Ackerman To Add Food Hall, Loft Offices After Buying West End Redevelopment
A storied Atlanta developer is planning to push one of the West End's newer redevelopments even further with a food hall and creative loft offices.
Ackerman & Co., in a partnership with MDH Partners, purchased the Lee + White redevelopment from Stream Realty Partners for $40.3M. Lee + White is a rejuvenation of a 433K SF collection of four 1950s and 1960s warehouses that Stream purchased in 2015 with its own plans to transform it into a West End destination.
It largely succeeded. Under Stream's ownership, Lee + White became home to a host of local beverage merchants, including Monday Night Brewing, Wild Heaven Beer, Best End Brewing Co., Hop City Craft Beer & Wine and ASW Distillery. It also has a handful of food makers, including Honeysuckle Gelato, kombucha maker Cultured South Fermentation Co. and the Boxcar restaurant.
The project also fronts 3,000 feet of the Atlanta BeltLine, the 22-mile pedestrian path in the city that has quickly become Atlanta's equivalent of The High Line in New York, and where property along the path has become a hot commodity.
"[This is] an underserved market close to Downtown, close to Georgia Tech, 10 minutes from Kirkwood and the whole Eastside,” Ackerman & Co. President of Retail Leo Wiener said. "This is an incredible piece of real estate."
The project is reminiscent of Ackerman & Co.'s previous projects in up-and-coming Atlanta neighborhoods. The firm was led by iconic developer Charlie Ackerman until his death in 2017. Ackerman was among the titans of Atlanta commercial real estate, having developed the Tower Place mixed-use project, which transformed Buckhead from what had been largely a bedroom community into what is today Atlanta's financial and business hub.
Ackerman also was one of the first big-name developers to venture into the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood well before it became the real estate prize of the city. In the late 1980s, he developed the Rio Shopping Center, one of the Atlanta's first open-air power centers, in Midtown.
Ackerman considers Lee + White a value-add play. To add more income to the project, the partners plan to expand it with a 20K SF food hall, 30K SF in additional retail and upward of 170K SF of creative loft office. In its first phase, developers plan to launch the food hall and renovate another 80K SF empty building into loft office, Wiener said.
Ackerman has tapped Cushman & Wakefield to market the property to office prospects.
Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate founder Gene Kansas, who focuses on intown neighborhood development, said developers' push into the Historic West End neighborhoods makes some sense in today's environment. They are attracting young professionals, especially in Adair Park, which is close to the BeltLine, which opened in that part of the city in 2017.
“In part, it's geographically very close to Downtown Atlanta. I mean, if you wanted to go get that type of land opportunity north [of Downtown], you'd have to drive a long way,” Kansas said. “And most of those places have been neglected [by] developers. And thus amenities ... There's a real need for it.”
Redevelopment efforts in the West End are still somewhat in their infancy compared to other parts of the city, especially in and around Ponce City Market, which has become the nexus of urban gentrification in Atlanta. The Mall at West End has been targeted by the father of the Atlanta BeltLine himself, Ryan Gravel, for a massive redevelopment. The mall is just a mile north of Lee + White, and Tyler Perry Studios is 4 miles south.
“We thought the West End had great potential and was similar to Ponce [City Market]. That was not the best area of town when it went in, but [the project] had a huge effect,” Stream Realty co-Managing Partner Ben Hautt said.
He said Stream's goal was to focus on local retailers and entrepreneurs for the Lee + White project, especially as a counter to other parts of the city that had a more corporate appeal.
“We turned away quite a few out-of-town retailers and remained true to Atlanta brands,” Hautt said.
Those marching orders will continue to drive the redevelopment of the project under new ownership, Wiener said.
“This is not Ponce City [Market]. We're not going after corporate,” Wiener said. “We just think it's a little more edgy and gritty with the feel. We want to stay true to the neighborhood.”