Changing Retail Landscape Generates New-To-Atlanta Tenant Array
November 7, 2014
Changing Retail Landscape Generates New-To-Atlanta Tenant Array
Atlanta Business Chronicle

Unique new shopping environments, combined with Atlanta's status as the major market in the Southeast, are generating a veritable renaissance of retailing in the metro area, with retailers from throughout the nation and the world now opening their first stores in this market or, in some instances, their first store, period – with more no doubt on the way.

In particular, pedestrian-oriented street-retail projects with mixed-use elements, such as Avalon in north Fulton County and Buckhead Atlanta in the commercial heart of the city, signal a change in the character of retail development in Atlanta since the move-further-out-and-build-a-mall days died out in the mid-2000s.

As result of this shift, "Atlanta now has several areas of 'critical mass' that have attracted numbers of like-minded retailers looking for locations in developments like these – and are now attracting even more," said Kirk Williams, vice president retail for Lincoln Property Company Southeast.

The regional mall, especially if its name is Lenox Square, is far from dead. But the street retail environment is something a lot of shoppers are looking for these days, according to Amy Fingerhut, a senior associate in CBRE Inc.'s Atlanta Retail Services Group.

The experience

"People want to be outside, shop at a couple of stores, and enjoy the experience that the street-retail environment provides," Fingerhut said. Retailers are looking for locations to tap into what the market is telling them it wants, she notes, "And now Atlanta is finally creating venues for them to make the street-retail experience a reality."

A pair of those venues, both boasting walkable street-level shopping, along with restaurants, a mix of office space and residential units – and retailers new to the Atlanta market – have made their debuts during the past several months.

In September, Buckhead Atlanta, San Diego-based OliverMcMillan's luxury shopping, dining, entertainment, residential and office development on the six blocks/eight acres comprising the old Buckhead Village bar district, opened with 36 confirmed retailers and restaurants.

These include Paris-based luxury men's and women's apparel, fragrance and beauty retailer Dior, which has selected Buckhead Atlanta for its first freestanding store in Atlanta, to be opened in 2015.

The biggest challenge in selling a number of these retailers on a location here was, interestingly, selling Atlanta itself, said Jeff Zeigler, senior director of retail services for OliverMcMillan, who is in charge of leasing at Buckhead Atlanta.

"It's not that Atlanta isn't a great city – it's literally in the top 10 in terms of every single metric among U.S. cities," said Zeigler.

"But when you are talking to tenants like Dior, Moncler, Tod's, and Christian Louboutin, you have to remember that they are making these kinds of location decisions globally – which means we are competing with cities around the world."

About 20 miles north in Alpharetta, Avalon, a $600 million development by North American Properties that features an 86-acre mix of retail stores, restaurants, offices, homes and luxury rentals, opened last week with nearly 70 retailers and restaurants.

First to the Atlanta market retailers here include a Lou & Grey loungewear store, the third brick-and-mortar location for this concept that started out as a brand in Ann Taylor Loft stores, and Soft Surroundings, a clothing, accessories, bath and fragrance and home décor brand aimed at affluent women.

All of these retailers already had strong on-line presences – and hence, plenty of data on what they were selling and in what zip codes – prior to inking deals at Avalon, according toRon Pfohl, North American Properties partner and director of leasing.

"Couple that data with a complementary merchandising mix and the co-tenancy we have for them, and the Avalon format, and it's a great situation for them," said Pfohl, "and also for us – we get new, fresh retailers that have already proven themselves with online sales in this market."

In other news…

Other unique metro-area shopping venues that recently have enjoyed Atlanta debuts by tenants include Midtown's Westside Provisions District, created by a marketing partnership involving TuckerMott Companies, Jamestown and Westbridge Partners. The Shade Store, a manufacturer of couture window treatments, opened in July 2014; Little Trouble, a globally inspired concept from the operators of Decatur restaurants Paper Plane and Victory Sandwich Bar, is slated to this fall.

More unique retail environments are on the way to metro Atlanta. These include approximately 400,000 square feet of retail that's part of an estimated $400 million mixed-use development around the Atlanta Braves' new home, SunTrust Park in Cobb County, due to open in 2017.

Plans currently call for about 150,000 square feet of apparel and other soft-goods stores, said Jeff Fuqua, head of Atlanta-based Fuqua Development, the Braves' retail partner in the project.

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