Carrying on Kim King’s Legacy

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/04/05

It’s uncanny how much Beau King looks like his old man. He’s athletic and blond and even recalls the famous image of his dad in his football glory days: No. 18 carried on the shoulders of elated Tech fans.

But after Kim King, the Yellow Jacket hero and Atlanta real estate pioneer, died last year after a six-year struggle with cancer, people wondered how much of Kim King there was in Beau.

Kim King had been just about larger than life. Rumored to be an inspiration for Tom Wolfe’s “A Man in Full,” he was buddies with former Gov. Roy Barnes and was adored by a group of influential Georgia Tech alumni. He helped revive Midtown with his Centergy One office tower at Technology Square — and he was sitting on a critical second piece of dirt next door.

Would, or could, his young son carry on his work without him?

Beau King, 32, admits he met a crossroads when his father died. He could have sold the family assets and “slinked off,” as he put it. “But I wasn’t raised that way,” he insisted. “He wouldn’t have contemplated that we’d do anything but move forward.”

A year after losing his father, Beau King has found a wily new mentor and partner, Bob Voyles, to carry out Kim King’s vision and significantly expand Technology Square, the bustling Georgia Tech campus in Midtown.

Voyles, 53, until last year the Atlanta boss for Houston developer Hines, was the man who persuaded King & Spalding to leave downtown for a silver skyscraper on 14th Street. That building, 41-story 1180 Peachtree, will open in March.

His plans for Technology Square are just as ambitious.

King and Voyles are planning one or two office towers, each 20 to 30 stories high, built on 4 acres at Spring and Eighth streets and overlooking the Downtown Connector.

They plan to sell an adjacent 3-acre parking lot on the corner of Spring Street and Peachtree Place to a high-rise residential developer.

And they will put in more restaurants, retail and public spaces along Spring Street to bring north the street life of Technology Square — almost to 10th Street and the Midtown MARTA stop.

No other corner represents the resurgence of Midtown more than Technology Square, Voyles said. “It’s a tribute to Beau’s father and Tech, and we want to build on that success.”

Midtown move a hit for Tech

By nearly all accounts, Georgia Tech’s venture into Midtown, which Kim King helped design, has been a profound success.

Georgia Tech built the project in 2003 to push its campus into the Midtown business district. It’s home to Tech’s business school, a research center, a conference hotel. But its most visible impact has been on the street.

Just five years ago, the area was a series of warehouses, chain-linked lots and a lonely Arby’s. “You wouldn’t be up there in the daytime, let alone in the evening,” said Bob Thompson, Tech’s senior vice president.

Now students and office workers hang out at its Fifth Street cafes and locals line up for tables at nightspots like the Globe.

Kim King cooperated with his alma mater to build his Centergy One building at Technology Square. The relationship brought the building luck. It’s 99 percent full, with Tech occupying the first five floors.

Georgia Tech will have a say in the new Beau King/Voyles project as well, Thompson said. “We want to make it feel like more of Technology Square,” he said. “That’s a really important requirement.”

The partners hope being the school’s neighbor will give their project an edge — and they’ll need it.

King and Voyles will have to vie for tenants to get their office buildings off the ground, and there are many competitors.

A second building at Atlantic Station is imminent. Another Tech football star turned developer, John Dewberry, has started a structure on Peachtree Street. Developers including Cousins Properties are quietly sitting on lots nearby.

Head, heart dictated choice

One of Voyles’ reasons for joining Beau King was the superior site, a plot near MARTA and I-75/85 that Kim King had staked out years ago.

That was the business side. But there was some heart in his decision, too.

“It afforded me the opportunity to work on one of the best pieces of real estate in Midtown,” Voyles said. “And in my own way, it allowed me to help Kim King’s son get his feet under him.”

Their partnership is a good match, said John Aderhold, the veteran Atlanta developer and Georgia Tech booster. Aderhold, the man who helped build the Georgia Dome, is a vice president of the firm that partially financed Kim King’s Centergy One building.

“Beau is a fine young man. He’s got a lot of Kim King in him,” Aderhold said. “He lacks Kim King’s experience, but you only get that through time.”

Beau King said he appreciated Voyles’ wisdom. “My dad was ‘ready, shoot, aim,’ ” he said. Voyles, a former Alston & Bird attorney, is more measured.

Voyles praised Beau King’s tenacity. “Beau King was a wrestler growing up. … They are a unique breed. … [The sport] takes a special dedication,” he said.

Training wheels come off

For King, the deal is a chance to preserve — and expand — a family business, a company where his sister works and his mother still comes in every morning.

And he’s also eager to prove he’s ready for the challenge.

Behind the scenes, he ran his dad’s company for three tough years, he said, as Kim King endured three bone marrow transplants, 1,500 hours of chemotherapy, treatments in Arkansas and “some pretty nasty drugs.”

“It’s not like he died and I woke up and said, ‘What do I do now?’ ” Beau King said. “My dad was a remarkable man. … He used to get me on the phone … and say, ‘Beau, here’s what you need to do.’ It was like I was on training wheels, but they came off when he died.”

People had “intense affection for Kim King,” Voyles said. “Beau King is trying to step into that. But he realizes, smartly, that he can’t be his dad. He’ll take the best of his leadership and strong personality and bring his own discipline.”