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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cox to donate old AJC building, property to city

Cox Enterprises, the parent company of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will hand Mayor Kasim Reed the keys today to the newspaper's former headquarters that now sits empty at 72 Marietta Street.

The mayor is expected to make a formal announcement at 10 a.m. at a City Hall press conference, the details of which have been kept under wraps.

The city has big plans for the 475,000-square-foot building, which county records list as worth $22 million (but which is likely worth twice that amount). City officials declined to elaborate on the deal when contacted by CL last night, but the AJC today says the mayor plans to "put police and fire training academies in the buildings, use the auditorium for public meetings, create a gallery space that formerly was at City Hall East, and use warehouse and parking space."

Another idea we've heard is the city could then rent space to or even transfer the building, either through innovative financing or outright donation, to Georgia State University, which would use the space for offices and classrooms — perhaps for the school's college of journalism.

If things go according to plan, it'd be a major boost for downtown, the city and — if GSU gets to play a role — the one-time commuter school that's now become one of the area's biggest boosters. Plus, Cox gets the property off its tax rolls just before the end of the year. Everybody's happy, eh? (Yes, one could argue that a government building, which doesn't generate property tax revenue, in a prime location isn't a good move. You could also argue that bringing large numbers of people to downtown helps businesses, security, and the general area.)

The Five Points area near the 1972 building lost a major tenant when the daily paper vacated the building in April and moved operations to Dunwoody. Georgia State University — which has made major efforts to expand its downtown footprint over the last 15 years — would add prestigious real estate to its portfolio. Earlier this year the school purchased two hotels for student housing.

Last we heard, the city also owned the abandoned and dilapidated Alabama Street building that once housed the offices of the Atlanta Constitution and Georgia Power. Once complete, the deal would mean the city would control two key parcels of property near the long-planned downtown train terminal.

The property is really three buildings in one: a 180,000-square-foot, nine-story tower that housed the newsroom and AJC offices; a sizable warehouse with 30-foot ceilings; and, on the south end, the building that still contains the old AJC press. At three stories tall and 100 yards long, the press is like a ship in a bottle — the building was built around it.

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