By Collin Kelley
Editor

This is the first in ongoing series about businesses along the 22-mile BeltLine that encircles the city. The series of paths and parks – and eventually some type of streetcar or light rail – will connect the inner core of the city like never before.

Existing businesses and newcomers are enjoying the benefits of the paths, but are also looking forward to the future when customers and employees can hop on and off the BeltLine at their front door.

Last month, BeltLine CEO Brian Leary said the BeltLine could create 30,000 or more jobs as well as the creation of new shops, restaurants and businesses along the route.

We thought it was appropriate to begin our series with Atlanta INtown’s headquarters, Inman Alley, on Krog Street in Inman Park. The BeltLine runs alongside the building, which is home to more than a dozen businesses including Wit Advertising & Design, website application company Twin Engines, architecture and design firm Square Feet Studio, interactive design company Monumental, film production company Spots, home furnishing marketing and merchandisers HB2, real estate firm Pollock Commercial, marketing firms The SuperGroup, Avatar and One Spot, broadcast design company Graffects, music services company Hubbub, music production company Content, technology consultants Bright Byte,  boutique ad agency and paper design company Brogan Tennyson/Whimsey Press and, most notably, Rathbun Steak.

When INtown was planning its move from Midtown, we looked at a number of properties around the city, but the one we kept coming back to was Inman Alley. The prospect of being on the BeltLine, which we’ve been covering since it was Ryan Gravel’s masters thesis at Georgia Tech, was an opportunity for us to have a front row seat to the progress of the project.

The building also lends itself to artistic and independent-minded companies, and collaborations between tenants happen on a regular basis. We’ve bounced cover and story ideas off our neighbors since we moved in to our space in 2007.

The original building was constructed as a cotton warehouse in the heyday of Atlanta’s mercantile boom in the mid-1890s. At the same time, Inman Park was being developed by Joel Hurt as Atlanta’s first planned community and one of the nation’s first garden suburbs.

In the early 1940s, the building caught fire, leaving little more standing than the solid brick exterior walls.  The scorched wooden interior was eventually replaced with a modern steel frame. In 1941, the Clorox Company acquired the building to house its fourth production facility in the United States and its first in the South. Thirty years later, when Clorox moved to a larger location, the building was again transformed – this time into The Black Box, a rehearsal hall for Atlanta’s musicians.  The 70 individual music studios frequently echoed thunderous music into the wee hours of the morning in this quasi-industrial/residential neighborhood.

Real estate developer Jeanie Wooster and architect Richard Taylor saw the building’s potential while they were developing The Stove Works, which is just a short walk down the BeltLine. The 41,000 square foot building has retained its high ceilings, brick walls and big windows, but with modern amenities.

Ask anyone in the building and they will tell you the BeltLine was a factor in their decision to buy or lease at Inman Alley.

“As a native Atlantan who grew up in the car dependent suburbs, I welcomed an opportunity to locate my office along the Beltline,” said Mark Cohen, owner of Wit Advertising & Design. “I saw it as an opportunity to show support for a brilliant redevelopment project and anti-support for the oil industry. That, and it’s nice to be able to walk down the trail for lunch.”

Kevin Rathbun, who opened his eponymous restaurant in The Stove Works, also said the decision open his acclaimed steakhouse in Inman Alley was motivated by the BeltLine. “You can walk or eventually ride right to our door,” Rathbun said, who often walks the path from The Stove Works to Inman Alley.

Square Feet Studio was also excited by the location, and since many of its staff lives within five miles of Inman Alley, they’ve encouraged use of the BeltLine to walk or ride bikes to work.

Do you own a business on have a favorite shop or restaurant on the Atlanta BeltLine? Let us know and we may feature the business in an upcoming edition of INtown. Contact collin@atlantaintownpaper.com with your story. For more about the BeltLine, visit www.beltline.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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