January 11, 2021 Jarred Schenke, Bisnow Atlanta
Microsoft is laying the groundwork to bring thousands more workers to Atlanta with a series of real estate plays that could result in it being one of the area’s largest employers.
A Microsoft sign like this will likely go up around Atlanta as the company announced Thursday plans for massive expansion in the metro area.
The tech giant has acquired 90 acres next to the Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry, including the large parcel where former baseball star Mark Teixeira once planned a mixed-use development. Microsoft has told a select group of state and city officials that it plans to develop a corporate campus on the site, which would eventually host up to 15,000 workers, sources familiar with the calls tell Bisnow.
Microsoft ultimately plans to develop a corporate campus over a 10-year period, but its ambitions are grander than a cluster of office buildings. The plans call for a host of other developments on the property, including affordable housing and other mixed-use elements, sources familiar with Microsoft’s presentation told Bisnow.
Officially, Microsoft officials have been silent on their intentions for the land. Jeffrey Brown, the company’s real estate portfolio manager in Atlanta, declined to comment when reached by phone.
T. Dallas Smith, the founder of his own commercial real estate brokerage firm in Atlanta, has been representing Microsoft locally. He declined to comment on details of Microsoft’s plans for the Westside site, but he did tell Bisnow that Microsoft planned to become integral to the Atlanta community over time.
“Their attitude is not that of your typical corporation,” Smith said. “They will really be a part of the community.”
Microsoft has been gradually building its presence in Metro Atlanta over the past decade.
In 2016, it moved its local office in North Fulton County to a 43K SF office at 8000 Avalon in Alpharetta. Last year, Microsoft announced it will fill Hines’ Atlantic Yards development at Atlantic Station, leasing the two-building, 523K SF project and creating 1,500 new high-tech jobs.
Last month, Microsoft purchased land in South Fulton County at a development known as Shugart Farms to develop a more than 200K SF data center for its Azure division. Most recently, Microsoft acquired 20 acres contiguous to the Bellwood Quarry site for $22.5M that gives it a total of 90 acres in Westside Atlanta.
If Microsoft ends up employing 15,000 people in Metro Atlanta, it would rank among the 10 largest employers in Metro Atlanta, ahead of UPS and on par with AT&T. The metro area’s largest employer is Delta Air Lines, with 34,500 employees, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
The Bellwood Quarry at Westside Reservoir Park, part of the parcel being turned into a massive city park, spurring development around its perimeter.
“I think we’re all excited to hear from them about what’s planned when they’re ready to talk,” Midtown Alliance CEO Kevin Green said. “What we’ve seen would be huge moves for any city. But coming to Atlanta and coming in the middle of a global pandemic, just adds more exclamation points.”
Green said he has not been made privy to Microsoft’s plans. But given the amount of land the tech giant has acquired in Midtown, he said it signals a big increase in hiring.
“I don’t know why else you acquire 90 contiguous acres. That’s a lot of tundra to work with,” he said. “It could have a huge impact.”
Windsor Stevens partner Rod Mullice, whose firm is building a condominium community near the Microsoft site, said the tech giant’s move is part of a larger trend that can be credited to Atlanta’s higher education system.
“The low cost of housing and ample supply of engineering talent from Georgia Tech, Morehouse, Spellman and Kennesaw State is a natural attraction to all of the multinational technology firms whose real product is talented young engineers,” Mullice said.
“Going back to Dennis Hayes and the Hayes modem and Scientific Atlanta and Turner Broadcasting, Atlanta has always had a prominent role in commercializing technology,” Mullice added. “This is Atlanta taking its rightful spot in the Third Industrial Revolution, or the Digital Revolution, as we move inside deeper into the 21st century.”