Colony Square: Gathering Place

Ahead of its time, an Atlanta icon is updated for today’s urbanites.

By: Jeffrey Steele

More than half a century ago, a young developer and visionary named Jim Cushman pushed a stake into the soil at the intersection of 14th and Peachtree Streets in Midtown Atlanta. “When Atlanta becomes a real city,” he announced, “it will happen here.” 

Contractors would go on to forge at the site the Southeast’s very first mixed-use destination, and the biggest construction project in the history of Atlanta. The result was Colony Square, a self-contained “micropolis” hatched three decades ahead of its time. 

Serving as a kind of garrison safeguarding guests from Midtown’s then-chancy byways, Colony Square offered a pair of office buildings united by an enclosed shopping mall, a hotel and a residential element. Over the decades, Midtown grew skyward, evolved a hip and happening vibe, and lured a resident cohort of urbane sophisticates. Colony Square became a relic of the Me Decade, as dusty as a box of cassette tapes in your grandpa’s attic. 

Spotting a chance to create “Midtown’s Living and Dining Room,” North American Properties (NAP) acquired the property in 2015, and set about producing an open-air, service-focused social center to serve as the center of gravity the enclave sorely lacked.

Easy access

Under the stewardship of NAP and managing partner Mark Toro, work proceeded while day-to-day operations of Colony Square continued. The formerly enclosed, once-insulated shopping mall was eliminated. Because stores and eateries no longer had to be tucked away behind barriers, they were moved nearer the street.

The existing office towers were reinvigorated, and joined by a pair of new Class A office-over-retail buildings. Multiple community gathering spots were unveiled, from which visitors can now conveniently step to more than 20 eateries and stores. 

Doors swung open on a 20,000-square-foot food hall with 11 purveyors. There’s also a central bar, fully equipped event space, a hidden outdoor patio. The other elements of the redevelopment include a nine-screen IPIC theater, Trust Bank branch, Primrose School of Midtown, a functional helipad that hosts a dozen exclusive annual events, dedicated rideshare zone and 24/7 onsite security. Not included in the redevelopment of Colony Square is a hospitality component, the 466-key Curio Collection by Hilton hotel.

The mixed-use development also set a new standard in technological advancement, boasting a single content management system controlling more than 45 unique digital assets. Among them are interactive and non-interactive digital kiosks and LCDs, as well as Colony Square’s enormous LED display and 18 elevator cab touch-screen displays.

The project reached completion in July 2021, when the wraps were taken off the food hall, known as Politan Row at Colony Square. The 20,000-square-foot food hall showcases some of Atlanta’s finest locally trained culinary talent.

A more than 10,000-square-foot, central open-air green space, the Plaza, links visitors to all Colony Square offers. It’s a Midtown gathering space and an activation area for Colony Square’s events, serving up an indoor-outdoor performance stage, soft seating, large-format LED display, interactive 3D mapping and digital art experience, as well as direct access to Politan Row.

The Details:

  • Covers 7.1 acres
  • Completed over four years at a cost of $400 million
  • Incorporates almost 1 million square feet of Class A office space, including two new office buildings
  • Has 160,000 square feet of best-in-class shopping, dining and entertainment, including a new IPIC movie theater; 40,000 square feet of open-air green space; and 262 upscale residences
  • Showcases Atlanta’s locally trained culinary talent in a 20,000-square-foot food hall known as Politan Row at Colony Square
  • Improved public realm and animated pedestrian experience inspires average dwell time of more than 3.5 hours

Pandemic pivot

Because the redevelopment debuted during the COVID-19 pandemic, NAP installed UVC lighting technology to destroy airborne bio-contaminants in the air filtration system. Escalators whisking visitors from the parking deck to street level offer built-in UV hand sanitizing protection. At a time when doubts about being out and about linger among many Americans, Colony Square has outstripped rivals in luring folks back. Its physical utilization is 80 percent compared with a 48 percent market average.

One of its drawing cards is an arts focus. Midtown Atlanta houses the Southeast region’s greatest concentration of arts and cultural venues. That recognition in turn has helped inspire some of the most popular programming at Colony Square. Living up to its tagline “The Art of Modern Life,” it features a rotating art program that has spotlighted hundreds of local artists’ works. Among them is a 2,900-square-foot mural of Aurora on permanent display at the main entrance, crafted by four local female artists. In addition, Colony Square stages more than 200 events each year, most featuring philanthropic elements that raise an average $25,000 for Atlanta-area nonprofit organizations yearly. 

In short, the redevelopment of Colony Square has morphed a bleak and detached block into a socially-engaging magnet that attracts an average 100,000 visitors per month.

“At the onset of the project, we really focused on filling the experience gap and generating a space where people from all walks of life would feel comfortable converging,” says Tim Perry, managing partner for NAP Atlanta. 

“The end result has been nothing short of astounding, and we are eternally grateful to the Midtown community for its unwavering support of Colony Square.”

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Colony Square in Pictures

The 10,000-square-foot plaza draws crowds for a wide range of activities and fundraising events.
Crowd in plaza outside Colony Square during Pride

© North American Properties

Crowd yoga in plaza outside Colony Square

© North American Properties

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