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CIM Group Hires Hines Exec To Launch Gulch Retail Leasing

A bird's-eye view of the proposed redevelopment of the Gulch in Downtown Atlanta.

CIM Group has tapped one of Atlanta's retail leasing heavy-hitters to help fill the 1M SF of new retail space it plans to build in the heart of Downtown Atlanta.

CIM has hired Nick Garzia, the former director of retail leasing for Hines, who was pivotal in repositioning the 586K SF of retail space at Atlantic Station after Hines bought it in 2015 from North American Properties.

Garzia was tapped to lease the planned 1M SF of retail in the massive mixed-use complex rising on the swath of parking lots and train tracks next to CNN Center now known as the Gulch.

“The opportunity to do something as big and important as this will be is just something I could not turn down,” Garzia told Bisnow Friday afternoon in a telephone interview. “What Centennial Yard is is a blank slate. That idea of a blank slate is just so appetizing to me.”

Last month, CIM officials told an Atlanta City Council committee that the company was still putting the final touches on the overall Centennial Yards project, which could include more than 9M SF of office and residential. The first major step on the Gulch redevelopment is a three-year, $500M process to elevate a new street grid 40 feet above the site’s current height and in line with CNN Center.

Nick Garzia, former director of retail leasing for Hines in Atlanta.

The project was made possible only through the passage of the city's single largest incentive package for a private developer in 2018: $1.9B in sales and property tax incentives and breaks to help finance the project. The deal didn't go through without controversy, and a grassroots organization of area residents and activists called Red Light The Gulch is currently embroiled in a legal fight over CIM's proposed use of funds from the Westside Tax Allocation District.

CIM officials said the legal battle, currently in state appeals court, is holding up the developer from starting work on the project, and may not be resolved until 2022.

Garzia's hiring is the first sign of forward movement on the project in months. Garzia, who previously worked for Macerich and GGP, has leased in excess of 1M SF of retail throughout his career.

At Atlantic Station, he spearheaded H&M's expansion, lured Forever 21 to open a flagship store and secured leases from Nike and Bowlero. When asked what retailers he will target for Centennial Yards, Garzia said it will be focused on restaurants and retailers catering to a local audience, especially the residents of the 5,000 units planned for the project.

“I think the first phase of this feels a lot like The Battery,” Garzia said, referring to the development around the Atlanta Braves' Truist Park.