Banyan Street Unveils Retail Hub, Central Courtyard at Peachtree Center in Downtown Atlanta

by John Nelson

ATLANTA — Banyan Street Capital has unveiled The Hub and The Plaza within the historic Peachtree Center in downtown Atlanta. Banyan Street tapped architectural firm The Beck Group on the design for both portions of the 2.5 million-square-foot mixed-use development.

The Hub, formerly known as the Mall at Peachtree Center, is home to more than 50 shops and restaurants. In the past 18 months, Banyan Street has inked leases with Salata, Beni’s Cubano, Taste of India and BEP! Vietnamese, as well as Time to Escape, a locally owned and operated escape room concept that includes live actors. Amy Fingerhut of CBRE’s Atlanta office is leading The Hub’s retail leasing assignment.

The Hub is Peachtree Center’s three levels of ground-level and subterranean retail space housing more than 50 shops and restaurants. The Hub is accessible from the glass staircase in The Plaza, street-level entrances and the Peachtree Center MARTA station.

The Plaza is the development’s overhauled central courtyard that fronts Peachtree Street and is situated between Peachtree Center’s various towers. Beck Group’s design for the public space includes a central area for live events; custom planters and benches; a reflective pool that can be drained for events; a suspended, illuminated canopy; revamped entrances to the adjacent office towers and existing atrium; and a glass-encased staircase leading to The Hub that features a sloped water fountain on the backside.

On the backside of the glass staircase in The Plaza is a sloping water fountain.

At a private event held Wednesday, Miami-based Banyan Street officially opened The Hub and The Plaza, which comprise Phase I of the $50 million redevelopment. Phase II includes the upgraded amenities currently under construction in Marquis Two Tower, as well as renovations planned for all building lobbies later this year. Habitat for Humanity recently signed a lease with Banyan Street to move its headquarters to Marquis Two.

Earlier today Banyan Street and Greystar broke ground on Ascent Peachtree, a 29-story high-rise apartment tower that is being constructed on top of an existing parking garage at 161 Peachtree Center Ave.

Originally built by Atlanta-based Portman Holdings, Peachtree Center features six high-rise office buildings home to approximately 6,000 tenants. The project sits atop the Peachtree Center MARTA station and is connected to more than 4,000 hotel rooms via sidewalks and sky bridges. In March 2018, Peachtree Center was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Making connections
Eric Balogh, project architect at The Beck Group, says that engaging the public was at the forefront of the Peachtree Center redesign, especially The Plaza.

“Banyan Street’s vision was how to make the space more inviting and usable, giving a little bit to our tenants as well as give some to the public,” says Balogh. “Everything about The Plaza renovation was about how to get people in. The form of the planters and form of the benches are angled backward to draw people into the space.”

“This design is a total flip-flop from the original design where there was an infrastructure to get everyone off the road so that they weren’t on the sidewalk or on the street level,” adds Ryan Woods, lead designer at The Beck Group. “With Peachtree Center, in response to the time that we’re in, we want to make sure that we engage the sidewalk and street presence.”

The sight lines were also key as the design team didn’t want to block the revamped glass entrance to the atrium at the back of The Plaza. From Peachtree Street, passersby and patrons can see straight to the back of the courtyard area and directly into the atrium, which features a newly installed, suspended yellow paper sculpture called “Burst of Sunlight” by artist Peter Gentenaar.

The atrium features a suspended yellow paper sculpture called “Burst of Sunlight” by artist Peter Gentenaar. The sculpture is visible from The Plaza and from the Peachtree Street sidewalk.

At the secondary entrance along Andrew Young International Boulevard, artist Hopare created a four-story mural that was finished directly before Super Bowl LIII, which the city hosted. Called “Symphony,” the piece brings a new aesthetic to the façade of Peachtree Center.

The first major set piece greeting pedestrians coming from Peachtree Street is the glass staircase that descends into The Hub. Balogh says that the decision to choose an all-glass design for the feature began as a joke.

“We originally designed it with steel and we went to our in-house estimation department and joked that we’d take the steel out and design it with all glass,” says Balogh. “They went and chased it down and it turned out that it was a wash from a cost standpoint. So we were able to get a better design and not have the steel elements that impede the transparency.”

In addition to the new entrances, The Plaza and The Hub are connected via skylights. From the vantage of The Hub’s lower level, the skylights provide natural light and are glimpses to the outside weather. From The Plaza, guests can walk on top of the skylights, which are illuminated at night.

“The illuminated walking points give the space a sense of movement along with the lit canopy,” says Woods.

Natural elements
One of the main differentiators of legendary architect John Portman’s architectural style is using natural elements like vegetation, water features and natural materials. Over the years, as uses changed at Peachtree Center, the natural elements were removed or replaced, but Beck Group made those a point of emphasis in the new design.

“Having natural light and some of the biophilic elements like the water fountains bring the sound of running water into the space,” says Balogh. “It makes it more pleasant to be in.”

The drainable reflective pool in The Plaza is the coup de grace of Peachtree Center’s redesign, according to Woods. The feature is both multifunctional and provides the coveted “Instagrammable moment” for visitors and tenants.

“The whole point is to open up The Plaza and fill it or program it however you need. When it’s not being used for a concert or farmers market, it’s a thin sheet of water that reflects everything above it,” says Woods. “It’ll reflect the art piece from one angle, and if you’re looking from another side you can get the effect of walking on water. We looked at the water feature as a modern interpretation of Portman’s vision to incorporate art into his projects.”

Like all Beck Group-led projects, The Hub and The Plaza were designed to achieve LEED Silver certification.

In The Hub, the ceilings are wood-paneled and there is plant life sprinkled throughout, but at a couple main entrance points there are accent walls adorned with shrub-like greenery. Ryan Horne, lead architect and associate principal at Beck, says that the green walls help to soften up the neutral tones established throughout the corridors.

The Hub features a couple green accent walls that The Beck Group says helps soften the space’s neutral tones.

“It’s important in the scale of this project to find opportunities to soften the materials up a little bit,” says Horne. “That’s hard to do in this environment where there is a lot of traffic.”

According to Derik Keel, vice president of construction at Banyan Street Capital, the toughest part of the remodel was the daytime traffic as the businesses remained operational throughout the construction process.

“The majority of the work was done overnight,” says Keel. “Workers would have to come in and get all their materials and equipment out, work and then put everything away and clean up so that people could open for business in the morning.”

There are 250 businesses that operate at Peachtree Center, according to Banyan Street Capital. In 2017, the last year before construction began, the firm estimates that approximately 5.75 million peopled visited the mall area now named The Hub.

— John Nelson

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