Development of State Farm’s new $1 billion, 2.2 million-square-foot Dunwoody campus is well underway and will trigger a significant change to that area. It will create a ‘Midtown-like’ atmosphere and a need to expand mass transit.
We at Assurance Financial had a good view of the first, 19-story building that rose above the tree-line outside our Dunwoody office. It’s an attractive building, and alone, looks huge. Now that it’s up, I can start to imagine how big this development will be as developer KDC plans to start construction this year on a 21-story and another 19-story building to be completed in 2019 and 2020.
The campus will eventually house 8,000 State Farm employees in addition to employees working in space that the company will lease out. The campus is more than an office building. The first floors will eventually house 100,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and entertainment, and there will be a 175-room hotel on site. This next phase also includes a walkway over Hammond Drive connecting the campus to the Dunwoody MARTA station.
The campus is a major investment by State Farm. And if you look on their website, they believe having a campus like this will be critical in securing the workforce they’ll need over the next several decades. Corporations today are looking ahead at a workforce that will consist of mostly millennials. And those corporations are betting heavily right now on creating work environments that will be attractive to tomorrow’s workforce. These environments include walkable, urban environments with easy access to public transportation.
State Farm is marketing those features to potential employees on its website, selling Atlanta as an “exciting metropolitan area that successfully combines Southern hospitality with cutting-edge innovation.” And specifically referring to its new campus: “Atlanta-based employees are within walking distance to shopping, dining, day care, public transportation, and recreation.”
In actuality, if long-range plans for the area are carried out, State Farm is underselling the urban environment. Dunwoody already approved a $20-million bond that will create a connector road behind the campus that will give motorists a dedicated exit off 285 to the campus.
The road will also give another road-front behind the campus and to the old Goldkist headquarters site next door, where a developer has already proposed building two high-rise office towers, two high-rise residential towers, a hotel and a conference center. Other high rises have been proposed across Hammond Drive surrounding the Dunwoody MARTA station.
Because of this desire for public transportation, properties surrounding MARTA stations have become similar to ocean-front properties. But instead of selling the view, property owners are selling the short-walking distance to mass transit. This is important because adding this many new daytime and nighttime people to the area will stress transit infrastructure.
Local officials are looking at ways to quickly expand mass transit so that riders don’t even have to drive to the MARTA stations to park. Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul announced in his State of the City address this year his desire to build a light-rail system.
He didn’t announce any specific plans, but there has been talk of an east-west line running along Abernathy Road/Perimeter Center from Dunwoody, through Sandy Springs and possibly out to the new Braves Suntrust Park/Battery development.
He said he was inspired by his recent trip to Dallas, Texas, a city that consistently competes with Atlanta for corporate relocations.
“We’ve got to sell our partners on this large vision,” he was quoted as saying. “If we don’t do something now…we are consigning the metropolitan area to second-rate status in the second half of the 21st Century.”