Microsoft drags feet on proposed Atlanta campus that would generate 15,000 jobs -- now the city wants answers

Microsoft's existing Atlantic Yards buildings in Atlanta
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is under pressure to reaffirm its plans for a sizable new complex in Atlanta. The tech giant is sitting on a 90-acre site after delaying an official groundbreaking that was due to occur last year. The delay has put into question whether Microsoft’s signaled intent to build a major corporate campus, and hence create up to 15,000 jobs, will ever bear fruit. 

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens is unhappy with the impasse and told Bloomberg that he intends to push for a decision from Microsoft and potentially take back the land for other uses or partners. Bloomberg has been in touch with Microsoft, but it has declined to comment on the matter.

“We really want them to develop their property or offer it back to us so we can develop it,” Dickens said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Even if you don’t know what you want to do, just let us know what you know you won’t be able to do.” The clock is ticking, and Dickens says he will reach out to Microsoft within a week to inquire about the viability of the campus project. Microsoft’s answer will determine his next course of action.

Developments like a new Microsoft campus are incredibly important to cities like Atlanta. Local citizens and the city would welcome the creation of 15,000 jobs -- these large developments help to bolster local support businesses and can even foster new ones.

It isn’t all about (missing) jobs, as Atlanta has a particular reliance on property taxes from commercial real estate owners and an unfortunately high office vacancy rate compared with other states. According to Bloomberg’s report, about 19% of Atlanta city tax revenue comes from commercial property. However, it is simultaneously suffering from some of the highest office vacancy rates in the country. New offices, however, fare much better than older properties in terms of vacancy rates, so developers are still happy to keep building.

Microsoft’s indecision over its proposed Atlanta campus decision is said to have its roots in the pandemic era. Companies that could support remote working without negative business impacts often scaled back office spaces during the lengthy COVID lockdowns, precipitating a meaningful rise in remote and hybrid working. Wealthy commercial property owners and renters have been suffering ever since and have sought to influence the media to spur a return to the office.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • JamesJones44
    With all of tech in layoff mode there is about zero chance that MS builds this campus in the near future. They may not be willing to sell the land back either. Alternative investments (aka stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.) is a line item on their earnings report. Real estate speculation is part of that.
  • DavidLejdar
    ‘Broken promises.’ Tech industry’s real estate pullback leaves communities reeling
    Meanwhile, S&P 500 went up 4.71% past month...

    It is somewhat similar in Germany. Government is all like: "Oh noes, the economy is doing so badly. We need to incentivize investments." Meanwhile, the top 40 DAX-corporations will be having some 54 billion Euro in dividends. I mean, nice for them and for everyone, who can afford some stock to begin with, and also nice for the government, that they can issue even more bonds to pay for all the subventions, with the money from these shareholders. Just makes me wonder, if that is all there is, that some of us have existential fears, while some big guys save a few bucks that they barely notice having.
  • punkncat
    I'm also of the thought that this 'campus' will not come to fruition. Seeing the major landscape changes in relation to humans doing programming/code, phone call like operations and so forth that AI has caused in a very short span of time it just really wouldn't make sense FOR them to.

    Here in Peachtree City (a short ride from my home) they are building the enormously large data center there. Almost assuredly for the film studios and upscale village related to Trillith. I would have to check news articles, but very large and will only be employing 15 people, most of which will be security.
  • NightForce
    A big issue the city has is that a LOT of promises were made by the city and other project advocates. They promised things like lines out the door for nearby eateries, they promised highly-paid workers would want services and would be renting or buying homes, and promised the local community there would be lots of donations as so forth. Grants to redo park green spaces. Philanthropy. And a chance to have locals hired to hold some the jobs.

    Many of the nearby small businesses started doing renovations, adding better internet to support throngs of workers on laptops, etc. And absolutely none of the promised business has happened. It's a ghost town.

    Worse, the Microsoft project was touted as a make-up for not winning the big Amazon HQ project a few years prior. That loss left a very sour taste behind and Microsoft was supposed to be a terrific second chance. Atlanta is relatively desperate to get a major tech company project in the hopes it will attract others and all of them will bring very highly paid workers who will spend within the community.

    And it has gone nowhere, because the world changed and still is changing. Microsoft would be foolish to proceed at this point. The city dearly wants them to promise and commit anyway because the local community is fuming and doesn't care about all the layoffs and uncertainty.
  • kjfatl
    It would be interesting to find out the real reason this project has been delayed or cancelled.
    -- Was is related to the riots and other disturbances in Atlanta which happened shortly after the project was announced?
    -- Is the project too small for Microsoft's long-term goals.
    -- Have they found another nearby site in Midtown that better suites their needs, perhaps absorbing the NCR headquarters building, or another nearly empty building?
    -- Are they moving north of Midtown to an area like Buckhead or Sandy Springs that is easier for their Atlanta employees to commute to?
    There are many, many other possibilities.