ATLANTA (Sept. 20, 2010) - Don Childress, the visionary developer behind Atlanta Galleria Office Park and Midtown's 999 Peachtree Tower, received one of ULI Atlanta's highest honors at the group's annual awards dinner last night.
ULI Atlanta bestowed its Frank Carter Community Achievement Award upon Childress. The award, named for the late Frank Carter - founder of Carter, "recognizes an individual in development or real estate related field who has made an outstanding contribution to the Atlanta community in his or her lifetime."
As part of the ceremony, ULI showed a video that featured Jack Guynn, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; Billy Peeples, headmaster of Lovett School; and Tad Leithead, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, talking about their relationships with Childress.
"Don had the vision to make a major investment in Midtown when no one else was paying attention to it," said Guynn said, who served with Childress on boards of groups aimed at improving Midtown.
Upon accepting the award, Childress said he was honored to accept an award named for Frank Carter, whom Childress described as "a fierce competitor and a real gentleman."
"Certainly, this is the highest honor I've had in my life," Childress said. He specifically discussed Atlanta Galleria in the video tribute.
"Atlanta Galleria was, arguably, our most ambitious project, although we didn't think of it that way at the time," Childress says in the video. Others had deemed as undevelopable the 85-acre pine forest in south Cobb County, he recalls. But Childress Klein figured out a way to use the property's rough terrain to its advantage by creating "stair-step" parking decks on the hill.
Former Childress Klein partner Tad Leithead told a similar story as part of the tribute.
When Childress envisioned Atlanta Galleria on the "goat hill with a steep slope" in the late 1970s, Atlanta's tallest suburban buildings were six stories. He conceived a seven-building project with office buildings of 20 stories, a hotel and boutique mall. "It was an extraordinarily visionary project," Leithead said.
Don Childress joins a list of winners that includes several Atlanta real estate legends: Tom Cousins, John Williams, John Portman, Herman Russell, Charlie Ackerman and John and Sue Wieland.
Childress credited his colleagues at Childress Klein Properties for much of his success. "I have a great team of loyal colleagues ... that have enabled me to walk in the front of a parade they created."
Several of Childress' colleagues including Gordon Buchmiller, Connie Engel, John Decker, Chris Poholek, Mitchell Taylor and Milly Miller were in attendance to see him accept the honor. The audience gave Childress a standing ovation to acknowledge his achievement and commitment to the community.