Axios Atlanta

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Today's weather: Some early fog then mostly sunny. High near 71.

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Today's newsletter is 833 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Office conversions could revive Downtown

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Converting vacant offices into housing could generate 1,500 affordable homes in Downtown Atlanta, research shows.

  • But it would require a $48 million public subsidy.

Why it matters: 28% of offices in Downtown are vacant, largely due to the rise in remote work. Converting some of those properties could bring more people into the neighborhood, add more transit-adjacent housing and breathe new life into a struggling neighborhood.

What they did: Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District released a feasibility study on Monday to see if Downtown office buildings could be converted to residential.

  • The study's authors analyzed the size, floor plan and age of 105 non-owner-occupied buildings with at least three stories to gauge their potential.
  • In addition, they researched rent, vacancy rates, and potential subsidy needs to see if conversions are economically practical. They also studied Chicago, Boston, and other cities' use of grants and tax abatements to offset construction costs.

What they found: The analysis shows buildings are only rational to convert when their office vacancy exceeds 70%. Eleven buildings fit this criteria or are projected to, within 5 years.

  • The best conversion opportunities are between Peachtree Center and the State Farm Arena due to its weakening office market and growing residential market.
  • Conversion costs — up to $250 per square foot — could be prohibitive. Public incentives could make a difference.

Caveat: The study doesn't account for owner willingness to sell or convert their buildings.

What they're saying: The study shows there's "no silver bullet" for office conversions, Marilynn Davis of HR&A Advisors, the firm that conducted the study, told Axios.

  • "There's a range of things that have to come together in a certain way, and there is potential Downtown for that to happen, but it's not just one size fits all," Davis said.

The bottom line: Alena Green, Central Atlanta Progress' economic development director, said Atlanta's underperforming buildings aren't going anywhere, so they need to pivot to something that won't drain property values.

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2. Decatur Book Festival returns in October

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Book lovers and reading enthusiasts can rejoice, as the Decatur Book Festival is coming back this fall.

Why it matters: The return of the popular, long-running celebration of the literary world follows a hiatus last year when organizers paused to "re-evaluate short- and long-term festival and planning operations."

The latest: Festival dates are set for Oct. 4–5.

  • Participating bookstores include A Capella Books, Charis Books & More, Eagle Eye Books, Little Shop of Stories and Brave & Kind Bookshop.

What they're saying: Alison Weissinger, director of the DeKalb County Public Library and president of the festival, said in a press release that the team is "thrilled to see renewed support from our community and key stakeholders, and we look forward to unveiling our new and returning sponsors soon."

Flashback: The Decatur Book Festival would attract as many as 80,000 people. But it experienced a decline in sponsorships after the pandemic, and had no full-time staff or executive director in 2023, according to the AJC, which used to sponsor it.

What we're watching: Whether this year will attract notable authors such as Roxane Gay, Natasha Trethewey and Isabel Wilkerson, who have all attended.

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3. Phoenix 3000 was...

Phoenix 3000 wanted to stop for lunch, but we had to get back home to walk Hannah. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

In front of artist Greg Mike's Coca-Cola mural on the side of Blu Cantina in East Atlanta Village.

  • Congrats to readers Brent H., Sandra W., Cam H., Andria S., and Skip P. for your correct guesses.

4. Our favorite candy

Top-selling Easter candies, 2023
Reproduced from Instacart; Note: "Top-selling" candies were ranked by the total number of items sold in each state during the week ending Easter Sunday; Map: Axios Visuals

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are winning the sweets war this Easter.

The big picture: Metro Atlantans understand that there's no more delightful candy than the combination of chocolate and peanut butter served in a cute cup shape, according to Instacart data shared with Axios.

Zoom in: Old-school Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs, Cadbury Easter Candy and the tried-and-true, fragile yet powerful Lindt Milk Chocolate round out the top five.

Of note: The Easter Bunny — and consumers — are feeling the pinch of inflation this year with skyrocketing cocoa prices.

  • Cocoa is more expensive than copper, surpassing more than $9,000 a ton for the first time on Monday.
  • Cocoa prices have surged in recent weeks amid disruptive weather amplified by climate change and rising freight costs, Axios' Deena Zaidi reports.

The big picture: Consumers are expected to spend $3.1 billion on candy this year, down from $3.3 billion for the holiday in 2023, the National Retail Federation's annual holiday survey found, Axios' Kelly Tyko reports.

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5. Five-ish Points: Roswell mulls over soccer stadium

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

📕 The Cobb County teacher fired for reading a book about gender identity to her students has appealed the state verdict upholding her termination. (AJC)

⚽️ The city of Roswell has approved a letter of intent to explore the possibility of constructing a United Soccer League stadium and mixed-use development. (United Soccer League)

The Georgia Senate passed a bill that would, among other things, ban trans girls from participating in sports that match their gender identity. (WABE)

🚢 Georgia officials have won over a key congressional ally to deepen the shipping channel to the Port of Savannah. (Associated Press)

😫 Kristal is just trying to get through Thursday.

🏋️ Thomas is doing jumping jacks in preparation for Sine Die. Let's gooooo.

☝🏿 Wil concurs with Kristal's vibe. Also, HBD to his niece, Genny!

This newsletter was edited by Jen Ashley and copy edited by Natasha Danielle Smith and Anjelica Tan.