Atlanta’s Pittsburgh Yards Opens With Community Celebration

Posted September 24, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog pittsburghyardsopens 2021

Dozens of peo­ple, includ­ing chil­dren, fam­i­lies and civic lead­ers, came out on Sept. 18 to cel­e­brate the open­ing of Pitts­burgh Yards® — a com­mu­ni­ty-dri­ven devel­op­ment in South­west Atlanta focused on entre­pre­neur­ship. The Casey-fund­ed project is designed to be a com­mer­cial anchor with liv­ing-wage jobs that gen­er­ates pos­i­tive change for res­i­dents in the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Neigh­bor­hood Plan­ning Unit V (NPU‑V).

The cel­e­bra­tion, planned and exe­cut­ed by com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and entre­pre­neurs, includ­ed a mar­ket­place with local busi­ness­es, enter­tain­ers, fam­i­ly activ­i­ties, free children’s books and tours.

First Phase Complete

The now-com­plete first phase of rede­vel­op­ment at Pitts­burgh Yards focused on a major ren­o­va­tion of a 61,000-square-foot for­mer truck­ing ter­mi­nal. The struc­ture, for­mal­ly named The Nia Build­ing™ by a res­i­dent-led nam­ing process, has been fit­ted with 101 leasable work­spaces, con­fer­ence spaces, an amphithe­ater and five apart­ment units. It will also house a shared-use kitchen and market.

I’m excit­ed about all the progress being made at Pitts­burgh Yards,” says Stephanie Flow­ers, pres­i­dent of Neigh­bor­hood Plan­ning Unit V. Start­up and grow­ing entre­pre­neurs now have a great space to cul­ti­vate their busi­ness­es, and local res­i­dents have a new place to gath­er and be in fel­low­ship. This cel­e­bra­tion hon­ored the strength of our com­mu­ni­ty and the promise that Pitts­burgh Yards holds for the future.”

In addi­tion to The Nia Build­ing, the first phase of rede­vel­op­ment includes an out­door site for repur­posed ship­ping con­tain­ers that can become work­spaces and store­fronts, as well as a large green space, known as James Bridges Field. This phase also includes five pieces of land pre­pared with infra­struc­ture for larg­er ground-lease ten­ants in future buildings.

Res­i­dents Shape Key Facets of Pitts­burgh Yards

From its incep­tion, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers have played a key role in shap­ing Pitts­burgh Yards. The devel­op­ment team, head­ed by Colum­bia Core Part­ners (CCP), led month­ly engage­ment meet­ings, focus groups and oth­er vol­un­teer oppor­tu­ni­ties to solic­it res­i­dent input at every stage of the project.

As a result, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers part­nered with a local design firm, HUMINT, to devel­op a col­lec­tion of col­or palettes, taglines and logos for Pitts­burgh Yards’ mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als; helped iden­ti­fy local artists and crafts­peo­ple to exe­cute mul­ti­ple projects; devel­oped a set of cri­te­ria for use of the pub­lic green space; and named sev­er­al build­ing spaces and streets.

Pitts­burgh Yards is dif­fer­ent than a typ­i­cal cap­i­tal­is­tic real estate devel­op­ment project,” says Ryan Akin, devel­op­ment man­ag­er for Colum­bia Ven­tures, an Atlanta-based real estate devel­op­ment com­pa­ny that com­pris­es half of the CCP team. Get­ting to this point has involved authen­tic, mean­ing­ful par­tic­i­pa­tion from res­i­dents. The mis­sion of the project to serve the local com­mu­ni­ty has been just as inte­gral to every step of the jour­ney as it has been to the desired destination.”

For James Har­ris, cofounder of The Core Ven­ture Stu­dio (Core Ven­tures), the oth­er half of CCP, the rede­vel­op­ment process was per­son­al. In some ways, I was sort of born for this project,” says Har­ris, who lives near Pitts­burgh Yards. The for­mer leader of a neigh­bor­hood asso­ci­a­tion, Har­ris and his Core Ven­tures col­leagues spear­head­ed much of the com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment work.

The com­mu­ni­ty embraced the idea that this project would be an addi­tion to, and an invest­ment in, the his­toric Pitts­burgh neigh­bor­hood,” he says. Our goal was to empow­er them with a deep under­stand­ing of real estate devel­op­ment knowl­edge and pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties to plug into the process.”

Sup­port­ing Black Entre­pre­neurs at Pitts­burgh Yards

A diverse group of entre­pre­neurs has already begun leas­ing space at Pitts­burgh Yards, includ­ing those with busi­ness­es focused on well­ness and fit­ness, finance and tax con­sult­ing, real­ty, youth devel­op­ment, e‑commerce and photography.

In keep­ing with the goals of Pitts­burgh Yards, which include ensur­ing that the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods real­ize the great­est ben­e­fits pos­si­ble from its con­struc­tion, res­i­dents of NPU‑V were giv­en pri­or­i­ty access to the cowork­ing mem­ber­ships and work­space leases.

Our devel­op­ment part­ners took impor­tant steps to make sure local entre­pre­neurs could be first in line at Pitts­burgh Yards,” says Kweku Forstall, direc­tor of the Casey Foundation’s Atlanta Civic Site, which serves as pri­ma­ry investor and advi­sor on the project. The team sent mail­ers, held meet­ings and tar­get­ed out­reach to Black busi­ness own­ers in South­west Atlanta so they knew about the ameni­ties, pric­ing and sup­port that was avail­able to them.”

Mary Gay, chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Vir­tu­al Pro­fes­sion­als LLC, was the first busi­ness own­er to lease space in The Nia Build­ing. She’s lived in near­by Sum­mer­hill for 23 years and pre­vi­ous­ly ran a staffing agency from her home.

I’ve been engaged with Pitts­burgh Yards since the start,” says Gay. I went to every meet­ing, and I vol­un­teered for every­thing, because I saw the vision and what this space can do for our com­mu­ni­ty.” Though she’d suc­cess­ful­ly oper­at­ed from home for 20 years, Gay felt com­pelled to open a phys­i­cal office to pro­vide ser­vices to res­i­dents who may not oth­er­wise have job-place­ment sup­port. There are a lot of folks who are try­ing real­ly hard to make a bet­ter life for them­selves and their fam­i­lies, and I believe I have a role to play in prepar­ing them to take advan­tage of the oppor­tu­ni­ties that exist at Pitts­burgh Yards.”

Local non­prof­it Our Vil­lage Unit­ed has part­nered with Pitts­burgh Yards to pro­vide train­ing, busi­ness solu­tions and sup­port — includ­ing month­ly events, work­shops, men­tor­ing and well­ness resources — to cur­rent and future entre­pre­neurs to help them strength­en and grow their enter­pris­es. The orga­ni­za­tion says its mis­sion is not only help­ing busi­ness­es sur­vive but also help­ing entre­pre­neurs thrive and pro­vid­ing busi­ness own­ers with tools to achieve their high­est potential.

At the time of the cel­e­bra­tion, 60% of the avail­able leas­es with­in The Nia Build­ing had been exe­cut­ed, includ­ing 62 work­space agree­ments and 75 cowork­ing mem­ber­ships — an impres­sive feat giv­en the dev­as­tat­ing effects of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic on small busi­ness­es. The team antic­i­pates that these num­bers will fluc­tu­ate with local and nation­al recov­ery efforts.

Col­liers Inter­na­tion­al, the prop­er­ty man­age­ment firm at Pitts­burgh Yards, is con­tin­u­ing to engage with busi­ness own­ers inter­est­ed in leas­ing space. Pri­vate tours are offered every Thurs­day between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Inter­est­ed par­ties may sign up online to reserve a spot.

Look­ing Ahead at Pitts­burgh Yards

The first seg­ment of the Atlanta BeltLine’s South­side Trail recent­ly opened at Pitts­burgh Yards. This one-mile stretch runs from the south­ern ter­mi­nus of the West­side Trail at Uni­ver­si­ty Avenue to Pitts­burgh Yards, just west of the I‑75/I‑85 over­pass, and con­nects with three oth­er open and emerg­ing job cen­ters: Mur­phy Cross­ing, the Met and Lee + White. It’s antic­i­pat­ed that the new addi­tion will bring more patrons to Pitts­burgh Yards and enable greater access to res­i­dents in near­by communities.

Approx­i­mate­ly 16 acres remain avail­able for future devel­op­ment at Pitts­burgh Yards, in addi­tion to the five build­ing-ready sites cre­at­ed in this first phase. A mar­ket study will be con­duct­ed to deter­mine effec­tive uses of this land and inform plans for development.

There’s a role for every­one to play in ful­ly real­iz­ing the vision of Pitts­burgh Yards,” says Forstall. We need more investors to bring the next phas­es of con­struc­tion to life. We need our local dream­ers and doers to bring their tal­ents to The Nia Build­ing. And, we need com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers to sup­port these enter­pris­es and patron­ize the fan­tas­tic busi­ness­es that call Pitts­burgh Yards home.”


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