Escape rooms are becoming an ever-growing popular attraction throughout Georgia, with at least seven in metro Atlanta alone.
Now, real estate owner Brandon Thompson said he hopes to bring one to downtown Douglasville.
Thompson currently owns a nearly vacant 5,000 square feet building located at 8440 Courthouse Square at the Broad Street intersection via his real estate company Investor Network, LLC. Although an attorney currently occupies part of the bottom section of the building, Thompson hopes to turn the majority of the building into an escape room with multiple suites that could be subdivided into 15 rooms.
“I want to bring some family friendly attractions to Douglasville,” said Thompson. “I feel like we are the next hub of Atlanta. I know a lot of people that live out here go to Atlanta to be entertained. They are people of all ages. I think if we have something that is appealing, that people drive all over town to go do something, that could bring in a really good clientele to Douglasville that could also benefit not only the escape room but it can also benefit the restaurants and it can allow growth and rebranding of our commercials spaces.”
The concept is that people get locked into rooms of various sizes and must escape under a set amount of time, usually 45 minutes to an hour in length. The rooms are usually decorated according to a specific theme and are littered with clues and red herrings meant to further complicate the escapade.
While Thompson does not want to start an escape company on his own, he does want to provide an empty historical building for a potential escape room business to come in and expand or start their business in Douglasville.
“I’m a real estate guy,” said Thompson. “I am not trying to start one of these companies. I used the power of my network and social media.”
Thompson originally posted his idea on Facebook by asking people to spread the word to escape room companies in the hope of catching someone’s attention.
“I want to bring an escape room into Douglasville,” wrote Thompson online. “I think this would be a great addition to our area and I can offer very competitive rates just to bring this type of business to the west side of Atlanta.”
Since the post, Thompson has received attention from an escape room company called Escape Woods and has met with them twice to show them the property and discuss the idea behind bringing an escape room to Douglasville.
“They have a vision to make this escape room a 1920s downtown Douglasville hotel,” said Thompson. “[Their idea is] that a band of robbers hijacked the train [across the street], took people hostage, put them in this hotel room and now they have got an hour to escape. That is their thought process currently.”
The idea behind providing a new activity for Douglasville was also fueled by Thompson's urge to flip old properties and turn them into modern areas, which is what he mainly does at his business. Thompson and his partner have flipped over 1,500 homes throughout west Georgia and Atlanta during the last 13 years.
"I feel like it is my civic duty," said Thompson. "My thought process was I would like to see somebody take the old buildings and make them into something family friendly, not let them sit and rot. In my eyes, I see old buildings being rebranded and turning these old towns to more of a modern appeal. I see a lot of growth in taking something old and turning it new. You can refurbish that and make it appealing to people. It feels like a new place."
Thompson’s push to not only bring a venue in to utilize the property but to also modernize and refurbish the building will only add to the rich history of the property.
Lisa Cooper, a local historian, wrote to Thompson and explained when the building was built and what it started as.
“To date, the earliest source I have something in that space is 1879, though I’m sure it was built a bit earlier,” wrote Cooper. “The building was used in 1879 by Robert A. Massey, an attorney who began ‘The Weekly Star,’ the first known newspaper in Douglasville, that I know of so far.”
The bottom floor of the building eventually became a car dealership with a garage building at the back and a dress shop for women, said Cooper.
“There is a ton of history in the property,” explained Thompson. “There is a big shift in people liking older type looking properties, whether it is residential or commercial. If you can modernize it and give it a new facelift, that really excites people.
"My push is to take these old properties and restore them and push them into something modern that looks new and nice and elegant,” continued Thompson. “It’s like a Douglasville renaissance. That is what I am hoping for. I would like to see businesses coming here and making something really nice. Nobody has anything like this. That would make this a central area to grow more. It would grow the area to modernize the area as well as to get people fun activities.”
While the idea sounds fresh and unique, Thompson and Escape Woods do face some challenges before their idea becomes a reality.
“It is going to take a process to rezone this property and go before city council because the property is zoned business district,” explained Thompson. “I am going to work on applying to get it rezoned to arts and entertainment or whatever the classification is. We are going to have to work on that.
“I am talking to some people in the city right now and they are looking up the classification for me,” continued Thompson. “I would say I would probably have that back within a week and then we will apply for the rezoning. I am sure sometime in the next couple of months, we will be going before everybody and trying to get that.”
Thompson is also hoping to “seek a grant for restoring the building to open at the front of the street,” as he explained on his Facebook post.
“I believe it used to open up on the side and in the front of main street here,” said Thompson. “That would be nice as the guys come in and grow their business, if I could seek an original restoration grant to … open it back up where there are more windows and it is appealing.”
Thompson hopes the business is up and running by the end of summer or early fall, barring any delays or problems with rezoning, the grant or the company.
“This is not something that is definite,” warned Thompson. “It all falls down to rezoning. We are going to take the property, granted that the zoning passes, and we are going to make it great again.”