Perimeter Center’s MARTA train service has helped attract another Fortune 500 company.
WestRock, a multinational paper and packaging corporation, this month announced the relocation of its headquarters from Norcross to the Northpark Town Center towers in Sandy Springs, citing transit as among the reasons to place 800 employees there. Northpark sits atop the Sandy Springs MARTA Station, while Norcross is in Gwinnett County, which has long rejected joining the MARTA system.
“This office will provide additional space for growth for our team and will enable us to enhance collaboration by co-locating key functions,” WestRock CEO Steve Voorhees said in a press release. “Access to MARTA and key transportation hubs will also benefit our employees in the region.”
WestRock joins a trend of large corporations moving their headquarters from suburban office parks to urbanized areas served by mass transit. The intent usually involves attracting and retaining millennials as white-collar employees.
While the headquarters moves get a lot of publicity, most such moves affect a relatively small number of executives and management staff, with other offices remaining in the suburbs or other areas. WestRock has 39,000 employees around the world and will keep another office in Norcross.
WestRock, whose products include pizza boxes, was No. 251 on the latest Fortune 500 list, with about $11.4 billion in revenue. It formed in 2015 from the merger of RockTenn and MeadWestvaco. The company will make its Perimeter Center move in phases spread from fall of this year to spring of 2018, said spokesperson Chris Augustine.
The three-tower Northpark Town Center complex at Abernathy and Peachtree-Dunwoody roads, owned and managed by Atlanta-based Cousins Properties, is already home to another Fortune 500 company, Veritiv.
In recent months, Northpark has attracted civic-minded business organizations as well. The Perimeter Center Community Improvement Districts moved its headquarters there last year, and the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce’s new Technology and Innovation Center will open there this year.
In a press release, Larry Gellerstedt, Cousins’ president and CEO, called WestRock’s relocation a “strong endorsement to the attractiveness of our office building and its prime location near public transit.”
Leaders of Perimeter Center cities and business groups are talking about expanding the transit options. The PCIDs and the cities of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs are the midst of a “last-mile connectivity” plan for a transit circulator system in Perimeter Center—likely dedicated lanes for public and private buses that connect commuters with MARTA stations.
Bigger projects are long-proposed MARTA expansions northward along I-285 to Alpharetta. North Fulton mayors are discussing a possible transit-funding sales tax to go on the 2018 ballot, whether for MARTA or for other forms of transit.
In January, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul joined a large group of Fulton and state officials who traveled to Dallas to view the metro area’s transit system. At the Jan. 17 City Council meeting, Paul said that seeing light rail trains in Plano, Texas, made him start leaning in favor of that transit form over “bus rapid transit,” meaning buses running in dedicated lanes.
“The rail system has ignited a total redevelopment of downtown,” Paul said of Plano. “They were ecstatic about what the train had done for their downtown area,” he said, adding that other cities that had opted out of the rail system were now seeking connections to it.
“It changed my mind about light rail a little bit,” said the mayor, adding he is now “much more willing” to support it locally.