Councilman Ivory Lee Young Jr. expressed concern about what would be at the site if Underground wasn’t there. He said he was puzzled as to why so many people—Georgia State students, state employees, tourists—go through near by Five Points MARTA station each day, but fail to leave spend any money at Undergound, which has lost money for years.Really? How can this confuse you? Presumably Councilman Young has been to Five Points recently, but every time I've been one of those 'many people' going through Five Points, it has been for the sole purpose of, well, going through Five Points. When you are commuting you don't just decide to stop and see Underground - you are trying to get to work on time, etc. It also isn't like Underground catches your eye from Five Points, either, assuming you even leave the station. The number of commuters at Five Points doesn't really translate into traffic counts like on a main arterial road. As one of the many GSU students who works a block from Five Points many days, I rarely cross the street even to Five Points Plaza, much less Underground. Why would I? There is nothing there to do. It fails as a destination in its own right.
I agree with Councilwoman Adrean that selling Underground makes a lot of sense. The city should not be in the real estate development/property management business. Municipal government is a services business, and their role is to provide basic services that allow everyone else in the city to live their lives. There is no reason that Councilman Young should be trying to figure out why Underground is dead. It isn't fair to expect him to. He's not a real estate professional. The city should not be in this business.
This gets me to why I say selling Underground is a great idea in theory. In practice, who would buy Underground? At what price? I wouldn't expect anyone to buy Underground on a speculative basis, which means you are selling a piece of property that has historically lost money. It'd be great if someone who really knew what they were doing wanted Underground - an experienced retail developer like Jacoby or Simon might know enough about these sorts of spaces to turn Underground around. Thing is, the underlying fundamentals for the Five Points area are not good, so there is only so much you can do.
I am still of the opinion that the only thing which can revive Underground and Five Points is a new dormitory by GSU. There is no demand for anything else, really. I guess you could try locating more government offices in the area - y'know, since that has worked so well thus far. Other than GSU students, who would choose to live at Five Points? Sure, you have a few folks at Kessler Lofts, William Oliver, and the Metropolitan condos. I'd wager that existing buildings pretty much take up all existing demand for Five Points living that is not GSU-related. I don't think anyone in their right mind would suggest Underground as a location for a hotel or new office building. We've all seen that the existing retail space isn't in huge demand.
So I'm left with a dormitory. Perhaps the best-case scenario is for GSU to buy Underground from the city in a JV with an experienced retail operator, build a ton of dorms, and hope that will provide enough demand to lease-up the space in Underground with quality tenants. Maybe there are other institutional users who could be attracted to the space, or perhaps a private student housing developer would take a gamble.