But if these are the best of times in retail and commercial real estate – a time when Avalon in Alpharetta (Wilbert client) opens 98 percent leased and Atlantic Station (Wilbert client) sells for nearly $200 – then the questions about Buckhead Atlanta’s sluggish start are going to be asked. Scott Trubey of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did just that. Here’s his scoop.
By J. Scott Trubey – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The ritzy Buckhead Atlanta development has encountered a potential setback, with one of the project’s more anticipated retailers said to be in doubt and the opening of a highly-touted steakhouse delayed until sometime in 2016.
Spanx, the high-end shapewear and lingerie company that located its corporate headquarters on site, has delayed and may scuttle plans for a flagship store below its offices, two people with knowledge of the situation told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Separately, documents obtained by the AJC show about a dozen companies have liens outstanding against California developer OliverMcMillan and certain tenants on the property, including American Cut-parent LDV Hospitality, for unpaid construction work.
The liens or claims for unpaid work at Buckhead Atlanta total more than $3.2 million, documents show.
Two contractors told the AJC they’ve stopped work on American Cut, the high-end, three-level steakhouse and cocktail lounge that was supposed to open this year.
In a statement, OliverMcMillan said “liens are commonplace” for such a large project. Liens from contractors previously filed on the project have been quickly settled in the past.
“We are working closely with Balfour Beatty, our general contractor, and are simply finalizing payments and lien releases at this time,” the statement said.
It is also not uncommon for tenants in major projects to be delayed in opening or for the tenant mix to change.
OliverMcMillan neither confirmed nor denied that the Spanx store is no longer in development, but said “we continue to work with them collaboratively on their future real estate needs.”
Messages left with two Spanx representatives were not immediately returned. At least two Atlanta-area blogs previously reported the Spanx store was no longer planned, also citing unnamed people.
Buckhead Atlanta, with a mix of retail, apartments and restaurants, opened about a year ago, filling a gaping hole at Peachtree and East Paces Ferry roads left by a prior failed development known as The Streets of Buckhead.
The Shops Buckhead Atlanta boasts marquee names like Hermès, Canali and Christian Louboutin, and is a direct competitor for nearby Phipps Plaza and Lenox Square. Luxury brands Christian Dior and Tom Ford have stores under construction.
American Cut owner LDV Hospitality is listed in some of the lien filings with an OliverMcMillan subsidiary, OMB Buckhead Lender LLC, for unpaid work totaling more than $970,000. LDV also has a separate lien from a contractor totaling more than $100,000.
In its statement, OliverMcMillan called LDV an “amazing partner” and credited the company’s “huge investment in the Atlanta community by bringing three incredible restaurant concepts to the area,” including Corso Coffee and Italian restaurant Dolce.
John Meadow, president of New York-based LDV, said his company is committed to Buckhead Atlanta and a decision to slow development was made in conjunction with other business needs, such as the opening of concepts in other cities.
Meadow said the liens will be taken care of by his company’s general contractor.
“It’s a long-term business decision to open in a prudent, patient fashion and not a race,” Meadow said. “We remain very bullish and excited on the Shops Buckhead Atlanta and the Buckhead community overall.”
Meadow said residential development is about to take off around the project. In 2012, when LDV signed a deal to open three restaurants at Buckhead Atlanta, the plan was for more than 80 merchants to open at once.
That hasn’t happened, but Meadow said LDV believes in the vision of the project.
The development covers six city blocks and eight acres in the heart of Buckhead Village, with a first phase involving 370 high-end apartments, luxury retail and dining and office space.
The developer recently went before city planning boards to show off a second phase, now described on the company’s website as including more retail and a 19-story residential tower with 135 condos. Other developers have planned major high-rise and mid-rise apartment projects nearby.
Doug Mauk, president of Builders Steel Supply in Lilburn, filed a lien against an OliverMcMillan subsidiary and LDV seeking nearly $80,000 for work on the American Cut space.
“I got guys beating down my door wanting me to pay them,” he said.
International construction firm Balfour Beatty also has filed liens this year on the property. The three liens initially totaled more than $10 million, but have been reduced to about $1.9 million, according to documents filed late last month.
In a statement, a Balfour Beatty spokesman called Buckhead Atlanta “a huge success on many levels.”
“Our team is currently wrapping up the most recent phase of this multi-phased development and we are working through the final close-out of the project,” the firm said in an email. “There are no ongoing disputes on any of the phases of the project.”