ATLANTA—As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Atlanta Olympics—and Centennial Olympic Park—I reached out to a developer that’s played a significant role to spur economic development in Downtown Atlanta. David Marvin, founder of Legacy Ventures, has also helped to create a true sense of place for residents and visitors.
Twenty years ago, Marvin was developing commercial real estate in California and saw the potential to create an entertainment district similar to the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego. Since then, Legacy has developed projects including the Embassy Suites, condos on Centennial Olympic Park West, the Hilton Garden Inn, the Glenn Hotel and a series of restaurants along Marietta Street.
GlobeSt.com: What has been the biggest change in Downtown Atlanta since the Olympics?
Marvin: In a word, investment. Billions of dollars in assets and attractions have been invested downtown during the last 20 years, particularly around Centennial Olympic Park.
The Olympics laid the ground work by replacing 21 acres of blight with a large urban park that is well located next to important venues. Infrastructure was ungraded, and residential conversions of old industrial buildings for Olympic period uses went on to attract thousands of permanent new residents.
GlobeSt.com: You were previously based in California. What brought you to Atlanta?
Marvin: The Olympics. My firm was involved in sports marketing as well as real estate.
Being involved in sports marketing made us aware of the potential benefits that hosting the Olympics could inure to the area. Being from out of town made us unaware of the truth that everyone else apparently knew. Namely, that downtown had no potential.
GlobeSt.com: What role did you—and Legacy—play in the economic development downtown and with the Central Park District?
Martin: We were the first to develop around Centennial Olympic Park with our $45 million Embassy Suites Hotel. This project was considered pioneering as Atlanta’s first downtown hotel development in 15 years. Our location on the west side of downtown was considered inferior to a Peachtree Street address.
In the end, we succeeded with the Embassy Suites and have gone on within the area around the park to develop three other hotels, a 100-unit condominium project, 100,000 square feet of retail, a helipad and significant parking facilities. We also organized a coalition among the businesses and attractions that surround Centennial Olympic Park to promote the area, known as the Centennial Park District.
GlobeSt.com: How has the development evolved?
Marvin: Twenty years after Atlanta hosted the Olympic Games, the evolution of Atlanta’s Centennial Park Area is gaining speed. While we expect to see more hotel restaurant and attraction development in the District, the most important progress is coming in the form of new residential and retail. These uses will help balance the neighborhood. What has been accomplished in the last 10 years will be eclipsed by the progress of our next 10 years.
GlobeSt.com: Are there any specific districts or developments in other cities that inspired the Central Park District? What about those districts and developments stood out to you?
Marvin: We wanted to emulate the success of San Diego’s Gaslamp District. Our districts are roughly the same size. Both incorporate several of their cities’ most important venues and amenities. The Gaslamp District had become a well-known destination, sought after by visitors and providing a halo effect for its assets and businesses.