Beyond the Glass Tower – Can Buildings Move People?
By: John McColl, executive vice president/ development, office leasing & asset management, Cousins Properties
Terminus led the way for smart growth by creating a “super block” of highly dense office, retail and residential towers. The TOD project has its own stop along a free community shuttle bus route.
In the 1800s, the Western and Atlantic Railroad lines ended at a bare patch of Georgia clay nicknamed “Terminus.” As the sticks-and-dirt settlement grew into Atlanta, a metropolis of over six million, the name “Terminus” came to mean much more than just the end of a line. Today, it has become the beginning of a new chapter of Atlanta’s storied development, marking the entrance to one of the city’s most notable districts, Buckhead.
The Evolution of Buckhead
Cousins Properties created Terminus’ sense of place by tapping into Buckhead’s upscale aesthetic, while setting best practices for urban growth. Located just eight miles north of downtown, the 10-acre, mixed-use development sits at the intersection of Peachtree and Piedmont roads. The project features Class A office space, retail services, luxury condominiums and a wide range of five-star and casual dining options.
Buckhead is considered one of Atlanta’s affluent communities. Its tree-lined streets are filled with high-end homes, upscale shopping and restaurants and first-class hotels. However, as a dense submarket with scarce land, the area was at risk of becoming crowded with development and choked with traffic when Cousins launched Terminus in 2006.
Terminus 100 opened close to 100 percent leased, with a wide variety of eateries and luxury boutiques as retailers.
Through innovative strategy and design, Terminus led the way for smart growth by creating a “super block” of highly dense office, retail and residential towers. Cousins forged collaborative relationships with community organizations to realize its vision of making Terminus a true live, work and play hub. It partnered with the Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID) to improve traffic mobility, enhance pedestrian environments, increase access to transportation alternatives and improve land-use integration in the area. Cousins also worked with the Buckhead Area Transportation Management Association (BATMA) to make Terminus a stop along its free shuttle bus route, which eased transit and reduced congestion by office workers, visitors and residents.
Designing Sustainable Details
To create even greater accessibility to Terminus, architects Duda Paine and Cooper Carry designed the master plan to offer tenants and visitors six different ingress and egress points – easing rush hour traffic at one of Atlanta’s busiest intersections.
Sustainability was also top of mind in the design of Terminus, a three-phased development composed of Terminus 100, a 27-story, Class A office tower that opened in 2007; 10 Terminus Place, a residential high-rise with 137 units that opened in 2008; and Terminus 200, a 25-story office tower that opened in 2009.
Cousins Properties devoted significant capital to art for Terminus, which features permanent installations as well as exhibitions that rotate quarterly both inside and outside the buildings.
Terminus 200 won LEED® Core & Shell Gold certification with green features like locally produced and recycled building materials, windows and workspaces that maximize daylight, low-flow fixtures and appliances and accessibility to mass transit. Cousins’ attention to sustainable detail also led Terminus to receive the Buckhead Beautification Award.
Blending Art and Innovation
Beyond location and sustainable design, Cousins planned Terminus to meaningfully engage and move residents, tenants and visitors before ground was ever broken. Despite the sluggish economy, Cousins devoted significant capital to art for Terminus, which features permanent installations as well as exhibitions that rotate quarterly both inside and outside the buildings.
The investment fit with Cousins Properties’ 53-year history of including sculpture, painting and artful design in its portfolio. Company founder Tom Cousins and wife Ann believed that supporting the arts not only gave back to the community, but also provided an extra layer of customer service that went beyond typical real estate amenities. Ultimately, they believed Cousins’ real estate developments were a way to expose people to the beauty and complexity of artistic expression in everyday life.
The Terminus mixed-use development sits on 10 acres in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. The project contains office, retail and residential properties with a diversified tenant base.
This ideal has become an important part of Cousins’ culture and is exemplified at Terminus. Cousins Properties worked closely with architect Turan Duda and art curator/consultant Anne Lambert Tracht of ConsultArt to bring its vision of a communal, pedestrian-oriented art program to life. The result was a break from how art is traditionally selected and displayed in real estate developments: instead of an architect selecting art as part of the initial design and the developer purchasing it as a permanent fixture of the building, Terminus innovates with both permanent and temporary art installations and exhibitions.
Café Street, the open-air social area that connects the Terminus buildings, extends Terminus’ urban living room with art exhibitions, seasonal events and more. The Gallery Walk, a free, walkable art gallery with both permanent and rotating exhibits, continually offers tenants and visitors a reason to return, featuring new art every three months. The first of the Gallery Walk exhibits is aptly named “Innovations,” and showcases the work of both established and emerging artists from Georgia and the Southeast.
Permanent artwork includes Landing Gear, sculpted by Martin Dawe of CherryLion Studios and located in a plaza on the north side of Terminus 200. Dawe’s 12-foot sculpture shows an impressionistic figure tumbling through the air to land on one hand.
Another permanent installation, Arising, is a masterpiece in glass created by artist Kenneth vonRoenn. Designed specifically for Terminus 100, Arising takes its cues from the building’s unique architectural design. It is divided into three illuminated glass panels that depict Atlanta’s history from the 19th century to the present day, representing the original Terminus’ emergence over the last century.
Terminus 100 opened almost fully leased with a wide variety of eateries and luxury boutiques as retailers. 10 Terminus Place experienced steady sales despite the slow economic recovery, and has sold nearly all of its residential units. Meanwhile, Terminus 200 is more than 70 percent leased.
The work that went into the development of Terminus offered valuable lessons in the transformation of an urban center. Structures as simple as parking decks were improved upon: Cousins learned that creating a sub-grade parking deck for Terminus 200 allowed tenants to enter the building via elevators and avoid the elements. It also learned to strike the right balance between parking for tenants and those who take public transit.
Café Street taught Cousins that an open-air design can limit use, in spite of the mild and relatively short winters of the South. Designing an enclosed area in the master plan would have extended the amenity’s use year-round and improved the overall comfort of the space.
The retail mix needed to be further diversified, including the right balance of national and local merchants, restaurants, services and soft goods. While Terminus offers a great number of dining destinations, in hindsight, certain tenants could have benefited from having direct access to the lobby. Terminus’ monument signage could also be enhanced to assist with ingress/ egress and to promote the retail base.
The project’s name is derived from the 1800s when the Western and Atlantic Railroad lines ended at a bare patch of Georgia clay nicknamed Terminus.
Finally, Cousins learned that if a development project plans to use art heavily, it is necessary to include an art consultant early on in the process to maximize design, construction and lighting of both permanent and changing art collections.
Terminus 100 opened close to 100 percent leased with a wide variety of eateries and luxury boutiques as retailers. 10 Terminus Place experienced steady sales despite the slow economic recovery, and has sold nearly 100 percent of its residential units. Meanwhile, Terminus 200 is showing strong lease up at more than 70 percent leased.
With Terminus’ Gallery Walk, a retailer rewards discount program, tenant communication tools and LEED consulting program, many of Atlanta’s established and fastest-growing companies have become tenants, including UBS, Synovus Securities, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Kids II, Sony Ericsson and Cumulus Media.
As Cousins Properties continues to pursue development projects, incorporating its culture of sustainability and art preservation, the buildings it creates will always be more than just glass towers – like Terminus, they will inspire people to a new beginning.