Paces Properties Gears Up For More Food Halls Across Southeast
Had fate gone another way, Krog Street Market would have been just another new apartment complex in Atlanta's trendy Inman Park neighborhood. But then a neighborhood activist asked Paces Properties CEO David Cochran a question that changed everything.
“'Hey, have you ever really looked at the building? Have you ever looked at the bones?'" Cochran recalls being asked. “And I really hadn't. I wasn't wired that way."
Now, Paces is looking to capitalize on its success and is in the final stages of talks to sell Krog Street and its Stove Works adaptive reuse project. Paces will use the sales to further grow its food hall pipeline, with plans for at least another half-dozen projects across the Southeast, including in Charleston, South Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama, as well as another possible food hall in Atlanta, Cochran said.
So far, Paces has partnered with Charlotte, North Carolina-based developer White Point Partners and announced the redevelopment of a more-than-100-year-old textile mill in Downtown Charlotte. The project, called Tompkins Hall, will include six restaurants and 19 food hall stalls.
A former office tenant representative, Cochran has been head of the company his father started in the 1970s for the past 15 years. But like many other developers of his generation, Cochran was not about saving existing real estate until recently.
“We put [Krog Street] under contract to tear it down and build apartments,” he said. "Merritt [Lancaster, his partner] and I were both from the school of build new."
After the meeting with the neighborhood group, Cochran had the 1920s warehouse shelled out to its bones to see what was there.
“When I walked into the space after we gutted it, I kid you not, it took my breath away. It was dramatic. It kind of resonated to my core,” he said. “And it got me thinking on a whole different level on what this project could be. I mean an apartment deal would have been successful, and we knew that. I just felt it wanted something different.”
Around the same time, Cochran visited his sister in San Francisco, who took him to the Ferry Building Marketplace, a popular food hall in a San Francisco landmark off Market Street. It was then, Cochran said, he knew that he not only wanted to keep the original structure of Krog Street intact, but also what it needed to be.
“I had this earth-shaking moment when I realized ... I was not brought here to build new,” he said. "It wasn't development to me anymore."
Atlanta's food hall scene has bloomed in recent years, both with Krog Street and the iconic Ponce City Market. Other projects are in the works in the metro area, including food halls at Colony Square called Main & Main, The Collective food hall connected to Portman Holdings' Coda mixed-use project, and The Daily, a food hall at the former The Varsity restaurant site in Alpharetta, a project by former Paces Properties executive George Banks.
Cochran said Paces Properties is gearing up with some recent new hires to scour new sites for food hall projects. But finding sites is proving tricky.
For one, it has been getting more difficult to find properties that could qualify for adaptive reuse. And even fewer throughout the Southeast workable as a food hall. Plus, the concept of a food hall is morphing thanks the the boom in projects in various communities, Cochran said.
“The concept the way it is is going to get overwrought,” Cochran said, citing how many developers will label a collection of restaurants in a mixed-use development as a food hall for some cachet.
“I don't believe in all of them. They're saying they're food halls, but in my mind, they're not. It's become a buzzword,” he said. "The last thing I want in three years is for people to talk about food halls in the same way as they talk about the cupcake [stores]. If you aggregate three or four restaurants in the same place, in my mind that doesn't qualify.”