Atlanta City Hall, Workers Prepare for the Opening of City Hall East on Ponce de Leon Avenue,

Last minute prepartions for the opening of City Hall East on August 31, 1991.

City Hall East Before Renovations

Interior shot of City Hall East after its occupation by the City of Atlanta and prior to Jamestown Development’s purchase.

Sale Day Bag

The bag has on it the sale dates from 1985.

In 1989 Sears and Roebuck closed its catalog distribution in Atlanta.   This decision was fueled by a confluence of changing shopping trends and printing costs, in addition to the less than desirable location of the now aging building.  The building was sold to CB Commercial, who looked unsuccessfully for a tenant.  No private companies or developers were interested in the massive 23.7 acre building.  

However, fortunately for CB Commercial, the City of Atlanta ran into issues around the cost of a new police headquarters. In exploring its options, the city of Atlanta found the massive old Sears building on the market.  The city purchased the building for $12 million dollars in 1990 in what Mayor Maynard Jackson called the deal of the century.

City Hall East was intended to provide the city with office space for the city departments that needed additional space.  Over the course of the 1990’s the police, fire, public works, water department, and 911 call center moved into the building.  Additional space was to be used by non-profit organizations as start up space.  Due to the federal purchase agreement, under which the city bought the building, only a small portion of it could be leased to commercial enterprises. This would become an issue for the city as they found a dearth of nonprofit tenants. The city hoped that its redevelopment of the old massive Sears Building could help to revitalize the surrounding neighborhoods which had fallen on hard times in the 1970s and 1980s.

This dream of revitalization instead became a nightmare for the city.  It was quickly apparent that the $10 million the city had set aside for renovations was not enough to rehabilitate the building.  By 1995 the project had run over budget and the building was only half occupied.  It was hoped that the 1996 Olympics would help to fill the remaining vacancies in the building.

By 1998 it had become obvious that City Hall East was not the deal it had appeared to be when the city purchased the building from CB Commercial.  The building was still 20 percent vacant, and was run down, with renovations well beyond the city's budgeted amount.  In 2003, Mayor Shirley Franklin announced that the city was interested in selling the building.  Ideas of redevelopment along the lines of a residential project like the Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts were proposed.  

In 2004 Lilburn developer, Emory Mossberger, began to explore options to purchase and redevelop City Hall East as a mixed used retail, office, and residential space.  Over the course of the 2000’s Mossberger and the city went back and forth, creating complications.  One of the complications arose from the need to deal with the old buried gas tanks that had been a part of the service station.  In 2006 a lien against the city's property held up the inking of a deal.  The lien had been taken out in the form of a lawsuit, in which a woman in Midtown had broken her hip when she had stepped into an uncovered water meter hole.  In 2010, in light of the economic downturn, Mossberger decided that the condo market had  collapsed and walked away from the decaying building.  At this time Jamestown Development decided that they would purchase and renovate the building.