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JLL Hired To Broaden Retail Appeal At Shops At Buckhead Atlanta

OliverMcMillan is looking to make its cloistered, ultra-luxury The Shops at Buckhead Atlanta into something more approachable, and that could mean pursuing more affordable retailers.

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

“It's so high-end, and we certainly want to keep the quality of the project,” JLL Director of Retail Agency Leasing Coleman Morris said. "But really, [OliverMcMillan is] making it approachable so it can become that community gathering place for Buckhead."

OliverMcMillan, the developer of Buckhead Atlanta, recently tapped Morris along with Vice President Molly Morgan and Retail Advisor Kimberly Arturo to lease the six-block, 300K SF retail portion of the Buckhead Atlanta mixed-use project.

This move comes after OliverMcMillan faced churn among its in-line retailers since opening in late 2014 with an image of being Atlanta's hub of ultra-luxury. Names such as Brunello Cucinelli, Cacao, Dior, Hermes, Jimmy Choo and Robert Talbott still dot the project. But many other retailers have shuttered there over the years, including Corso Coffee. Bisnow detailed concerns by some last year that a lack of foot traffic was an impediment to the project.

That issue now seems to be OliverMcMillan's focus with JLL: boosting foot traffic by curating a retail mix that will draw a wider array of the Buckhead community, from millennials to soccer moms and their kids.

“The luxury is doing well,” Morris said. "What we need at the project is to bring in a more diverse customer base and really bring in the community."

What that means in practice is curating the retail mix, with plans to pursue a brewery operator, a cocktail bar, a lunch and breakfast draw and other local and new-to-market retailers, geared toward a lower price point than the image Shops at Buckhead Atlanta currently has.

“Right now, you don't have that kind of entertainment nightlife in Buckhead like you do maybe in Ponce [City Market] or West Midtown,” Morris said. “With the high-end luxury, you're not getting that repeat customer. Really, what we've been tasked with is to make the project more approachable, giving it more that local flair. [We will] still [have] very quality retailers, but retailers that offer more of an affordable price point for customers.”

Shops Buckhead Atlanta
The Hermes luxury retail anchor at the Shops at Buckhead Atlanta

That may mean lower rents for the newer retailers as well, Morris said. There is little documentation that shows what the average tenant at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta pays in rent. But previous lawsuits OliverMcMillan filed against former tenants showed some tenant rents ranged from nearly $50/SF on up to $90/SF. Those are the kind of rents achieved by a select few in Atlanta, mainly at Simon Property Group's Lenox Square mall.

“I think that [OliverMcMillan] understand what local retailers can pay. The goal here is to bring in that local flavor, flair to the project and for them to be successful,” Morris said. “Certainly the luxury retailers can pay higher rents. We just want to bring in local retailers and make them successful. It's about curating. We want to bring that Buckhead community into this project. We want to drive the traffic into the project.”

So far, OliverMcMillan has lured the owners of Ponce City Market's Biltong Bar for a second location at Buckhead Atlanta, one that is open for dinner and late night cocktails. And OliverMcMillan also is still catering to the luxury crowd, with plans to open IWG's luxury coworking concept No18 early next year.

But Morris said OliverMcMillan recognized that Buckhead —  while still the home of some of Atlanta's priciest houses — is changing demographically, especially as more apartments spring up in the area.

“The demographics have changed. The audience has changed. Retail has changed. I think [OliverMcMillan is] very smart that they are evolving,” she said. “Buckhead is really becoming very urban. I don't think you look at it as just the Beverly Hills of the South any longer.”

CORRECTION, NOV. 9, 2:30 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the broker for Biltong Bar. It was CBRE First Vice President Amy Fingerhut. The story has been updated.