Buckhead Atlanta Opens At Last
September 29, 2014
Womens Wear Daily
The worst recession since the Great Depression couldn’t keep the $1.5 billion Buckhead Atlanta retail project down.
Seven years after ground was broken, Buckhead Atlanta, a mixed-use development of restaurants and retail shops, officially opened earlier this month. It is located in Buckhead Village, the heart of Buckhead, on eight acres across six city blocks at the intersection of Peachtree and East Paces Ferry roads. It has brick-paved, pedestrian-friendly streets, upscale residences, and lush landscaping with lots of trees, shrubs and flowers.
Ben Carter Properties initiated the Streets of Buckhead in 2006, with an opening originally scheduled beginning in 2010. Retailers that signed leases then included Hermès, Loro Piana, Etro, AG Jeans, and Oscar de la Renta. When the economy took a nosedive in 2008, retailers began to pull out and the project came to a standstill. In 2010, CBRE Group approached San Diego-based developer Oliver McMillan about revitalizing the property, and Oliver McMillan acquired the property in May 2011.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said people kept asking him when he was going to do something about “those two holes in Buckhead. Then one day, my secretary said there’s someone on the phone interested in those holes in Buckhead.” That person was Dene Oliver, president and chief executive officer of Oliver McMillan.
Oliver said there was a lot of disappointment when the project stopped and skepticism to commit. “We had to redo the message and do a lot of traveling globally,” he said. “This was frozen in time for a bit, and we wanted it to look like it was built over time. This is not a shopping mall; it’s a street scene.”
Buckhead Atlanta seeks best-in-class and new-to-market retailers. Said Jeff Zeigler, senior managing director of retail services, Oliver McMillan, “We want to make sure we add the right tenants. We want to do smaller boutique-type shops so we have a beautiful pattern down the street.”
So far, 75 percent of Buckhead Atlanta’s space is committed, according to Hunter Richardson, Oliver McMillan’s managing director of Buckhead Atlanta, and the center will open, on average, a store a day for the next several months. “We’re hitting the tipping point where retailers need to make a decision and not wait because other retailers will step in and take space.”
He added, “I know how much work we have ahead of us, so we’re not off the accelerator. There have been lots of highs and lows and challenges and opportunities — things that tested us to the core in making this happen. We have been involved here for over four years and have had tremendous support from the mayor and his team. I have seldom run across a city so welcoming and eager for a project to be reborn.”
Stores opening this month include Hermès, Etro, Theory, Canali and Brunello Cucinelli. Those opening in coming months include Alice + Olivia, Bella Bag, Christian Louboutin, Dior, Helmut Lang, Tod’s, Jimmy Choo, La Perla, Bonobos, Intermix, Courage.b and Spanx. Construction begins this fall on a 5,026-square-foot Dior store.
Spanx, in fact, will open its global headquarters nearby, and Oliver especially thanked Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, for “putting her special stamp on this project.”
The 4,000-square-foot Hermès store has an imposing presence with an entrance reminiscent of the brand’s Paris flagship with a Greek motif around the door. Hermès has been a part of Buckhead Atlanta since 2009, but in a smaller and temporary location. The store has a full product line covering 16 categories, including men’s and women’s apparel and home products.
Bob Chavez, president and ceo of Hermès USA, said, “We loved the idea when it was first presented to us. We were one of the first to sign up because we believed in it, and that’s how we got this great location. We also believed in the potential of the Atlanta market.”
Bella Bag represents the other side of the kind of retailer Buckhead Atlanta wants: new-to-market. Based in Atlanta, Bella Bag buys and sells vintage and contemporary designer handbags. Cassandra Connors, founder and ceo, said her store will face Peachtree Street when it opens in October.
This is Etro’s first store in Atlanta, but the brand has been in Saks Fifth Avenue in the city. “We’re very embraced in the South,” said Genaro Otero, the brand’s director of stores. “It’s a nice match for us.” Todd Piercy, general manager, added that Etro has a variety of clientele, both suburban and urban and including customers involved in music and film, both important markets in Atlanta.
The 2,600-square-foot Theory store is the first in the Southeast. Said Stephanie Menard, store manager, “It’s a great market and prime real estate.”