ATLANTA, GA – Merchants Walk Center –
The redevelopment of retail property has become increasingly challenging over the past few years as the nation’s economy and particularly the real estate industry continues to suffer from the extended downturn. Planning, thoughtfulness and a connection to the community and its needs are what separate the projects that succeed from those that don’t. The best prospect for success, according to Ann Wexler of Databank, a commercial real estate information service inAtlanta, “lies with those centers in more affluent established areas, as that population is going to recover faster than a low income area.”
The redevelopment of Merchant’s Walk Center located in East Cobb County in suburban Atlanta is a case in point. The 33 year old center was purchased in early 2000 for $23 million by Edens & Avant a national shopping center owner/operator. The center included obsolete tenancies, unsuccessful second story retail space and a public library.
Construction for the redevelopment began August 1, 2009 and was completed July 2011. The redevelopment, which cost approximately $27 million resulted in an expanded and improved 360,000 square foot center. The timeline for the construction was due to phasing therefore ensuring that existing tenants operated with as little interruption as possible.
A major component of the redevelopment is the addition of Whole Foods Market as a grocer anchor. The 45,000 sq. ft. Merchant’s Walk location is Whole Food Market’s eighth store inGeorgiaand was a highly anticipated addition to East Cobb. “Merchant’s Walk is a terrific location for the South region’s growing map of stores,” said Scott Allshouse, regional president for Whole Foods Market. “The East Cobb community is ready for a new grocery option and a new place to celebrate good food and healthy eating.” The new Whole Foods is located where the Media Play store was situated.
Another major component of the redevelopment included the expansion of Georgia Theatre Company’s Merchant’s Walk Stadium Cinemas to ensure it was a more cohesive and central component of the entire center.
In a pivotal move for the redevelopment, Edens & Avant assisted in relocating the Public Library by purchasing their property providing them the capital to move to a new 16,800 square foot location in the nearby Parkaire Landing Shopping Center. In addition to optimizing the site plan and paving the way for a synergistic retail line up, the relocation gave the East Cobb community a brand new library and more than doubled its size.
“Along with the addition of Whole Foods and the cinema renovations, we’ve specifically created a retail mix that is truly reflective of the sophisticated nature of the local community,” said Darnall. “Shoppers will also notice new architectural design features that include enhanced landscaping, spaces for outdoor dining and a more pedestrian friendly environment. Now that the redevelopment is complete, Merchant’s Walk is once again serving as an extension of the surrounding neighborhoods and a place where shoppers can relax with their families and friends.”
For their part Edens & Avant president Jodie McLean stated that, “Merchant’s Walk is a vital part of our Southeast portfolio and a model for smart growth and community-focused, sustainable development.”McLeanalso said that having Whole Foods Market as an anchor grocer symbolizes Edens & Avant’s continued commitment to improving the food that local communities consume.
In addition to Whole Foods, Edens & Avant has leased space to the following new tenants: Cook’s Warehouse, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Pinkberry, ULTA Beauty, Mirko Pasta, Marlow’s Tavern, Fabrik and Gigi’s Cupcakes. And in perhaps one of its most cutting edge moves,Edensalso recruited Chef Doug Turbush to open Seed Kitchen and Bar his new farm-to-table restaurant. The new tenancy clearly reflects planning, thought and dedication to the community.
Many existing tenants have chosen to stay on during the renovations. They include Kohl’s, OfficeMax, PetSmart, Hallmark, Stein Mart, Georgia Theatre Company, WellsFargoand Old Navy. Old Navy introduced their latest design prototype with the renovation of their Merchant’s Walk store. It is one of the first nationwide locations to roll out the new design prototype with renovations completed May of this year.
Edens & Avant is on the forefront of social media marketing, actively setting trends in the shopping center industry. In this instance they found that they actually had a valuable feedback loop that helped steer the redevelopment and protect the interests of the local community. “From a public relations perspective, social media is already paying off with valuable community feedback,” said Robbie Robertson, Communications Director for Edens & Avant. “In promoting the redevelopment, local residents were able to message through the Merchant’s Walk Facebook page about saving several crepe myrtles trees that were slated for removal. After receiving lively feedback about the issue, we responded to community concerns by safely transporting the trees to a new area of the property. It’s just one example of how social media has helped Edens & Avant reach out in new ways and create added value for retailers and the communities we serve.”
The community is pleased with the redevelopment and the industry has taken notice. Suzanne Ruth Young, a retail broker at Arcane Properties, leased this project for the original developer in the mid 1980’s and said this about the center’s history and evolution: “In many ways, the project was ahead of its time. It was a “lifestyle” center before the advent of lifestyle centers. The East Cobb area was actually known as “Merchants Walk” due to the significance of the center as the heart of the community. But the center has had many challenges and renditions over the past several years. With the current redevelopment of the center, it is finally in its best form ever. Edens & Avant has done an outstanding job of recreating Merchants Walk not only by making the project aesthetically appealing and well designed, but by not compromising on the quality of the tenant mix.”
“As a retail real estate company, we put community at the forefront of all of our business decisions and are very mindful of the role we play in the food that communities eat,” saidMcLean. “Whether it’s choosing to do business with an organic grocer anchor like Whole Foods Market or helping launch a locally-sourced, chef driven restaurant like Seed Kitchen & Bar, we feel confident that Merchant’s Walk will contribute to the health and wellness of the local community.”
Download a PDF Booklet describing the Merchant’s Walk Redevelopment.
Edens & Avant (www.edensandavant.com) develops, owns and operates neighborhood shopping centers in primary markets throughout the East Coast. Focusing on innovative development and redevelopment together with key acquisitions in urban areas, the company has built an institutional-quality portfolio of 126 retail centers. Edens & Avant has Regional Headquarters in Boston, New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Columbia, SC and Miami.