Downtown Atlanta is getting another startup hub, this time in the historic Sweet Auburn district. Constellations, located in the 1910 Southern School Book Depository building on Auburn Avenue, will serve as a shared workspace and educational hub for civic, social, and private startups — with Georgia Tech and Georgia State Universities already signed on as tenants.
The space will take up the second floor of the building and offer private offices, dedicated desks, co-working, and memberships for programming access. Constellations’ owner and developer Gene Kansas, also a social entrepreneur and radio show host, says his goal is to incubate the type of innovation-promoting environment downtown that the Tech Square area has brought to Midtown Atlanta.
“There are so many companies in Tech Square — AT&T, Panasonic, you name it — none of those really need more office space,” says Kansas, who’s office was located in Tech Square for three years. “What they want and need is that connection and presence to Georgia Tech — the brain power and the energy and the fire you have there — they do it for the attraction and retention of employees, for happiness, for innovation.”
“I have hopes that we’ll have the same type of interesting presence and connection in our building and in this neighborhood, the Civil Rights District.”
Education will be a component of the space, as the two university tenants will hold actual course classes there. Kansas says this will bring the energy of students and professors that is so vital to Tech Square’s success to Constellations as well.
Members will have access to a library, conference rooms, a coffee bar, and a podcast studio.
As the host of civic-minded radio program Sidewalk Radio, a long-time Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor, and board member of many civic organizations and nonprofits, Kansas is also integrating his social entrepreneurship background into Constellations. Thanks to a grant from Invest Atlanta, a full quarter of the space will be provided free of charge to social impact organizations and community-oriented groups. It will add up to about $135,000 worth of space and resources, says Kansas.
Civil Bikes, an organization that leads biking tours around Atlanta’s historic neighborhoods like Sweet Auburn, is the first identified tenant in this program.
Constellations’ investors share Kansas’ vision to marry business innovation with social impact. They include Home Depot CFO Carol Tomé, Community Foundation board member Ramon Tomé, co-creator of the Crazy Good Turns podcast Brad Shaw, BCG consultant Mike Gandy, and civic leader Ted Bradford.
“Our investors and partners see the value in social and cultural returns in addition to financial ones,” Kansas says. “I particularly like the idea of bringing together community development and economic development, while keeping the preservation of our city’s history and culture at the forefront of our work.”
Kansas has done it before in other neighborhoods. He led revitalization and redevelopment of the iconic Clermont Lounge in Poncey-Highlands, helped renew Amsterdam Avenue in Midtown, and has already begun in Sweet Auburn with a full redevelopment of the Atlanta Daily World Building, where the first black-owned daily newspaper was founded, into apartments.
This building is his second project in Sweet Auburn. Along with Constellations, the first floor hosts the African American history museum APEX Museum.
“If you look at a picture of the building on the outside you’ll see this incredible work of art at the top which is an open book and a torch of knowledge,” says Kansas. “That’s the ethos of what we’re really trying to embody there. It just became very obvious and very evident in an instant — it was a light bulb moment.”
He says the key is to bring new organizations and companies into the district to see its value, as well as support current neighborhood residents.
“It’s about getting likeminded, engaged professionals that want to make a difference in the world together, and giving them a platform, in this case a place, to let them do their thing. And when those people get together good things happen,” says Kansas.
The space will officially open in Spring of 2018. Learn more here.