ATLANTA-Downturn notwithstanding, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is proceeding with plans for its new $225 million Symphony Center. The ASO is currently searching for an architect. No date has been set for a groundbreaking.

Home Depot Inc. founder Arthur Blank has already donated $15 million for the project and promises to raise $200 million more. The center will be about 250,000 sf.

The venture, which will be the ASO’s full-time performance, rehearsal and administrative home, will include a 2,000-seat concert hall and a chamber music hall seating 500. It will also feature a multi-use rehearsal space, educational resource center, retail space and administrative area.

The property is one block south of the Woodruff Arts Center, the ASO’s current home. The construction of the new symphony hall and architect Renzo Piano’s redesign of the Woodruff Arts Center promote the New Urbanism approach sought by many in Midtown. Blueprint Midtown calls for a self-contained village where residents can live, work, shop and play.

On a more practical note, area brokers says the two projects could provide a source of development for years to come and may help insulate Midtown from the worst of the economic downturn. But developers and investors still need to be cautious, they tell

“The arts center and symphony deals will help, although as I understand it, the symphony construction isn’t scheduled for a number of years,” Douglas Dewberry, executive vice president of Dewberry Capital Corp. tells

Dewberry Capital Corp is developing Midtown Square, a 1.5 million sf mixed-use project that will have 750,000 feet of office space.

“No doubt things will slow down; however, like in all economic climates and markets, good, solid projects that are well located, structured properly, responsibly underwritten and financially sound will prevail,” he says. “Hopefully, those which we have in the pipeline fit that description.”