Von is now in the process of acquiring the West End Mall and working with the community to plan a $400 million, multi-year, multi-phase overhaul into a walkable mixed-use development with retail, cultural, offices, residential spaces and a hotel. His business partner on the project is Ryan Gravel, the original visionary behind the Atlanta BeltLine. While each brings key connections and expertise to the project, neither has ever led a real estate development deal before. They’re jumping off together into the deep end of the economic development pool, and they’re expecting to get a boost from Opportunity Zones — the new investor tax break intended to encourage new investment in economically distressed areas. “The only thing I wish Opportunity Zones had was some sort of inclusion mindset like airport and state contracts have,” Von says. “Without that being mandated, we’re reverse-engineering that.”
New details are emerging about a $350 million redevelopment planned for the Mall at West End, a project envisioned by a team that includes Atlanta Beltline architect Ryan Gravel. The city’s economic development agency Invest Atlanta on Thursday approved a $2 million predevelopment loan for the 12.5-acre project.
The Mall West End was built in 1971 and was once the place to shop for Atlanta’s African American middle class. The mall is now often overlooked as a shopping destination. Donray Von and Ryan Gravel want to change that. “I remember Peppermint Records, I remember the ice cream store, I remember Cherry’s…” said investor and developer Donray Von.
Invest Atlanta is now partnering with Von and Gravel’s development firm, Elevator City Partners. Invest Atlanta has approved a $2 million pre-development loan for the project.
On Wednesday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Rockefeller Foundation announced a partnership to help encourage socially conscious investment in Atlanta’s 26 opportunity zone neighborhoods, and to reduce the risk of displacement of longtime residents and businesses. A significant part of the partnership is a $1 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Donray spent his first act building a successful career in the music industry, managing artists such as The Roots, Cody Chestnutt, and Outkast. Donray’s most recent venture through his recently founded Elevator City Partners is the redevelopment of West End Mall with co-founding partner, Ryan Gravel.
One of the first significant projects beginning to take shape is a revitalization of the aging Mall West End. … If projects like Gravel and Von’s are successful over the long-term, then it could be a model for others who want to invest in distressed locations in the city.
Closer Look’s Rose Scott recently visited the West End Mall to hear from developers Ryan Gravel and Donray Von, who have proposed a multimillion-dollar plan to redevelop the area with restaurants, storefronts and office space. Gravel, who is also known as the visionary for the BeltLine project, and Von, an investor, say their goal is to develop the area responsibly and with the neighborhood in mind. We learn more about the specifics of their plan.
If Gravel and Von have their way, the massive project would comprise affordable workforce housing, job training, small-business lending help, and a $10 to $15 million fund dedicated to bolstering local businesses.
Gravel portrays this scene as part of a revolution, one as significant as the change triggered by the post war-boom that shaped a world around suburbs and cars. People want more than a lonely commute, and that desire will reshape our cities, he predicts.