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Jamestown Closes On The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, Plans To Rejuvenate Center's 'Flat Experience'

Exactly how Jamestown Properties will refashion the retail portion of The Shops Buckhead Atlanta is still uncertain, but the company's president knows it will have to change something to capture the attention of Atlanta's shoppers the way the center's previous owner never did.

JLL OliverMcMillan
La Bilboquet French restaurant at The Shops at Buckhead Atlanta

“The group who came in sort of brought with them sort of a sensibility of West Coast luxury,” Jamestown President Michael Phillips told Bisnow Wednesday, referring to OliverMcMillan's luxury-focused approach to tenanting the 356K SF mixed-use project. “Our goal is to thoughtfully add some texture … to what is otherwise kind of a flat experience.”

Brookfield Residential Properties acquired OliverMcMillan last year. Jamestown closed on its purchase of The Shops Buckhead Atlanta July 18. While the price was undisclosed, research firm Databank, which analyzes deed records, tells Bisnow the price was north of $175M. 

The entire project includes six blocks of retail and offices, as well as two development parcels totaling 2.7 acres inside Buckhead Village.

Jamestown held the first in a series of community meetings with Buckhead-area residents and workers at some of the project's shops this past Tuesday. Jamestown is known for creating destination mixed-use projects across the country, including Ponce City Market — the redevelopment of a former multistory Sears warehouse in West Midtown — Chelsea Market in New York, Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco and Fourth Street in Berkeley, California.

While Phillips did not disclose any specific visions on the plans to renovate or change The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, he said some people at Tuesday's meeting wanted more family-related destinations as well as healthier food options.

Jamestown Closes On The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, Plans To Rejuvenate Center's 'Flat Experience'
Jamestown President Michael Phillips

“I've been shopping there since I was 10 years old. I bought my first blazer there. So I've seen it in all its permutations,” Phillips said. “I wanted this corner before it was Buckhead Atlanta. I've always sort of held this corner, this intersection, in high regard.”

Since opening in late 2014, OliverMcMillan has positioned The Shops Buckhead Atlanta as the destination in the city for ultra-luxury retail, with brands like Brunello Cucinelli, Cacao, Dior, Etro, Hermès, Jimmy Choo and Robert Talbott. The mixed-use project also made headlines when it lured the headquarters for Spanx to the site.

But the developments path to where it is today was not a smooth one. Originally called Streets of Buckhead, Atlanta developer Ben Carter envisioned a more nuanced, mixed-use destination that would transform what was perceived as the nexus of Atlanta's party scene, where bars and nightclubs once dotted the storefronts. Carter and other local investors bought many of those storefronts, forced tenants to move and began efforts to redevelop.

Then the Great Recession hit, and by 2010, Carter parted ways with his partner, left the project, and OliverMcMillan took over. Its push for the highest end of retailers may have come at the expense of foot traffic at the project, which led to some churn of the original tenant lineup, Bisnow previously reported.

The Tom Ford store at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta will close some time this year and move to Phipps Plaza, Atlanta's Tomorrow's News Today recently reported. IWG is opening its first location of No18, a high-end coworking venue, at the project. The 30K SF facility is opening in August.  

Jamestown Closes On The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, Plans To Rejuvenate Center's 'Flat Experience'
One of the sidewalks in Buckhead Atlanta around lunchtime recently

When asked if Jamestown plans to de-emphasize the luxury aspect in marketing The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, Phillips said, “I don't know if that's a question that we're ready to answer.”

“It's not so much about the luxury than it's about the absence of other things," he added. "I think luxury requires less foot traffic. So I think there's an opportunity to increase foot traffic. There's Shake Shack, but not everybody wants to go to Shake Shack. There's Warby Parker, which is great … but there's not 10 of those.”

Phillips said one of the most compelling aspects to The Shops Buckhead Atlanta is the name Buckhead itself. The name carries cachet far beyond the Atlanta area.

“When someone says they live in Atlanta or they work in Atlanta ... nine times out of 10 internationally, people say, 'Oh, do you live in Buckhead?'" Phillips said. "Buckhead as a neighborhood has that brand recognition.”

The Shumacher Group President Harold Shumacher said Jamestown's acquisition of The Shops Buckhead Atlanta is compelling, because Jamestown is known for creating iconic projects. But for the developer, there are risks in trying to pump up foot traffic and luring in a wider audience.

“The dilemma to me is you sold the original tenants a bill of goods as a luxury center and you were going to be in with your compadres. [OliverMcMillan] created this high-end aura of what it's supposed to be,” Shumacher said. “Those kinds of stores are few and far between, and the [retailers] who are growing are at the lower end, and not at the higher end.”