Streets of Buckhead: Atlanta's New ``Rodeo Drive''

Streets of Buckhead is a new retail, hotel and residential development in the heart of Atlanta's most luxurious district. The project is located on Peachtree Street, the city's legendary thoroughfare, and is easily accessed from Interstate 85, the main route northeast from downtown, and Georgia Highway 400, the main commuter route to the northern suburbs. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is only 30 minutes away. The primary trade area for the Streets of Buckhead includes over 1.3 million people, and the immediate surrounding area is "the largest concentration of income and buying power to be found in the southern United States,'' according to a study from the University of Georgia.

The 600,000-square-foot retail component of the development is anchored by luxury retailers Herm,s and Van Cleef & Arpel. Other stores expected to open at Streets of Buckhead include Oscar de la Renta, Etro, Bottega Veneta, Domenico Vacca, Vilebrequin, Christofle, John Lobb and Loro Piana. An upscale gym and several world-class restaurants, including Le Colonial, The Capital Grille, Brioni, Japonais and La Goulue will also be part of the development. Later construction is expected to include at least one high-end hotel and luxury condominium units. The concept is meant to resemble Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive. Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition and former mayor of Atlanta, says of Buckhead, "Retail is our strong suit. We are the retail mecca of the Southeast."

Although the Buckhead area as a whole is characterized by affluent residents and the best office and commercial space in Atlanta, the central business district, known as Buckhead Village, had undergone a slow decline over the years. Along Peachtree Street, small storefront businesses had become seedy and unkempt. Most new businesses were bars that catered to a younger, rowdier crowd. The area was noisy and crowded, with little parking and horrible traffic on weekends. As Streets of Buckhead developer Ben Carter wryly noted, "You basically had 'Bourbon Street' at the entrance to 'Bel Air.'''

A series of high-profile crimes in the area finally convinced local officials to formulate a plan for redevelopment that required moderate, but not high density, development; residential and retail use; cleanliness and an emphasis on public safety; and improved pedestrian access. Ben Carter assembled almost 40 different properties to bring together the project. More than nine acres of existing buildings were razed in order to begin construction, literally remaking the area. The recession has delayed the project; Carter temporarily stopped work on the Streets of Buckhead in late 2008 in order to renegotiate the budget. In mid-2009, construction resumed, and the anchor tenants seem satisfied that the economy will recover enough to support an opening date of Fall 2010.

Indeed, Atlanta is expected to be able to support more high-end retail in the next few years. A study from marketing research firm Claritas expects Atlanta's number of high-net-worth individuals to grow over the next five years at a rate that is second in the nation and more than five times the rate of growth in the general population. Streets of Buckhead will no doubt be a stunning shopping venue. Developer Ben Carter notes, "The Streets of Buckhead will have the excitement and vibrance of New York and Madison Avenue - that same kind of experience - but in a compact, charming, truly walkable area.''

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