Founder/partner, North American Properties’ Atlanta office
For most Atlantans, there’s just one thing standing between them and the rest of their lives: their cars. So says Mark Toro, founder and partner of North American Properties’ (NAP) Atlanta office. Voted “most admired CEO” by Atlanta Business Chronicle readers and named one of the “55 most influential Atlantans” by Atlanta magazine, Toro is aiming to change this mindset. “In order for Atlanta to become a more walkable city, more people need to commit to a walkable lifestyle,” he says.
Toro has more than 40 years of experience under his belt and has acquired, developed or redeveloped more than 65 projects totaling 22 million square feet during his time at NAP. He has spearheaded several live/work/play developments, including Atlantic Station and Avalon in Alpharetta, which tie together what’s known as the first place (a person’s home) with his or her second place (work) and bring in the third place (play) to create a community. Each development is uniquely curated to fit the needs of the market. For example, Avalon includes a dog park, children’s play area and bike share station to cater to families. An open container policy gives the community a place to enjoy a glass of wine or cold beer and meander throughout the property.
“We study the surrounding community to find out who lives there, who works there. Then we ask, ‘What are they missing?’” says Toro of NAP’s process of acquiring a property. “Can we create seamless connections between the development and its surroundings? We assess whether the local community is growing and determine the property’s potential place in the community’s future.”
Toro’s latest project is Colony Square in Midtown, which NAP procured in December 2015. “It’s a perfect example of investing in a tired development within a growing city and breathing new life into the property as it transforms into a vibrant, sophisticated mecca,” he says.
With help from a local branding firm and the community’s input, the space is pegged as “urbane”— having the polish and suavity similar to that of a sophisticated social life in major cities. The brand reflects Colony Square’s dynamic future— a 24/7 foodie and shopping hub energized with events, retailers, restaurants and cultural experiences.
Toro’s involvement on the Executive Committee of the Midtown Alliance and his status as a Midtown resident helped cement NAP’s decision to acquire and transform Colony Square. “Almost daily, I walked past the property, going over its potential with friends and colleagues,” Toro says. “I look forward to its future, where we will bring modern art and culture to connect with the community.”
The Midtown Alliance’s isn’t the only committee that Toro leads. He is chair of the Urban Land Institute’s Livable Communities Council, which recently implemented TransitScreens at Colony Square. The displays show MARTA times at nearby stations, as well as the time it would take to walk to MARTA, the closest Uber, the weather for walkers and bikers and current driving times between given destinations (which are almost always painfully long).
“Our goal is to encourage Colony Square guests and office workers to consider alternative transit options and commit to a more walkable lifestyle,” says Toro. “The strategy is to dissolve the barriers between Colony Square and the adjacent community by creating visual connections that will reinforce connectivity and promote an engaging pedestrian experience.”
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