The Pittsburgh Yards site and the surrounding neighborhood have a rich history. Prior to any development, Clark College’s agricultural department used it as farmland. Following that, the Great Southern Trucking Terminal was built; when it opened in 1951, it was the second largest trucking terminal in the world.
Today’s kids will create tomorrow’s prosperity. To help them succeed, we must ensure all children are able to grow up in thriving communities that nurture their development and support the financial stability of their families. For far too long, Atlanta’s systems, institutions and infrastructure have left residents in the predominantly black neighborhoods of Adair Park, Capitol Gateway, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh and Summerhill — often referred to as Neighborhood Planning Unit V (NPU-V) — isolated from the educational, employment and business opportunities necessary for them to fully contribute to, and benefit from, the city’s growing economy. As a result, the unemployment and poverty rates in these neighborhoods are disproportionately higher than in the city’s wealthier, majority-white neighborhoods. That’s part of a broader trend: The unemployment rate for black residents in the city of Atlanta hovers around 12.7 percent, compared to 2.8 percent for white residents.
The transformation of Pittsburgh Yards is an unprecedented opportunity to change that picture and spur a more equitable distribution of income, wealth, jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for residents of color in NPU-V and other southwest Atlanta neighborhoods.
Located near many of the city’s other major redevelopment projects, including the Atlanta BeltLine, the former Turner Field and State Farmers Market, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Fort McPherson, this 31-acre site is part of an area that is in the midst of significant—and promising—transition.
The development team is committed to ensuring NPU-V residents derive the greatest economic benefits possible from the redevelopment of Pittsburgh Yards.
Existing partnerships with a diverse network of workforce providers are being leveraged to ensure that residents secure construction-related and permanent jobs at the site, and that local and minority- and women-owned businesses are sought for subcontracting opportunities. Additional efforts are underway to support local businesses interested in using Pittsburgh Yards to grow their establishments.
In addition to fueling job creation and entrepreneurship, Pittsburgh Yards will also be a place to host neighborhood functions and other community-engagement events.
Pittsburgh Yards is more than just a physical redevelopment project — it’s an economic catalyst. Over the next 10 to 15 years, it is anticipated that the site will drive the creation of a wide range of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.
To realize that vision, specific economic inclusion goals have been built into every aspect of the project, as follows:
- At least 50 percent of hires for phase I construction will be local residents.
- At least 50 percent of the new permanent jobs will be for local residents.
- At least 30 percent of the contracted construction values and tenant lease agreements will go to local, minority- and/or women-owned businesses.
- At least 30 percent of contracted predevelopment services will go to local, minority- and/or women-owned businesses. (This goal has already been exceeded).
Initial assessments show that there are more than 100 small businesses operating in NPU-V, some of which would be ideal candidates for Pittsburgh Yards if they chose to relocate. The process of identifying businesses and entrepreneurs is ongoing.
In addition to the explicit focus on economic benefits for local residents, the community engagement process surrounding Pittsburgh Yards is unlike that for standard real estate development projects. Residents are engaged at every step and are helping to shape everything from design elements and branding to prospective tenant lists.
The development team is supporting resident engagement in a variety of ways, including:
- hosting monthly community meetings and site tours to brief residents on the development process and solicit input
- organizing educational tours to other local development projects
- hosting focus group meetings with prospective tenants and small business owners — such as welders, seamstresses and bakers — to collect feedback on building design; and
- convening regular working group meetings to discuss naming, history, art, entrepreneurship and jobs
The site, formerly referred to as 352 University Avenue, was named “Pittsburgh Yards” as a result of community members’ efforts. The naming group developed several concepts, launched a call-in campaign to gather resident input on the proposed options and announced the final selection at a community meeting on October 12, 2017.
AECF Atlanta Realty, a subsidiary of the Annie E. Casey Foundation acquired the 31-acre Pittsburgh Yards site at 352 University Avenue from UPS in 2006.
After an extensive market study to explore potential uses, the search process for a developer began. In 2017, an agreement was finalized with Columbia Core Partners (CCP), a partnership between Columbia Ventures and The Core Venture Studio.
In addition to CCP, the development team also includes Stevens & Wilkinson (architecture, structure, mechanical, electrical and plumbing), Long Engineering (civil engineering), Sylvatica Studio (landscape architecture), Rejuve (shipping container design/build), Grafite (interiors), Southface Energy Institute (sustainability consulting) and C.D. Moody Construction (general contracting).
The first phase of redevelopment will occur on the eastern side of Pittsburgh Yards, around an existing building structure on the property.
The goal of Phase I is to adapt a portion of the site into a LEED-certified commercial village with a wide variety of tenants, and to prepare the necessary infrastructure to surround the building with an urban business/industrial park. The adaptation of this existing structure (~61,000 square feet) will create work spaces at accessible rental rates for approximately 100 businesses, including light-industrial, administrative, artisanal, maker and creative enterprises. This building also will become a public space for various community functions.
The first phase also includes developing the necessary road, sewer, storm-water management, landscaping and pedestrian-oriented infrastructure — including a spur to the future Atlanta BeltLine and additional access points to and from the Pittsburgh neighborhood — across about 15 acres of the site. This infrastructure will serve three adaptable pad-ready sites for future businesses interested in establishing in Pittsburgh Yards. A large, natural-turf green space will also be created, along with a business-centric area that features repurposed shipping containers for work spaces and storefronts.
The development team enlisted local Atlanta firm Stevens & Wilkinson for architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing design. From the initial schematic designs through the present blueprints, the building plans have been influenced and guided by the development team’s desire to meet the project objectives and by community member interaction and feedback. Functionality, flexibility, accessibility and affordability of space have been key drivers contributing to design decisions. The construction plans will be finalized in the first quarter of 2018. However, community members will continue to be involved in the planning, implementation and exhibition of art, history, furniture and other important finishing touches.
The first phase of redevelopment is anticipated to cost approximately $26 million.
The existing public art/sculptures along University Avenue at the perimeter of the Pittsburgh Yards development had to be moved for sidewalk and infrastructure improvements. This necessary art relocation has been a consistent discussion topic during several of the past monthly community engagement meetings, as well as a focus for a community working group, as the art was originally created through community leadership and guidance. The stand-alone four sculptures (pyramid, egg, 3D cube, multicolored layered rings) are temporarily stored at Pittsburgh Yards outside of the construction area. Community members proposed a permanent relocation site for the four sculptures to Pittman Park. The Foundation has consulted with City of Atlanta Parks and Recreation Department and office of City Council Member Sheperd on the relocation. An artwork donation application has been filed and pending anticipated approval. This process may take 90 to 120 days. At the time of relocation and reinstallation, the Foundation will have the sculptures refurbished and repainted by the primary original artist.
Each sculpture weighs several hundred pounds and due to incline elevation of the large egg it was forced to be removed with heavy machinery to place it on level ground. The sculpture had to be strapped to a mechanical extension arm for moving and as the equipment operator adjusted the arm to support the sculpture base the piece was damaged. The original artist has agreed to repair the damaged sculpture when it is permanently reinstalled.
The three, larger fence art installations at Pittsburgh Yards were held together by cinder block backing. Several contractors and structural engineers were consulted on the removal of these pieces, and they advised that they were not able to be successfully moved without damaging the work. After discussions regarding several alternatives, the Foundation commissioned the original artist to redo the pieces using a much lighter weight material in a picture framed format. The new creations will be placed within the Pittsburgh Yards project at the end of construction and will be 3 feet x 6 feet.
The development team and community members collaborated to create the evaluation criteria for ground lease tenants.