Long known for picking prime locations for development, Houston-based Hines has three somewhat similar mixed-use projects on the drawing board for Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and Nashville, Tenn., (see NREI Feb. 2000 for the Nashville story). Each involves office, residential, a smattering of retail and restaurant, and hotel development, and each project is located in one of its respective cities' hottest growth markets. Why the Southeast and why mixed-use? You could boil it down to one word - sprawl - but the big picture entails much more.

"What we're doing is simply listening very carefully to what our office customers are saying, and what they're saying is that they want to see residential built in as a part of their office environments," says John Heagy, Hines' vice president. "It creates an option for their employees. It creates more of a community atmosphere in the office development. It takes the hard edges off these office developments that we've been building over the last several years."

In Charlotte, N.C., Hines recently unveiled plans for Carnegie Town Center in the city's SouthPark section. With approval from the City of Charlotte Planning Commission, Hines plans to build 478,250 sq. ft. of office space, 54,500 sq. ft. of retail/restaurant, 300 residential units and a 250-room full-service hotel. Hines expects to invest more than $130 million in Carnegie Town Center.

With Carnegie Town Center, Hines intends to link commercial and residential neighborhoods on the north and south side of Fairview Road with a pedestrian zone. Embracing the city's SouthPark Small Area Plan, Hines also plans to use open areas and green space as a draw for shoppers, residents and office tenants. For inspiration, the company looked at developments like the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., Reston Town Center in Northern Virginia, and Lake Forest in suburban Chicago.

"The beauty of a mixed-use town center concept like [Carnegie Town Center] is that if you look at what we're entitled to develop vs. what we're proposing, the traffic impact is a wash," says Thomas Creasy III, project manager for Carnegie Town Center. "By retaining the vertical elements, you're also retaining and preserving more green space. Then, when you provide a town green and you have that volume of residential and retail, it's going to be lively.

"The bottom line is to get people out of their cars and on to the streets in a pedestrian-friendly environment," Creasy continues.

In Atlanta, at the Kennedy Interchange - the confluence of Interstate 75 and Interstate 285 in the city's northwest submarket - Hines plans to break ground on the first office building at Overton Park next month. One Overton Park will contain 350,000 sq. ft. of Class-A office space and is scheduled for completion in the third or fourth quarter of 2001. Upon completion, Overton Park will include 1.1 million sq. ft. of office space, two full-service hotels with more than 700 rooms, a 400-unit condominium complex and four outparcels for upscale restaurants.

During the last year, Atlanta's northwest submarket has had a question mark hanging over it, as locally based Childress-Kline's 440,000 sq. ft. Galleria 400 sat vacant. But Equant's recent lease of 155,000 sq. ft. at Galleria 400 - a deal brokered by the Atlanta office of New York-based Cushman & Wakefield - and Atlanta-based Pope & Land's build-to-suit for Russell Athletic seem to have reinvigorated the area.

On top of those now-resolved questions, Hines also had unique environmental requirements to work within, as Overton Park is literally across the street from the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Heagy calls Overton Park a "model project" because the property will be the initial flush for impurities draining off I-75 and I-285. Hines also worked with local environmental groups to ensure that the development's site lines and profile did not alter views from the river bed.