Childress Klein Properties Exec Gives Tip of the Cap to New Neighbors in Cobb County: The Atlanta Braves
Friday, December 12th, 2014
Cobb County commercial real estate executive, Connie Engel, just may be the Atlanta Braves’ most ardent fan. In addition to her Braves baseball cap, she sports two other hats: Partner at Childress Klein, the Atlanta Galleria Office Park’s property management group; and Board Member for the Cumberland Community Improvement District (CCID). Engel relates that these two integral entities are very excited to welcome, support and partner with the $1 billion investment of their new neighbor, the Braves’ SunTrust Park and its adjoining, pedestrian-friendly urban development.
In fact, on September 17, Mike Plant, the Braves’ Executive Vice President of Operations, together with the “Braves Around Town Team,” visited the office park located in the so-called “Platinum Triangle” of the county near the juncture of I-285 and I-75. At this ice cream social gathering where Plant outlined the team’s goals and concepts, enthusiasm immediately became contagious among the Atlanta Galleria property management group, its 129 tenants and the 6,000 employees who work there. Tentative plans are already in the works for corporate outings, shuttle busses for clients, tenant-only parking for games, traffic facilitation and season’s tickets offerings.
Having successfully leased offices for 28 years at the 2.5 million square feet of space contained in five of the six “Class A” towers of Atlanta Galleria Office Park, Engel practically knows every tenant on a first name basis. She finds it very fulfilling to partner with her business clients, putting people into a wonderful environment, and assessing their ongoing needs as companies expand or require special needs.
Engel states that she has already noticed a distinct change in attitude by both new and long-time lessees. Several tenants, including The Georgian Club, have done a literal about-face. They now prefer moving to, or expanding, the offices fronting the interstate, in order to overlook the new ballpark on the other side of I-285, vis-a-vis the traditionally popular view of the Atlanta city skyline to the south.
From her perspective as a board member of the CCID, Engel adds, “The Braves’ economic impact will enliven the marketplace and they’ll be a wonderful neighbor.” Conversely, the CCID has committed $10 million toward infrastructure use by Cobb County for the development’s streetscapes and access to transportation.
Engel explains that the overall mission of the CCID is to collect funds from commercial business owners in the district for the purpose of enhancing property values. Since forming in 1988, the CCID membership has invested $100 million into roads, transit and commuter services with an ROI of half a billion dollars. For example, convenient walking trails, beautification projects and traffic improvements, such as the nearby Kennedy Interchange, have been accomplished over the past several years in cooperation with federal, state and county governments.
While it’s a challenge to keep up with the Braves’ juggernaut and to complement each other’s plans, the CCID is working closely with Plant, and, in some ways, has actually been ahead of the curve. For example, it had previously committed $5 million for the traffic-solving, diverging diamond on Windy Hill Road, a major intersection off I-75, and the closest exit to the new stadium. In addition, funds voluntarily raised by the 400+ CCID members, pledged years ago, have been dedicated for managed lanes, also known as dedicated reversible lanes, designed to ease traffic congestion, and soon to be constructed along a stretch of I-75 north of the ballpark.
When prompted to offer some advice drawn from her many years of experience in leasing and building management, Engel says her motto is to “treat it like you own it.” When it comes to handling clients and offering amenities, she adds, “Make your tenants feel they’re better off because of services you provide, and make sure you’ve got a great common area.”
She knows of whence she speaks. The lushly landscaped Atlanta Galleria campus, with a 92% occupancy rate, has been home to practically every type of event, from farmers’ markets and food trucks, to volleyball games and ice bucket challenges. Hold a wedding ceremony in the park area and there’s even a helipad available to take the couple off to their honeymoon. Can a Starbucks be far behind?