The Downtown Atlanta submarket is shaking some trees. I heard about the sale of the CNN Center last night and I cannot stop thinking about it! The CNN Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is the headquarters for CNN and other WarnerMedia companies around the world. WarnerMedia, deeply rooted in the Atlanta culture, made the bold decision to sell the CNN Center and relocate operations to its newly renovated Techwood center. The change will not be immediate, and employees will remain at their present location for quite some time. This makes sense considering WarnerMedia unveiled a commissioned mural portrait of Turner at the building park late last year.
WarnerMedia plans to sell and lease back the CNN Center for at least five years in an effort to raise capital. Desroches has been working for some time to determine the highest and best use of the CNN Center and, he and his team, have ultimately decided the best course of action is to sell. Furthermore, many of CNN’s most popular, have moved to New York City.
Opened as the Omni Complex in 1976, the CNN Center has been a tourist attraction for decades, providing behind-the-scenes tours that allow an inside look at how live broadcasts are created and transmitted globally. CNN has occupied this building since 1987, when Ted Turner moved the network from the original Techwood campus. The center featured the Omni Hotel and a large food court and gift shop. On May 29th, protests over George Floyd’s death at the hands of police turned violent, resulting in damage to the exterior of the building and some part of the interior. The famous CNN sign, located at one of the main entrances, was damaged too but was fixed the next day.
It may seem that the protests sparked the decision to sell, and although the announcement was made only one month after the initial damage, that’s not the case. The decision to sell the property was made to cut costs has been in the works for years. The plan was set in motion after AT&T purchased Time Warner. Perhaps rioting and disruptions were unpleasant catalysts setting the plans into immediate action, or it was initially been projected for this time frame. Pascal Desroches, CFO of WarnerMedia, suggests that the existing CNN Center could be repurposed from an office building to have more emphasis on retail and mixed-use. That could be an amazing addition to the downtown submarket.
Over its 30+ year presence in Atlanta, the CNN Center has had a major impact on the city. Just a few years ago, in honor of the founder, the road that runs in front of the building was renamed “Ted Turner”. While they aren’t turning their back on the city, the move will displace a significant number of WarnerMedia’s 6,000 Atlanta personnel. Because of the ongoing pandemic, we probably won’t see the effects of the relocation for quite a while. Who knows? The move may very well be for Atlanta’s benefit. Only time will tell.