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North DeKalb Mall's Future: 1,700 Apartments, Offices And A Hotel

The vision for the future of a long-ailing suburban Atlanta mall has come into focus.

The deserted interior of North DeKalb Mall, which has been purchased by Edens.

Developer Edens filed plans Tuesday with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for its redevelopment of North DeKalb Mall, a necessary first step for developers in the state embarking on projects that will have a regional impact.

Edens said it plans to transform the 622K SF, 58-year-old enclosed mall into a mixed-use development that includes 300K SF of retail, 200K SF of office, a 150-room hotel, 1,700 apartment units and 100 townhouses, according to the filing.

The end result, slated to be completed by 2028, is expected to be similar to Edens' massive Mosaic District redevelopment in Fairfax, Virginia, a 2M SF mixed-use community with restaurants, retail, apartments, townhomes and the Angelika Film Center centered by the public Strawberry Park that is home to year-round events.

“What they did at Mosaic is a very similar approach. I think you're going to see a lot of features similar to what they've done,” said DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry, whose district partially covers the mall property. “I think what we're trying to get to is a true town center.”

Terry said he and DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader used commission funding to hire Perkins & Will and another consultant to help them, along with Edens, cobble together the vision for the mall's reinvention over the past few months. The commission is laying the groundwork to create a tax allocation district that would largely cover the mall property, Terry said. TADs are self-taxing districts where a portion of business revenues go toward infrastructure work within the TAD borders.

“We have been working for several months, [getting] community input,” Terry said. “It's going to be a fresh start. I think there's going to be more opportunity for micro-retailers or jewel-box retail.”

Edens declined to comment for this story. Edens purchased the mall for $24.2M from the Sterling Organization last September, according to the Reonomy database, and has largely remained silent on its plans for the property. It already owns a handful of properties in Atlanta, including the Toco Hills Shopping Center and Toco Hills Promenade less than 3 miles from the mall, acquiring them in 2015 and repositioning them with diverse and upscale retailers.

The developer's plans for the mall are a dramatic departure from the current relic off North Druid Hills Road and Lawrenceville Highway where only a handful of retailers are left in operation, including an AMC movie theater.

The Mosaic District in Merrifield, Virginia, a mixed-use development by Edens.

Edens plans to create pedestrian trails and other access points to increase foot traffic at the new project, and encourage shoppers to stick around longer on the property. Terry said Edens officials told him if customers linger on a property for an additional hour than they originally intended, they spend 17% more money.

“A lot of these mixed-use developments really feel kind of sterile,” he said. "I think what Edens is doing is taking a different approach to placemaking."

Edens' acquisition has generated buzz in the area around the mall that it will be able to mimic the success of other genre-defining redevelopments the developer has led around Washington, D.C., including Mosaic and Union Market, which Edens transformed from a collection of warehouses into a nationally recognized food hall surrounded by more than 1,000 new apartments.

David Diaz, a real estate agent who lives a little over a mile from the mall, said Edens' current plans give him hope that the dying mall will finally be turned around, especially with plans for new residential properties.

“Any form of residential living would be phenomenal. Inventory is so low right now, it doesn't matter what you put, it will get occupied,” Diaz said. “That mall is a dilapidated dump and should have been torn down 25 years ago.”

Diaz said the property itself is located in a place that gives it great access for future residents to both Midtown 10 miles to the west and Emory University, which is 4 miles away.

“Location-wise, you can't get a better location than that,” he said.