The Midtown Atlanta Technology Boom

May 02, 2022

When I moved to Atlanta in 2007, Midtown felt more like somewhere you drove through to get from Downtown to Buckhead than it did a bustling tech hub and the city’s fastest growing and highest-priced office market. Times change quickly however, and 15 years is a millennium in the real estate world.

The technology and growth trend seemed to begin with the completion of Georgia Tech’s Technology Square at the corner of West Peachtree and 5th Street. Taking over what was once a stretch of parking lots and disused industrial buildings, Tech Square grew to become the home of Tech’s business school, a hotel and conference center, a state-of-the-art computing center with an attached data center, and a start-up incubator. These changes prompted interest in the surrounding area by technology-focused firms looking to capitalize on talent coming out of the region’s colleges and universities, and the area around Tech Square became their initial focus point. Cisco, Invesco, and Autodesk have all opened research offices in the Tech Square complex. We have since seen global brands such as NCR Corp., Anthem, and Norfolk Southern move their headquarters or technology departments to within a few blocks of the area.

We are also starting to see additional moves to the greater Midtown market, with firms like Google, Visa, Airbnb, Facebook, BlackRock, and Microsoft opening regional offices. Google has just taken 500,000 square feet of a new office building on 12th Street, and Microsoft has opened a new 524,000 square foot engineering and cloud computing center in Atlantic Station. That building, which is now being marketed for sale, is set to achieve the highest price per foot in Atlanta history. Microsoft is also planning to take its expansion one step further and plans to open a new 90-acre campus in Westside Atlanta in the coming years. Once complete, the campus would be the largest Microsoft office outside of Seattle.

The influx of these major technology groups has also led to an increase in start-up companies in the area. Since 2010, there have been 1,286 new start-ups founded in Atlanta, with 275 of these companies founded in or after 2020. These companies will provide another cylinder in Atlanta’s growth engine and will help to inspire the next generation of this city’s entrepreneurs. These companies also seem to be doing quite well, with 12 different Atlanta start-ups having achieved ‘unicorn’ status or valuations of greater than $1 billion. As these companies grow and mature, they will help bring in additional capital from outside our region both through their funding rounds or through sales to outside groups.

These changes show what one transformative project coupled with a long-term vision can accomplish. Of course, they have occurred in a relatively short period, and it is impossible to tell if these trends will continue, but I hope they are long-lasting. I am looking forward to seeing what will happen in the next 15 years.

Carey S. Blakley, CFA