ULI Hines Student Competition 2016 Finalist: “Stage Street, Breaking the Fourth Wall” — Georgia Institute of Technology


Final Four Submission Title: Stage Street, Breaking the Fourth Wall
Team code:
Georgia Institute of Technology

Overview (Narrative excerpt from final four team submission)

Midtown Atlanta has become a hub for post-recession development activity. With booming tech and medical industries and a burgeoning film industry, the region is poised for continued growth. Despite the increasing presence of the entertainment industry, the city lacks a defined center of entertainment culture. Developments with social spaces and collaborative programs, such as Ponce City Market and the Atlanta BeltLine, have been received well by a public ready to leave behind its insular, suburban past and embrace a more vibrant public realm. In order to create a differentiated, market-feasible program, capitalize on a site positioned at the center of the city’s major neighborhoods, and embrace an entertainment culture, the Stage Street development offers an integrated, mixed-use, mixed-income program with a pedestrian orientation and social spaces to help Atlantans break the fourth wall of culture by stepping out of their private spaces and onto the stage of a shared Midtown experience. The proposed development program for the Midtown South Development Partnershipis rooted in a thorough market analysis, targeting gaps in current product types and pursuing those with strong projected absorption and rent growth.



In theatre and film, the screen forms an imaginary fourth wall separating the audience from the action within the fictitious world. Just as innovative thespians have broken the fourth wall to engage directly with their audience, the Stage Street design helps break the fourth wall of Atlanta culture by blurring the boundaries of public and private spaces and inviting users to engage in a shared life. Elements such as plazas, balconies, rooftops, outdoor dining, a linear park, and event spaces create stages to see and be seen. Special attention is given to the ground floor of buildings, using a continuous street wall, facade transparency, activation, detailing, and variation to create an inviting pedestrian environment.


The Stage Street development is catered toward the demographics of the Midtown trade area, composed primarily of well-educated, active people between the ages of 20 and 55 with sufficient disposable income and preferences for urban living. Proximity to the iconic Fox Theatre, Georgia Tech, Emory University Hospital, and a dense concentration of residential and office development informed the site positioning strategy and tenant mix.


The 15.7-acre site is anchored by the Stage Street block and its entertainment, commercial, and hospitality functions. The design maintains the existing street grid, adding pedestrian circulation through 1) the Stage Street diagonal plaza; 2) The Set, a greenscaped passageway along 3rd Street; and 3) The Backlot, a linear park along the Connector. These detail-rich, pedestrian open spaces are designed with flexible components to accommodate various event programs, offer inviting retreats, and facilitate an active lifestyle that supports the community’s physical, social, and economic health. With inviting pedestrian zones, bike infrastructure, MARTA rail and bus, and the Georgia Tech Trolley, users have a range of transportation options to access and move throughout the site. Sustainable design strategies are incorporated throughout the site with bioswales, cisterns, photovoltaics, green roofs, and a tubular photobioreactor algae system to reduce CO2 emissions from the highway and achieve LEED ND Gold status.


Stage Street phasing diagram (Detail)


The development program cultivates a harmonious mix of users, with activation balanced across times of day:

Entertainment: Stage Street has a concentration of entertainment uses: a -person concert venue, an eight-screen, curated movie theater, rooftop mini golf, restaurants, and bars. There is always something to do and someone to see at Stage Street, making it the perfect place to wander and linger. These entertainment uses are intentionally balanced with a mix of uses to create an organic urban experience, rather than a contrived entertainment district. This strategy, along with entertainment office uses, reinforces the regional economic development goal of growing and attracting the film industry, , as outlined in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s PLAN 2040.

Residential: The residential component features a mix of 1,148 apartments and condominiums, including standard market rate (69%), compact market rate (15%), and affordable units (16%) with floor plans ranging from studios to three bedrooms. In a market with a saturation of luxury apartments, this product differentiation is key. The compact market rate typology uses efficient unit design solutions to reduce the bottom line price for tenants while maintaining strong returns for developers, addressing the demand for urban units that fit the budget of middle-market consumers.

Retail: The site plan offers 381,339 SF of retail with a mix of scales for tenants, including small retailers–like a bike shop, GNC, and restaurants– and services– like FedEx Office and a fitness studio– on Blocks A, B, and C. Larger anchor retailers, such as Kroger, are located on Block G. Each retailer will design its own facade to contribute to the craftsmanship and visual interest of the area.

Office: The majority of the 895,843 SF of office space (75%) will house traditional tenants, targeting users in the film, music, media, and tech industries as part of Midtown’s thriving Innovation District. Medical offices (7%), maker spaces (3%), coworking space (3%) and affordable offices (7%) will attract specialized users, creating a mix of established businesses and startup culture.

Educational: A high school along with a university and a workforce development office, are co-located with office spaces in related fields, facilitating dynamic, hands-on learning experiences.

Hospitality: Drawing on Midtown’s 6.1 million annual visitors, the site provides easily accessible destinations and accommodations for tourists, including a hotel, hostel, and a tourism center. An extended stay hotel targets traveling film professionals, medical workers, and exchange students.

These elements are fused together and programmed to create an environment that encourages people to interact as part of an engaging social system.



  • Subhajit Das, M.S. in Computer Science – Visual Analytics
  • Florina Dutt, Master of City and Regional Planning
  • Shijia Huang, Master of Urban Design
  • Meghan McMullen, Master of City and Regional Planning
  • Yihan Wu (Team leader), Master of City and Regional Planning

Faculty advisers

  • Ellen Dunham-Jones, Coordinator of the M.S. in Urban Design Program
  • David Haddow, Lecturer School of City and Regional Planning

Final Four Submission Materials

Original Submission Materials







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