRS Inc. The meeting began with Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin presenting on Philips Arena’s redevelopment.

“We have reimagined and re-inspired Philips Arena,” Koonin said. “We live in an ‘experience economy.’”

The new arena will be the second largest renovation in NBA history and will include amenities such as restaurants, bars and a barber shop. Koonin believes that the venue needs to be a business hub where networking and entertaining go hand-in-hand. Koonin flipped through renderings of the redevelopment, which highlighted new and improved suites, bigger screens and revamped concourses with 360-degree connectivity. Philips Arena also partnered up with Zac Brown’s Southern Ground, Killer Mike’s Swag Shop and Topgolf to create the unique and interactive venue.

Koonin then introduced Newport US President Jake Nawrocki. Nawrocki began with a brief walkthrough of historic Atlanta. Newport US has been working with Tim Keane, commissioner of planning and community development for the City of Atlanta as well as Central Atlanta Progress to reinvigorate South Downtown Atlanta. Nawrocki emphasized the preservation of historical buildings with a focus on highlighting Atlanta’s unique historical architecture. Newport US owns 47 buildings in the South Downtown area and plans to redevelop them into a “dense urban neighborhood that blends the new and the old.” Redesigned streets with wider sidewalks, bike lanes, two-way streets and restored historical facades are all on Newport’s agenda.

Steve Howe, COO of WRS Inc. presented on the redevelopment of Underground Atlanta.

“We are trying to change Underground Atlanta into a community,” Howe said.

Howe stated that WRS Inc. is in the process of cleaning up Kenny’s Alley – a prominent area in Underground Atlanta – planning to transform it into a hub for retail and a gathering space. WRS Inc. will build student housing for the adjacent Georgia State University as well as housing for a range of different income levels. Howe also stated that WRS Inc. wants unique retail stores to move into the area and not retail chains, while ensuring that Underground Atlanta remains as unique and walkable as possible.

Charlie Moseley, director of project management and regional partnerships at the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) discussed highlights in economic development for 2018. In Q1 there were 26 landed companies in metro Atlanta. Eleven of those companies were expansions and retention projects while 15 of them were new to metro Atlanta – 40 percent of the landed projects were foreign direct investment.

Notable Q1 projects include:

  • PSA Group’s HQ moving to Atlanta
  • Pindrop adding 200 cybersecurity jobs in Atlanta
  • Juvare adding 300 bioscience jobs in Atlanta
  • Edible Arrangements creating 200 new jobs in Atlanta
  • Facebook creating a large data center in Newton County and creating 100 new jobs

Overall the MAC Economic Development team, along with partners, generated 242 leads and 139 projects, indirectly leading to 4,100 jobs in the region.

Following the discussion of Q1 projects, Moseley mentioned a few notable Q2 projects including:

  • KL Outdoor bringing 344 jobs to Henry County
  • Loloi Rugs opening a new distribution center in Bartow County and adding 200 jobs
  • Pandora Radio opening a large office and creating 250 jobs in Atlanta
  • Instacart opening a large office and creating 425 jobs in Atlanta
  • InComm adding 150 jobs in Atlanta

Rounding out the council meeting, MAC’s Chief Policy Officer Katie Kirkpatrick gave a legislative update. Kirkpatrick stated that this past legislative session was a positive one that included a historic income tax cut, as much as $300 million for transit expansion, a telecom expansion and funding for education, which includes a needs-based aid scholarship program.

If you are interested on learning more about MAC or want to become a member, please contact Jack Murphy and visit