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Old Fourth Ward Welcomes Bohemians

Groundbreaking ceremony for $35 million Bohemian House project.

Residents of the Old Fourth Ward officially welcomed the latest redevelopment project to hit the neighborhood in a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday that will bring 276 high-end apartments by the fall of 2013.

Bohemian House or BOHO, as the project is dubbed, is a $35 million investment by Cincinnati-based North American Properties.

The privately held firm, which has about $4 billion in mixed-use, residential and office properties under management, counts Atlantic Station among its holdings and is developing the Avalon, a $600 million luxury apartment rental and retail project in Alpharetta.

The project of one- and two-bedroom apartments, sits on a 3.7-acre tract bounded by Glen Iris Drive, Dallas and Rankin streets and Historic Fourth Ward Park.

The BOHO development is actually two buildings that will straddle Wilmer Street NE, which runs through the center of the development. The buildings will have self-contained parking, but the design will create 50 extra public parking spaces for community use on the street, the company said.

BOHO comes to an area of Old Fourth Ward that's undergone a torrent of redevelopment in recent years.

There's the 17.6-acre park itself — roughly bounded by North Avenue, Freedom Parkway and Glen Iris Drive and connected to the Atlanta BeltLine Project — that was born out of a need to tackle storm water and flooding issues.

The $22 million park project is part of what proved to be a draw for BOHO, as were the $180 million Ponce City Market redevelopment project of the old City Hall East building and the nearby AMLI Residential's 337-unit apartment complex.

All of those developments make it an attractive location for North American Properties' target market for the BOHO project: Generation Y or Echo Boomers.

North American Properties' research suggests the 80 million Echo Boomers, those born between 1980 and 2000, are more interested in having amenities within walking distance and eschew the suburban subdivision lifestyle of their parents.

It's partly fueling the urban redevelopment and revitalization projects not just in Atlanta but also all over the country, Mark Toro, managing partner of North American Properties said.

"What we see here in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward is being repeated in Baltimore and Cleveland and Dallas and Denver," Toro said. "No longer content to live the lifestyle of their parents with a half-acre lot, 2.5 kids and two SUVs, this generation of seeks interaction beyond the walls of a suburban home. They seek activity and they crave diversity of experience."

But beyond the social preferences of the Echo Boomer generation, there are some economic differences with their Gen X and Baby Boomer parents that also may be driving that shift.

For one thing, Echo Boomers have more college loan debt than previous generations and high unemployment amidst lower job prospects in the current economy.

And having witnessed the collapse of the housing market, these Echo Boomers, as they enter the workforce, may opt to rent for longer periods of time and put off a home purchase until further into the future.

"The commitment to single-family home ownership isn't what it used to be," Toro told East Atlanta Patch.

"As they seek housing, they're more likely going to seek housing in an urban environment that's walkable and fully amenitized."

It explains the North American Properties' shift away from suburban developments and more toward urban redevelopment projects such as BOHO.

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