The City of Doraville

Articles on GM developments

AJC articles on GM plant redevelopment: potential developers, environmental issues, plant closing, plant history and timeline, etc. …

Jacoby drops bid to redevelop GM’s Doraville site


The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionSaturday, October 11, 2008

“We have made a decision that we are not pursuing the GM Doraville project any longer,” Scott Condra, Jacoby’s senior vice president, said Friday.

Condra said the company was spread too thin right now, but that in the future it would be interested in redeveloping a second automaker site.

Jacoby recently bought the former Ford Motor plant property in Hapeville on Atlanta’s southside. “We’ve been approached by a couple of major tenants looking for office space [there],” Condra said.

The companies still hoping to redevelop the 165-acre GM site are New Broad Street Cos. of Orlando, the Sembler Co. of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Hines of Houston. The 61-year-old plant made its last minivan — a silver Pontiac Montana — last month.

GM said it will pick a developer before the end of the year.

Bordered by MARTA rail and I-285, the plant is a dream location for transit-oriented development. Buford Highway, lined with Latin and Asian businesses, and Ga. 400 are also nearby.

Jacoby made a name for itself by helping turn the former Atlantic Steel site on I-85 into a collection of homes, stores and offices. The 138-acre site is still being developed.

As GM factory in Doraville closes, an era rolls away

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Later this week, the final vehicle will roll off the line at the last American auto assembly plant in Georgia.

Once that happens on Friday, production at the General Motors plant in Doraville will be over. So, too, will be Eddie Bailey Sr.’s automaking days, just 430 hours shy of 30 years — automatic retirement at GM. “I can’t complain. It’s been a good living, even after always being on the edge,” said Bailey, who started as a line operator. “They raised my family and helped plan my future and retirement and paid for some of my education. I even got a granddaughter in college, and, through GM, I’m able to put money aside to help her.”

GM, which turned 100 last week, helped generations of autoworkers such as Bailey settle comfortably into a middle-class life. Come Friday, Bailey will have mostly memories, a decent retirement package and a black leather jacket to mark three decades of punching a time clock at the 61-year-old Doraville plant.

Until then, he and the other 1,000 or so workers — down from 3,100 a few years ago — have about 3,000 vehicles to complete by the time the plant closes.

“Looking at the schedule, that’s about 360 vans a day,” said Bailey, an ordained minister.

While the vans are headed to Canada, the future of many of the plant’s workers isn’t as clear. The closing couldn’t come at a worse time for many. Life in the auto industry is punctuated by ups and downs, but officials at the Detroit-based automaker concede this is the worst in GM’s century-old existence.

The economy is fragile. Wall Street is in chaos. Big lenders and investment houses are collapsing under a load of bad debt. Gas hovers at $4. (When the Doraville plant opened in 1947, gas cost about 15 cents.)

The plant’s demise “is the biggest thing that ever happened in our city,” Mayor Ray Jenkins said. “I just hope we’re prepared for it.”

Doraville officials are optimistic about the second life of the 165-acre property near Spaghetti Junction and a MARTA rail station.“The town is ripe for redevelopment opportunities,” said Luke Howe, the mayor’s assistant. “We’re trying to create more revenue through development.”

City officials aren’t wasting time. They’re assembling a team of experts to help make the most of the redevelopment, which some envision will be a mixed-use destination like Atlantic Station. A city planner who will work with the redeveloper was hired last week. And the city’s attorney was also the city attorney in Hapeville, home of the former Ford Motor plant that closed in 2006 and is being redeveloped.

He was familiar with the things that are going to be coming up within the next few months, Jenkins said.

Four companies — News Broad Street Cos. of Orlando, Jacoby Development of Atlanta, the Sembler Co. of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Hines of Houston — are vying for the opportunity to remake the Doraville site, a former dairy farm and residential area.The companies signed confidentiality agreements with GM and are prohibited from discussing their visions for the site. GM said it will pick a developer before the end of the year.

But for the current employees, there are two paths out of the plant. Regular GM workers, who now make up about a third of the plant’s 1,000 workers, have the option of moving to another GM plant, taking a buyout or waiting for a job in the company’s job bank. Bailey has opted to spend his 430 hours in GM’s job bank, which he sees as the bridge to full retirement.

Temporary workers, some of whom joined the plant to replace workers who left in a big wave a few years ago, aren’t so lucky.

A lot of the temporary workers are — I don’t want to say upset — but they’re done with it,” said Sam Alston, a temporary worker who installs second- and third-row seats in the vans. “They’re not giving us severance packages or a chance to transfer. It was rough being a contract worker. We didn’t get any benefits. No vacation and our pay was less than the actual GM workers.”

Alston came in two years ago making $18 an hour and now makes $25 an hour. A full-time GM worker doing the same work earns about $30 an hour, Alston said. Many workers are just counting down the hours.

It’s like a ‘fine-get-it-over-with mood,’ ” Alston said.

Difficult decision

Abandonment was inevitable. Even in the heyday of minivans, GM was overshadowed by Honda, Toyota and Chrysler.

“They just have no volume of sales,” said David Healy, auto analyst at Burnham Securities in Sierra Vista, Ariz. “They don’t have enough volume in that segment to be profitable. So they’re abandoning the plant basically.”

Now Americans’ taste for supersize SUVs and minivans is waning. The gas crisis has sharply changed the industry’s already gloomy outlook. GM doesn’t sugarcoat its problems.

As we transform the company, we’ve had to make difficult decisions regarding plants, including Doraville,” spokesman Chris Lee said. “A lot of it’s product-driven. It has nothing to do with the work force or the community. It’s the product they built. Demand isn’t there, so we had to make tough decisions.”

This isn’t the first time GM had to make a tough decision affecting the metro area. In 1990, the company closed its Lakewood assembly plant. When Doraville is shuttered, Georgia will have to wait for the Kia plant in West Point, scheduled to open about a year from now, before getting back into the auto assembly business.

Final goodbyes

As workers poured out of the plant’s north entrance one afternoon last week, some seemed resigned to Friday’s closing.

“I don’t know about the last van rolling off the line. I don’t want to see it. I’m ready to get it over with,” said Reshonda Johnson, who does contract work as a logistics coordinator for Ryder, the trucking company. Johnson works at the auto plant ordering car parts and will get a severance package from Ryder.

Once she clocks out Friday, Johnson and her family will go to Gatlinburg, Tenn., for a vacation. “I need to ease my mind,” said Johnson, who has been at the plant nine years. “I enjoyed working there, until I heard they were throwing us away like we were nothing.”

Like Ryder, tire companies, truck and office equipment dealers, gas firms and other suppliers that have relied heavily on the automaker will be hit by the closing. So will the restaurants and convenience stores the GM employees frequented.

“It’s going to be slow,” said Gary Singh, who works at the Shell station down the street from the plant. “We got a lot of business from there.”

Retiree Ernest Jett was there when the first car rolled off the assembly line in 1947. Jett, then 23, started out stripping floors and cleaning the plant for $1.09 an hour. He finally got a job on the line in the paint shop.

“I was colorblind. But I never made a mistake painting,” Jett said proudly. “I followed the code: A was black. C was white.”

Friday, Jett will be on hand to see the last vehicle roll off the line. Last week, the World War II veteran – who landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on D-Day – sat in his living room showing visitors pictures of his days at the plant.

“In a way, it’s sad,” said Jett, who retired in 1990. “Why did they have to move out of Georgia?”

Most popular Doraville-produced cars
1947 Buick Super Woody
1951 Oldsmobile 88
1951 Buick Super 8 Special
1953 Buick Skylark
1955-57 Buick Century
1956 Olds Super 88 Convertible Coupe
1957 Pontiac Star Chief
1958 Pontiac Bonneville
1960 Oldsmobile Super 88
1965 Chevy Impala
1976 Chevy Monte Carlo
Source: General Motors


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sunday, September 21, 2008

JUNE 1947: General Motors opens an automaking plant in Doraville.

NOVEMBER 1947: The first car, a black Oldsmobile, rolls off the assembly line.

1983: Doraville workers join others nationwide in a six-day union walkout over job security and outsourcing.

1986: The 6 millionth car, a silver Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, is produced; GM announces a $500 million upgrade of the Doraville plant. The traditional assembly line is replaced by a system of work stations, robots and automatic guided vehicles.

1987: The retooled plant opens, and production begins on the Cutlass Supreme.

1993: GM announces plans to build a new minivan at the Doraville plant, with production to begin in 1996.

1994: Doraville builds its 7 millionth car, an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.

1995: GM invests $250 million to convert the existing plant and another $110 million on an additional stamping facility, which will shape sheet metal parts such as doors and rooftops exclusively for 1997 minivans.

1996: Production begins for the first minivans, the Pontiac Trans Sport, the Oldsmobile Silhouette and the Chevrolet Venture.

1998: GM closes its 40-year-old Atlanta Parts Distribution Center in Doraville, saying, “Atlanta is not in a strategic geographic location to provide world-class service to meet the current and projected growth of business we anticipate from GM dealerships in that area of the country.”

JANUARY 2003: GM, citing falling minivan sales, slows the production line at its Doraville assembly plant.

SEPTEMBER 2003: GM announces plans to add four new 2005 model minivans —- the Buick Terrazza, Chevrolet Uplander, Saturn Relay and Pontiac Montana SV6; all four minivans are to be produced in Doraville.

AUGUST 2005: GM Doraville said it will downshift its production of minivans beginning in September, lowering hourly output by 10 percent.

NOVEMBER 2005: GM announces the plant will close in 2008 as part of a cost-cutting effort to shed about 30,000 workers. Doraville employs more than 3,000.

JANUARY 2006: DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones travels to Detroit in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the plant open.

MARCH 2006: GM offers early retirement buyouts to about 100,000 hourly workers, including most employees in Doraville. About half of Doraville workers take the buyout.

JUNE 2006: Plans are announced to go from two shifts to one after Labor Day.

SEPTEMBER 2007: Doraville workers, now around 1,200, join a brief nationwide strike called by the United Auto Workers union.

MAY 2008: GM puts the still-operating plant up for sale.

SEPT. 26, 2008: Plant set to close.

—-Compiled from news archives by AJC staff researcher Richard Hallman

Four firms to present plans for Doraville GM plant

Decision on 165-acre mixed-use redevelopment expected quickly.

By Kevin Duffey

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tuesday, September 16, 2008 

The 165-acre Doraville redevelopment would be the largest brownfield project to date in metro Atlanta, turning an industrial site into a mixed-use destination. Atlantic Station in Midtown is 138 acres, and the former Ford Motor assembly plant in Hapeville is 122 acres.

GM spokesman Dan Flores said the high bidder may not necessarily be the winning bidder.

“Sale price isn’t the only thing,” Flores said. “We’re interested in selling the property to a developer that has a very comprehensive plan … sustainable and good for the community. We want to be known as a responsible corporate citizen.”

The four contenders are the New Broad Street Cos. of Orlando, Jacoby Development of Atlanta, the Sembler Co. of St. Petersburg and Hines of Houston.

The companies signed confidentiality agreements with GM and are prohibited from discussing their visions for the site.

“It’s going to be ‘out of out of the box,’ a singular proposal,” was all Angelo Fuster, a spokesman for Sembler, would say about that company’s plan.

GM said it will pick a developer before year’s end, but Doraville Mayor Ray Jenkins predicted the decision would be made quickly, maybe even this month.

The plant is a dream location for transit-oriented development, bordered by MARTA rail and I-285. Buford Highway, lined with Latin and Asian businesses, and Ga. 400 are nearby.

Jacoby started Atlantic Station, the metro area’s pioneering brownfield project, and this year announced plans to turn the former Ford plant on the south side into an “aerotropolis,” with offices and retail and possibly hospitality serving Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and I-75 travelers. No homes are planned.

New Broad Street founder David Pace led the redevelopment of the former Orlando Naval Training Center, which included environmental cleanup typical of brownfield projects.

Those 1,100 acres are now the mixed-use Baldwin Park. Atlanta-based Post Properties owns an apartment complex and vacant land there.

Pace also helped develop Celebration, the well-known traditional community in Kissimmee, Fla.

Hines is developing Diagonal Mar, an 84 acre former industrial site in Barcelona. The plan there calls for five residential projects, a retail center, three hotels, three office buildings, a public park and a convention center.

Sembler is known for its big-box shopping centers. Under construction now is Town Brookhaven, which is slated to have 600,000 square feet of retail and 1,500 residences.

Sembler also plans to build Town Briarcliff, a mixed-use project off Briarcliff Road in DeKalb County. Town Briarcliff has been scaled down in response to tough economic times and opposition from neighbors worried about increased traffic.

Doraville recently passed an ordinance that requires all new buildings of at least 20,000 square feet to be LEED certified, meaning they must meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. The developer of the GM plant site will have to use recycled materials, install low-flow toilets and cut overall energy and water use.

Some in the development community say the costly requirements will make it more difficult to do projects in Doraville, a blue-collar area that hasn’t attracted high rents.

Environmental issues at GM plant minor

Atlanta Business Chronicle

By Douglas Sams – staff writer

No major environmental roadblocks are known to exist that could slow or stop redevelopment of General Motors' Doraville plant.

While that positive environmental assessment could change once demolition begins on the 165-acre industrial site, Georgia Environmental Protection Division officials say the Doraville plant remains mostly uncontaminated.

General Motors is trying to reduce levels of the gasoline additive and known carcinogen benzene in the soil within a small area of its Doraville assembly plant.

But EPD officials say that on a scale of one to 10, the Doraville plant’s environmental challenges are a two.

GM plant may fuel land rush

Atlanta Business Chronicle – August 8, 2008

For years, the GM plant meant several thousand jobs and nearly $1 million in revenue and other fees for the city of Doraville.Now, the plant’s redevelopment could mean gold for some Doraville property owners.

Already, a few commercial sites in Doraville are being put on the market in anticipation of GM picking a developer to recast the massive assembly plant into the next Atlantic Station. Others were recently put up for sale because of new retail and residential development near Chamblee that is expected to continue shifting north.

A nearly 5-acre parcel on Peachtree Road, now a warehouse and distribution site just behind the plant, is drawing interest from developers who could pay close to $4 million to convert it into apartments, townhomes or stores, said Bill Johnston, with King Realty Inc.

Another warehouse and distribution site, also on Peachtree Road, was recently put on the market, Johnston said. The roughly 3-acre parcel is expected to fetch slightly more than $1 million an acre.

And a landowner with a 3-acre tract between the two sites recently suggested he may put his property on the market, Johnston said. However, the landowner is waiting for GM to pick a firm to redevelop the plant and for the city to rezone the 165-acre site.

While the trend doesn’t suggest a land rush is under way, it does show that Doraville — a city of just four square miles — could become one of Atlanta’s emerging residential and retail markets in coming years, commercial real estate brokers and analysts say.

Since 2006, new residential development has been edging up Peachtree Industrial Boulevard from Buckhead toward Doraville. The GM plant’s redevelopment could be the catalyst that spurs residential projects closer to Doraville, said Alan Wexler, president of real estate data firm Databank Atlanta Inc.

Doraville’s future hinges on the GM plant’s redevelopment.

At its height, the plant employed several thousand workers who spent their money at local restaurants and shops. The plant also generated up to $700,000 annually in city tax revenue.

If not for GM, Doraville Mayor Ray Jenkins said, “Doraville wouldn’t be here.”

Now, the city of nearly 10,000 people is marked by a growing international community, aging shopping centers and industrial sites.GM plans to shut down the plant in September and pick a developer by the end of the month.

Jenkins says the city will zone the property for mixed-use, giving it the potential to become an even larger version of Midtown’s Atlantic Station, a development that contains corporate office buildings, a movie theater, stores and housing.

“We tried to figure out ways to keep GM here, and we were worried about the loss of jobs,” Jenkins said.

“But, in terms of revenue for the city, we may be better off once the site is redeveloped.”

Some developers got started ahead of GM.

JWB Realty Services LLC, which has built commercial and residential real estate projects from Buckhead to Cumming, is already developing Peachtree Pavilion next to the plant.

The shopping center, scheduled to open by December, will feature the flagship store for Asian grocery chain Super H Mart.JWB Realty thought new residential and commercial projects along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard were starting to turn the area into one of Atlanta’s hottest infill markets.

Doraville does not have the affluence of Buckhead and Brookhaven to the south. Its nearly 10,000 residents have an average household income of nearly $62,000.

But, Doraville stands at the convergence of several modes of transportation, including Interstate 285, I-85 and MARTA rail. Regional planners think Doraville is the heart of what could become a booming transit-oriented development.

It’s one reason the plant received thousands of inquiries once it was put on the market, GM says.

GM recently narrowed its list of candidates to redevelop the plant to four. Atlanta Business Chronicle reported in its Aug. 1 edition that the finalists are said to be Houston-based Hines, Atlanta-based Jacoby Development Inc., St. Petersburg Fla.-based The Sembler Co. and Charleston, S.C.-based Broad Street Partners LLC.

Land speculation and transactions in Doraville won’t truly pick up speed until the developer is chosen and the GM plant is rezoned for commercial use, Johnston said.

The economy may also slow down not only transactions around the plant, but the ambitions to sell and redevelop it.“All the finalists are very experienced and well-financed,” Johnston said, “but this is a market in which the financing is extremely tight.”

© 2008 American City Business Journals, Inc.

The finalists are said to include Hines, developer of Midtown’s 1180 Peachtree tower and several office buildings around Perimeter Mall; Jacoby Development Inc., which turned an abandoned steel mill into the housing, office and retail center Atlantic Station; and The Sembler Co., which has developed numerous shopping centers and is currently building its 600,000-square-foot Town Brookhaven just north of Buckhead.


Charleston, S.C.-based Broad Street Partners LLC, which buys and develops residential and commercial properties across the Southeast, is also said to be a finalist.

The names of the finalists were confirmed by commercial real estate sources with direct knowledge of GM’s search process. GM and CB Richard Ellis Inc., the firm hired by the automaker to market the 165-acre site, declined to comment on the final four. GM wants to name a developer and sell the plant by Nov. 21. It would not say how many developers submitted proposals.

The site, at Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Spaghetti Junction, has access to MARTA rail and stands near DeKalb Peachtree Airport. Its proximity to MARTA would make it an ideal transit-oriented development, with the potential to become a focal point for housing, shops and offices, regional planners say.

Hines has a history with GM.The automaker picked Hines to lead redevelopment and management at GM’s Renaissance Center in Detroit, which includes a 74-story Marriott hotel and four 39-story office towers.The project included the full renovation of the hotel and office towers and the construction of a five-story, glass-enclosed winter garden along the riverfront. GM also tapped Hines to develop 600 luxury condominiums near Renaissance Center.

Jacoby is already tackling another massive project on Atlanta’s south side. Jacoby, in partnership with an investment group that includes D.H. Griffin Cos., is redeveloping Ford’s Hapeville plant into a regional job and retail center, with 6.5 million square feet set aside for offices, retail, a hotel and a conference center.

In addition to Town Brookhaven, Sembler is developing Westside Crossing, a new 18-acre shopping center that will resemble Lindbergh Plaza, which complements Carter’s nearby Lindbergh Center in Buckhead. Lindbergh Center is a transit-oriented development, including office and retail, with MARTA access.

The GM plant is an Atlanta landmark, having been a part of Doraville since 1947. During its history, it produced many of GM’s best-known brands of cars, including Buick, Oldsmobile and Chevrolet.

The plant is slated to close in September, causing about 1,500 GM workers to lose their jobs. The city of Doraville and its nearly 10,000 residents also stand to lose nearly $1 million annually in tax revenue and additional fees that the plant provided. “We’ve crammed to get this city prepared for this eventuality,” Doraville Mayor Ray Jenkins said. “We can hold out until this plant is redeveloped.”

Doraville sits at the north end of what commercial real estate brokers and regional planners expect to become a hot redevelopment market that extends along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard from the Perimeter to Buckhead.

The redevelopment of the GM plant could be a catalyst for the area. Doraville’s city leaders and planners will play an important role in shaping the future of the site, Jenkins said. “We think the [GM] site has the potential to become even larger than Atlantic Station,” Jenkins said. “This will be an upscale development.”

GM says it’s looking for a developer with experience redeveloping brownfields, or tracts of land previously developed for industrial uses that often contain pollutants. The automaker says it also wants a developer that has deep pockets, especially in the current lending environment in which financing is often more difficult to obtain.

Finalists to redevelop GM’s Doraville Plant:
Broad Street Partners LLC — Based in Charleston, S.C., it buys and develops residential and commercial properties across the Southeast.

Hines — Known in Atlanta for developing 1180 Peachtree in Midtown, which is the home of the law firm King & Spalding LLP.

Jacoby Development Inc. — Atlanta-based developer known for Midtown’s Atlantic Station. Recently purchased Ford’s Hapeville plant with plans to turn it into a regional job center.

The Sembler Co. — Known for numerous shopping centers in metro Atlanta, and redeveloping The Prado in Sandy Springs. It’s also developing Town Brookhaven just north of Buckhead.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/04/08


Hines, a Houston-based real estate developer with a significant Atlanta presence, is in the running to redevelop General Motors' closing Doraville assembly plant, according to a Hines spokesman.

The automotive giant has selected four firms who will compete to purchase the plum 165-acre site, located just inside I-285 not far from I-85. GM isn't naming names, but Hines follows the Sembler Co. in confirming that they are among the finalists. 

The plant is scheduled to close in September. GM hopes to select a winning bidder and close on the property by the end of the year.

Atlanta's skyline is dotted with properties either developed or owned by Hines, including the 41-story 1180 Peachtree office tower in Midtown, the 191 Peachtree building in downtown, One Atlantic Center — nicknamed the IBM tower — in Midtown and the Ravinia office-hotel complex near Perimeter Mall.

Chris Schroder, a Hines spokesman, declined to talk about the company's plans for the Doraville property.

Hines and GM have done business together. Hines teamed up with GM Asset Management, a subsidiary of the automotive company, in 2001 to purchase the Atlanta Financial Center in Buckhead.

GM: 4 finalists will compete for Doraville plant

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/17/08


General Motors said Thursday that it has selected four finalists who will compete to buy the automotive giant's Doraville assembly plant, which is closing in September,

The finalists, who the company declined to identify, are expected to submit "best and final" offers by mid-September, said Dan Flores, a GM spokesman. The company plans to select a winner by November."hundreds of inquiries on the property, which led to a significant number of proposals being submitted."

The company announced three years ago that it planned to close the 60-year-old plant as part of a companywide downsizing sparked by sluggish sales and heated foreign competition.The plant now employs about 1,000 people, down from 3,000 employees two years ago.

GM officials say the property, which sprawls over 165 acres, would make an ideal location for a mixed-use development, perhaps with shops, offices and homes. Local officials are hoping the redevelopment could be even more grand than Atlantic Station, the giant live-work-play development in Midtown.

The property has much going for it — it's perhaps the largest available parcel inside the Perimeter, and it's located near several major highways and has direct access to MARTA via the Doraville rail station.