Hall of Famer
Joined: May 2009
I Root For: Georgia STATE
Location: East Atlanta Village
RE: All Things GSU
Quote:For the ongoing, significant and catalytic impact the rapid growth of its physical footprint and the expansion of its student body have had on downtown Atlanta, Georgia State University is the 2017 winner of Central Atlanta Progress Inc.’s Marcus Downtown Economic Impact Award.
CAP introduced the award in 2008 as the Downtown Economic Impact Award, recognizing an individual, company or project that has stimulated revitalization efforts that strengthen and advance the community at large.
President of Georgia State University: Georgia State always has a big influence on downtown Atlanta but never more so than with its pending purchase of Turner Field for football and baseball fields, student housing and new retail.
President of Georgia State University: Georgia State always has a big influence on… more
Criteria include a project or significant effort that has left a positive mark on downtown Atlanta, one that increases rental rates, occupancy, and/or sales per square foot in the space and/or nearby properties.
The award was renamed the Marcus Downtown Economic Impact Award in 2016, in honor of the significant contributions to downtown made by Bernie Marcus.
Since its founding in 1913, GSU has evolved from a commuter college serving a small group of local businesspeople into one of the country’s premier public research institutions.
With 1,144 full-time faculty and one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, the university now enrolls more than 50,000 students, both full- and part-time, in over 250 undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs in 100 fields of study — and generates an annual economic impact on metro Atlanta of $2.45 billion, according to GSU.
The school’s evolution has been accompanied/exemplified by sustained growth of GSU facilities in Atlanta’s core.
This growth began in 1997, during the administration of GSU President Emeritus Carl V. Patton. Using his expertise as an urban planner, Patton launched a university-wide planning effort that produced the Main Street Master Plan, a strategy to increase the university’s physical footprint in downtown Atlanta.
In the years since then, including those under the administration of current GSU President Mark Becker, that plan has expanded with the growth in GSU enrollment, and made its impact felt in numerous ways that add credence to the notion that the GSU campus is not just in downtown Atlanta — the GSU campus is downtown Atlanta.
The number of beds in GSU-operated dormitories in downtown has more than doubled since 2007, from roughly 2,500 to 5,300, a growth spurt accompanied by number privately-owned residential projects catering to students, and that has changed the character of downtown Atlanta from home to a commuter school to a central business district with a thriving student population.
Other notable projects have included the conversion of a former SunTrust Bank building at 25 Park Place into home of GSU’s College of Arts & Sciences; the new law school building at the corner of Park Place and John Wesley Dobbs; the renovation of 55 Park Place to make way for the J. Mack Robinson College of Business and the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies; and the Media Industries Institute, located in a three-story annex connected to 25 Park Place.
Plans are unfolding to create a large lawn in the center of GSU’s downtown campus, on sites formerly occupied by several older structures. The project will ultimately provide green space connectivity from Woodruff Park to the Petit Science Center on Piedmont Avenue.
And that’s not all. In a project described by some as having the potential for “transformational” impact on the southern side of downtown Atlanta, GSU has partnered up with several private- sector firms in the redevelopment of Turner Field.
The group has proposed a mix of housing, retail, athletic and academic space on the site. GSU’s plans specifically call for conversion of Turner Field into a 22,000-seat artificial-turf stadium for its Panthers football team; a repurposing of a portion of Turner Field’s Club Level for academic use; and redeveloping the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium site as a new baseball park for GSU.
According to Maxine Hicks, a partner at DLA Piper and CAP awards nominating committee member, GSU’s impact on downtown Atlanta goes well beyond what she describes as “the incredible new opportunities presented by the Turner Field project.”
“It is more about GSU’s sustained efforts over the years to create a campus that is engaging, vibrant and walkable,” Hicks said. The “ripple effects” of these efforts have been led by a reactivation of the downtown Atlanta core, “and have helped to create a numerous other opportunities for revitalization.”
A growing GSU has definitely been a good thing for downtown Atlanta and vice versa.
“Georgia State is a campus without boundaries in downtown Atlanta,” said Becker. “Businesses, nonprofit organizations, and city and state government activities provide unparalleled internship, employment and collaboration opportunities in close proximity for our faculty, staff and students, while new restaurants, shops and entertainment venues springing up around the campus add to the energy and vitality of downtown. As Georgia State has grown, and particularly with the expansion of the residential student population to more than 5,000 students, the revitalization of downtown has become a vital contributor to its rapidly growing appeal.”
“It’s no secret that Georgia State University has saved downtown Atlanta,” said Scott Taylor, president and CEO of Carter, GSU’s partner (along with Oakwood Development and Healey Weatherholtz Properties) in the Turner Field project. “GSU was the anchor institution for our urban core before anyone knew it, and we are fortunate that they have generated the momentum that we are enjoying today in numerous segments of the market.
It is difficult to pick out any one GSU project and say it has had the most impact, Taylor said.
“Most would say it’s the aggregate effect of all of the projects, from the Rialto Center for the Arts, to the new GSU College of Law, to the commitment for student housing,” he said, adding “The diversity of these projects have all been additive to the fabric of downtown.”
The “next chapter” in the GSU/downtown story will be led by the redevelopment of Turner Field, Taylor said, “and with the strong commitment of GSU, this will transform this part of our city for generations to come. Years from now we will look back at the visionary leadership of Dr. Patton and Dr. Becker, and we will be grateful for the profound impact they had on downtown Atlanta, and thank goodness they were at the helm at the right time.”