A new innovative business and entrepreneur center, scheduled to open adjacent to MARTA’s H.E. Holmes rail station next year, has been touted as the first of its type in Georgia. 

The project, which will be called “iVillage at MLK,” will be constructed from 14 repurposed shipping containers and will offer 6,500 square feet of affordable space for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The center will also offer meeting space for public and private events.

The project is sponsored by the City of Atlanta, Invest Atlanta and MARTA. The location is the rarely-used upper right front parking area of the Holmes station on the M. L. King Jr. Drive side.

Construction has been slated to begin in February 2018 and will take approximately three months to complete, according to Kevin Johnson, the senior vice president of economic development for Invest Atlanta.

“This shipping-container iVillage is not only the first of its kind in the state of Georgia, but it is one of the coolest things we have done for budding entrepreneurs in the city of Atlanta,” explained Mayor Kasim Reed. “Shipping container villages have been catching on around the world in leading cities like London, Copenhagen and San Francisco.”

“With the new iVillage at the H.E. Holmes MARTA station, we are leveraging a smart, sustainable idea to expand our commitment to creating new hubs of innovation all over the city,” he continued. “I am pleased that this iVillage will be one component of improvements and investments to improve mobility and access to economic opportunity along the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive corridor.”

It was not by happenstance that this new unique entrepreneur project is coming to the far west end of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in southwest Atlanta. Reed announced during his first term that he wanted to make Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the best example of a street that bears the name of the slain civil rights leader.

“Atlanta is the birthplace of Dr. King. The street bearing his name should and will be a place for innovation in our city,” Reed said. “M.L. King Drive should represent Dr. King’s legacy and be a source of pride and excellence for all those who travel on it.”

In 2016, the city was awarded a $10 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help improve the street which stretches west from downtown past Interstate 285.

The grant is part of a $22.7 million effort to improve mobility and increase access to transit, employment centers, and services along MLK.

The iVillage project is part of a larger strategy to bring economic investment to key commercial corridors throughout the city, Reed said.

“The bottom line is that when entrepreneurs frequently start they don’t have a place to house their business and advertise their wares,” Reed said.

This first of its kind business center is the result of the Invest Atlanta team following the mayor’s request to “think outside the box”, said Dr. Eloisa Klementich, president and CEO, Invest Atlanta.

“I’m looking forward to the day when local entrepreneurs are here every day, bring their new ideas and energy to this area,” Kelementich said. “One day, we hope to see many of the businesses launched take root up and down the MLK Corridor and look forward to working with the community to make The iVillage at MLK a place of pride and purpose.”

Invest Atlanta will soon make applications available for entrepreneurs interested in leasing space at The iVillage at MLK.

Invest Atlanta President and CEO Eloisa Klementich and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed signed a commemorative marker for the “iVillage at MLK” center. (Stan Washington / The Atlanta Voice)

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