The historic Hotel Row redevelopment project taking shape in South Downtown will include a restaurant from the team behind upcoming Summerhill establishment How Crispy Express and a small pizzeria from Atlanta-based Slater Hospitality. Both restaurants should open next spring along a one-block stretch of Mitchell Street, home to a collection of century-old hotel buildings just south of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Newport Holding, the private real estate investment firm redeveloping Hotel Row, intends to fill the old commercial storefronts with local and independent restaurants and retail shops, artist studios, and creative office spaces. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the facades of these venerable structures remain relatively unchanged since being built over a century ago. Plans are to preserve original details and architecturally significant features of the Hotel Row buildings.
Hotel Row became the main commercial hub in Atlanta during the first two decades of the 20th century after the opening of Terminal Station in 1905 on then Spring Street (Ted Turner Drive). It was the grander of two railway stations downtown — the other being Union Station located nearby at what is presently a parking deck for Underground Atlanta.
“The two stations were a real hotbed of retail activity during the early 20th century for folks needing a place to sleep or to grab a bite or shop before catching the next train out of Atlanta,” says Kyle Kessler, South Downtown resident and policy and research director for the Center for Civic Innovation. “These hotels grew between these two stations, along with other businesses and social clubs, some associated with the railroad workers and personnel.”
In the pre-airline and pre-automobile world of Atlanta, Hotel Row was an early epicenter of travel, business, tourism, and restaurant life within the city. Both Terminal Station and Union Station eventually closed in 1970 and were demolished two years later. The 26-story Richard B. Russell Federal building now occupies the site where Terminal Station once stood.
219 Mitchell Street — Pizzeria and underground cocktail bar
The counter-service slice shop from Atlanta restaurant group Slater Hospitality, the company behind Ponce City Market rooftop venues Nine Mile Station and Skyline Park and forthcoming Leave of Absence (L.O.A.) at the Interlock, will serve pizza inspired by co-owner Mandy Slater’s Italian heritage. The yet-named restaurant should include a walk-up window and feature a rotating selection of square slices.
An underground cocktail bar centered around the OutKast mural in the basement will open beneath the pizzeria. In addition to the pizza shop and cocktail bar, Slater also plans to open a rooftop venue at 222 Mitchell across the street from Hotel Row.
235 Mitchell Street — How Crispy
After several successful chicken sandwich pop-ups at its upcoming Summerhill restaurant location along Georgia Avenue, Benumkermi Hospitality Syndicate, which includes Ticonderoga Club’s Greg Best and Bart Sasso, chef William Silbernagel (The Bookhouse Pub, Argosy), and Atlanta architect Luke Wilkinson, will open another How Crispy or similar restaurant in South Downtown.
With the Summerhill sandwich shop slated to open in late August, Best tells Eater the South Downtown restaurant “will be a totally different beast” with a separate menu and the possibility of seating, given the larger space. Best declined to elaborate further on the menu for the Mitchell Street location.
Businesses and restaurants, including storied cafe Lunacy Black Market, run from 231 Mitchell Street by the tenacious chef Paul Luna until 2014, have come and gone on the block through the years, unable to recapture the heady glory days of its railroad past.
The redevelopment of the historic commercial district of South Downtown by Newport is generally welcomed by residents, Kessler says. However, promises to revitalize Hotel Row and other areas of South Downtown have been made before by developers and businesses. Changes in ownership, the Great Recession in 2008, and, most recently, the pandemic have all contributed to developers and companies pulling up stakes in the district. Therefore, some skepticism among South Downtown residents is understandable.
Forward progress in nearby redevelopment projects at Underground Atlanta and its food hall and restaurants and the former Norfolk Southern Railroad building on Ted Turner Drive are hopeful signs that this time might be different. The latter, named Centennial Yards, includes two levels of retail and restaurants, offices, apartments, and a location of LaGrange, Georgia, brewery and distillery Wild Leap. Centennial Yards hasn’t escaped controversy, however, including accusations leading to a court battle over the planned use of nearly $2 billion in public money for the project and the demolition of Terminal Station’s interlocking tower in “the Gulch” just beyond the Norfolk Southern building.
In 2019, Newport hosted a series of pop-up food and retail shops in the storefronts at Hotel Row. It was meant as a sort of scouting opportunity to repopulate the historic commercial district with permanent local businesses and restaurants upon completion of the redevelopment venture.
“Residents here want more activity. They want things to do and to walk to. They don’t necessarily want businesses and restaurants that only cater to tourists and conventioneers or a weekday workforce,” says Kessler. “The spaces Newport is looking to put these new businesses in are vacant, so no one is directly being displaced, but they need to see this as an opportunity to add to the community already here.”
- A Multi-Level Brewery and Distillery Opens This Fall in Downtown Atlanta [EATL]
- Downtown Landmark Underground Atlanta Becomes the Latest Location to Gain a Food Hall [EATL]
- Atlanta preservationists mourn loss of Terminal Station Interlocking Tower [Curbed ATL]
- Touring Hotel Row, from OutKast-muraled basements to rooftops, as South Downtown construction launches [Curbed ATL]