Alpharetta may be close to landing a massive corporate relocation deal that could bring hundreds of high-paying technology jobs. Recent activity suggests the location would be the Cobalt Center, a vacant corporate campus just off Windward on Westside Parkway and Cumming Street.
Built in 2001, Cobalt is home to two six-story buildings totaling nearly 400,000 square feet with a connected atrium. Nortel Networks and Cingular Wireless once called this place home. In 2006 Cingular became AT&T Wireless however their name remains on some of the property’s signage to this day. About three years ago AT&T Wireless consolidated offices in Atlanta, leaving the Cobalt Center completely vacant. It’s since remained the largest vacant space in the city.
The facility was then purchased by Chicago-based investment firm M & J Wilkow for $20.1 million. Their specialty is recruiting large corporate tenants. Past successes include a relocation deal with Blue Cross Blue Shield in Chicago for a similar property. The Cobalt Center is their only venture in the southeast.
Wilkow’s investment almost paid off last year with General Motors. Cobalt Center was narrowly edged out by UPS’s former digs in Roswell.
Unfortunately there’s no prize for second place in the corporate relocation game. The loss of GM was a bitter pill for Alpharetta to swallow, especially considering that the business went to neighboring Roswell. Since then Alpharetta has doubled down on the economic incentives for Cobalt. Last year the site was granted an opportunity zone designation. This means a future tenant could gain tax benefits of up to $3,500 per job created for five years. The lack of this incentive was a major contributor to losing the GM deal.
Recently a flurry of activity at City Hall suggests that interest may again be brewing at the site. This evening Alpharetta’s Development Authority will meet to approve a bond inducement application. The request is for an undisclosed corporate relocation project of an existing office building on Windward.
And at almost the same time today Alpharetta’s Planning Commission will meet to consider a master plan change for the Cobalt property. The city’s website, known for providing supporting documents for such agenda items, is unusually lacking this time. But the requested change calls for adding a four-story parking deck to the Cobalt Center and a new entry point along Cumming Street.
And in perhaps one last-ditch effort to sweeten a deal, Alpharetta’s Council on Monday approved a small corporate relocation incentive. The program would waive permit and inspection fees for large tenant buildouts at facilities like the Cobalt Center.
A deal at the Cobalt Center would be the economic story of the year for Alpharetta, a serious shot of adrenaline for this area. Keep your fingers crossed.