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The Gwinnett Place Mall Finally Has A Buyer: Gwinnett County

Atlanta Retail

After years of decline and decay, the suburban Atlanta mall where Stranger Things was filmed is getting new ownership.

Gwinnett Place Mall

Gwinnett County has agreed to buy the 562K SF enclosed mall from Moonbeam Capital Investments for $23M in a deal approved Tuesday by the county’s board of commissioners. The Gwinnett County Urban Redevelopment Agency would take over the non-anchor space and surrounding 39 acres in a deal that is expected to close in the next 90 days, the county announced.

Moonbeam, which purchased the main portion of the 1.2M SF mall out of foreclosure in 2013 for $13.5M, has long been a source of frustration among local stakeholders and county officials for promising but failing to ever redevelop the mall. 

“Maybe it's finally over," said Leo Wiener, the president of retail for Ackerman & Co. and the chairman of the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District. "I think buying the mall and new leadership coming in [the county] should be a good flag in the ground to get people's attention that something good is coming there."

The sale doesn't include the four department store anchors attached to the mall, including Macy's, the cosmetic store Beauty Master, the Korean supermarket Mega Mart and the former Sears department store, which shuttered in 2018 and was subsequently acquired by Northwood Ravin. That developer also plans to redevelop its defunct retail property.

“While 2020 has been both a strange and challenging year, it could not have ended on a more positive note for the Gwinnett Place district,” Gwinnett Place CID Executive Director Joe Allen wrote in an email. "In this season of celebrations, our shared Gwinnett community truly has something to celebrate today as we begin the journey of resolving Gwinnett’s dead mall problem."

County officials described the purchase as part of a larger effort to catalyze redevelopment around Gwinnett Place, and they plan to coordinate plans with the Gwinnett Place CID as well as area residents and stakeholders to form a vision for the property.

That redevelopment could mean less retail and surface parking. Some 40% of the Gwinnett Place CID's land area is dedicated to vehicular parking, Allen previously told Bisnow. Gwinnett is one of the most-retailed counties in Metro Atlanta, with more than 65M SF servicing less than 1 million residents, according to Cushman & Wakefield. The Gwinnett Place CID represents 13% of the county's total retail.

Under Moonbeam's ownership, the mall's main shopping area further deteriorated and storefronts went dark. While it was turned into a 1980s mall set for the third season of Netflix's Stranger Things, Gwinnett Place Mall's main shopping area has seen dozens of retailers shutter without being replaced. Some sections of the mall were so devoid of life that a homicide victim was concealed behind a defunct food court for two weeks before the body was discovered.

"Today, with this action, we are writing a new chapter," Allen said. "From a mobile home park to a mall that was the center of the universe for a teenager like me in the 1980s to what it will become because of this bold action, Gwinnett Place area’s best days are yet to come.'

Moonbeam tapped Colliers International in October 2019 to sell the property. Officials with Colliers declined to comment. Officials with Moonbeam didn't respond to calls seeking comment.

“The Gwinnett Place area is a central economic district, but the dead mall prevented us from really moving that area forward,” newly elected Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Nicole Love Hendrickson said in an email. “I’m very excited about the potential and working with the Gwinnett Place CID and members of the surrounding community to red vision what a new Gwinnett Place will look like.”

Others also expressed optimism that redevelopment was finally on the horizon for the mall.

“I suspect that it will be torn down,” Wiener said. "Our hope is that this is a fresh new beginning."