Revision 3: The Medical Arts Building

The Medical Arts Building: The Cure for what Ails Atlanta.

What happens to a building when it becomes obsolete? When they are no longer economically viable? In Atlanta, most are torn down and thrown in the garbage. But what if it’s a sacred cow? What do you do then? It’s too expensive to restore it and you would be tarred and feathered if you tried to tear it down. So what’s a developer to do when their between a rock and a hard place?


The urbanists shriek, and the preservationists fall prostrate with shock and indignation, but here’s the cold, hard truth: this is all the building is currently good for. Given the hostility from the urbanists and historicists to any proposal that alters the exterior, it’s the only solution that can be implemented. The Medical Arts Building is decrepit and falling down. Given it’s current state, it is ECONOMICALLY UNFEASIBLE to restore it, if traditional uses, and the expected financial returns are considered. The equation is unbalanced.  In other words, it’s useless. Except, apparently, as a billboard, or rather, a “building-board”.

The revision|CLOUD thinks that the solution is very simple: change the variables. Think of new uses, and new revenue streams.

Up until now, all the proposed renovations always focused on uses other than it’s intended use: office space. There have been proposals for hotels, lofts, and the like. With a projected rehabilitation cost of $16 Million, any traditional use cannot provide the adequate return to justify the investment. The cash flows just do not work. We feel that a rehabilitation and expansion of the building must focus on the addition of revenue-generating components that will offset the initial cost to restore the building. Given the current economic conditions, financing of any kind will be difficult, and providing alternative cash flows would be essential in getting the project off the ground.

After the Great Recession|what happens next?

We think that a rehabilitation of the Medical Arts Building can be the first step in the rehabilitation of Atlanta’s real estate market. It can be part of the “cure” for Atlanta’s current economic malaise.

You ask, of course, “Is Atlanta sick?” Well, yes, in a way. The current economic conditions have given Atlanta a 1-2 punch- she’s down, but not out. Real estate development of Class A office space and single-family residential property has driven the economic, population, and business growth in Atlanta since the post-war era of the early 1950′s. As a result of the Great Recession,  those trends will not continue.  What’s a city to do? What areas of growth and expansion can the energy  of the city be directed? How can Atlanta create a new, sustainable economy; one that is not dependent on the most volitile sectors of our economy?

One of the few positive results of a recession is the creation of small businesses. For some dreamers and visionaries, being laid-off is the genesis of their own business. All of these small businesses need a place to conduct business. In most cases, small businesses operate out of a back bedroom, a coffee shop, or from a dining room table. The cost of setting up an office as an up-start is cost-prohibitive-especially given the current malaise of the venture capital markets. With the technological and operational requirements of today’s office environment, small start-ups can’t afford office space. In addition, the majority of office space available in Atlanta is Class A space- think of Suntrust Plaza. There is no substantial inventory of lower-rent office space. What start-up company can even think of affording that? These start-ups will drive the economic growth in the near future, and as such they are the most important segment of the economy. A space must be provided that supports, houses, and nuture’s these newly-formed companies.

The Proposal

The revision|CLOUD proposes to convert the Medical Arts Building into a small-business incubator project with office space, and shared office services. Office space would return the building to its original use, and provide badly-needed low-rent, high exposure space for small businesses. Previous pricing estimates suggested that a full renovation would be about $16 Million. In an effort to make the economics balance and provide the lowest rent possible, many income-generating components will be included in the revision. They include:

Solar power generation: The goal of including solar power generation is to integrate cash flow opportunities that would reduce the operational costs of the project. The solar power array would be sized for the building only- we do not propose selling power back to the grid.

Advertising space: With some of the best exposure in the city, we do not ignore the potential financial benefits of integrating advertising into the project; albeit in a more poetic manner that what has been done in the past. This is the part that will make the preservationists go crazy!

Facade easement preservation: This provides tax credits that will help to reduce the tax burden on the developer, while balancing historic preservation. We propose to only restore and sell the easements on the front of the building.

We are adding to the project a shared office component, complete with conference and meeting rooms, breakout areas, central shipping & receiving, central copy center, and a shared office support staff- all of the things start-ups would love to have, but can’t afford. The hope is that the costs of the shared services can be substantially reduced by the consolidation of companies in a central location. Being that the project is downtown, we are also being a good urban neighbor, and including retail and other civic uses in the project.

Site Strategy

The historic building is aligned in an east/west orientation, providing the ideal orientation for sustainable solar power energy generation. Also, the thinness of the floor plates allow for cross ventilation of the spaces, and positions all building occupants and office suites with access to natural daylighting. This alignment and massing provides a perfect opportunity for passive ventilation (in the appropriate seasons), a reduction in power usage, and the ideal environment for power generation.

To the north of the existing building, we are proposing to rehabilitate the existing parking structure. Close proximity to the Civic Center MARTA station will allow us to not have to build more additional parking on site. To the south of the existing structure we’re adding the shared office functions, retail, and a curb farmers market. THis market will provide a location within the new neighborhoods of Centennial Hill and SoNo a community gathering place and a source of local produce and products.

One Big Move|bubble wrap for the building

Our One Big Move for this revision is to create a new skin for the existing structure- one that would provide support and structure for the new components we are adding, as well as for the existing building. The building’s facade is structurally unsound, and the rehabilitation of it is a main component in the cost, and a large part as to why previous proposals have been unfeasible. We are planning to leave the building’s facade as-is and provide new support from the exterior. In effect, we are wrapping the building in a protective shell, or “bubble wrap”.

An additional goal of the revision was to allow for the building to generate power and collect water in an effort to integrate sustainable strategies in a substantive way in order to “advertise” their benefits and value to the business community at large. The building, in effect, becomes a large “billboard” advertising the benefits of building and designing sustainably.

Layer 1| The “Bubbles”: Photovoltaic power cells in a fish-scale pattern. These panels (4′x7′) are operable and track the optimal solar alignment throughout the year. The goal of the power production aspect of the project is to support the building, not produce excess power. As such, the number of photovoltaic panels can change based on final energy calculations and projected requirements. This allows for a pattern of openings to be integrated into the South wall- allowing views of the protected building, as well as views from the building. As the new skin wraps over the building, the panels become inverted on the north side. This provides a location for a water collection system that will allow for grey water to be used throughout the building, reducing the resources needed. An additional use of the panels- predominatly on the north side- is as a projection screen. The panels, which can be solid or perforated, can be used at night as advertising space.

Layer 2| The Raceways: The raceways on the back of the individual panels tie them together into an integrated system, allowing for synchronized movement and adjustment. They provide lateral bracing, as well as locations for the necessary cabling and plumbing infrastructure.

Layer 3| The Screen: The perforated metal screen provides a barrier to animals, and acts as a thermal chimney at the facade, creating cooling effect at the exterior of the building. This will reduce the cooling loads on the building’s mechanical systems.

Layer 4| The Structure: The structure of the new skin operates in both directions: providing support and structure for the new skin while bracing the existing one. It provides a scaffold for the panels and other layers to operate as a single system.

the revision|CLOUD’s proposal:


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2 Responses to “Revision 3: The Medical Arts Building”
  1. Alex Muñoz says:

    Nice meeting you last week at Brenden’s soiree.
    Funny about this building; when I was a kid this was where one of our doctors was! It’s also a hop, skip and a jump away from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart – it’d be AWESOME to get this property active again!
    Great blog!

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