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April 26, 2012

$600M Mixed-Use Development in Atlanta Suburb Gets Green Light

By Scott Baltic, Contributing Editor

Avalon, a $600 million, 87-acre mixed-use project to be developed in Alpharetta, Ga., by North American Properties, passed its last regulatory hurdle Monday night when the Alpharetta City Council approved the development.

Touted as an “experience center” by the Cincinnati-based developer, the project will combine high-end retail, restaurant, residential, office, hotel and public spaces, reportedly for the first time in the Southeast. The first phase will break ground in the fourth quarter of this year, Mark Toro, managing partner of North American Properties, told Commercial Property Executive, and the project is scheduled to open in October 2013.

So what makes Avalon an “experience center”? Toro said that typical mixed-use developments “do not focus on the hospitality aspect of the guest interaction the way an experience center does. Concierge, valet, lighting, music, events, activations and other opportunities to engage the resident, office worker, hotel guest and shopper are key differentiators.” He cited several examples of conceptually similar properties: Santana Row, San Jose, Calif.; Americana at Brand, Glendale, Calif.; Kierland Commons, Scottsdale, Ariz.; and The Domain, Austin, Texas.

NAP’s strategy for Avalon holds that to better compete with e-commerce and get shoppers into stores, “retailers must deliver a lifestyle brand experience. Mixed-use developments with energy and round-the-clock activity … amplify retailer efforts by making every guest’s visit memorable.”

The retail component will be developed, leased, owned and managed by NAP and include roughly 559,000 square feet of shops, restaurants, a specialty grocery store (Whole Foods Market) and 14-screen movie theater (Regal Cinemas).  On the hospitality side, the plan calls for a 300-room full-service hotel, as well as a 175-room boutique hotel above retail.

The office component will be developed, leased, owned and managed by Greenstone Properties, of Alpharetta, will include a 350,000-square-foot, 14-story office building; two 200,000-square-foot buildings; 85,000 square feet of office lofts above retail; and a 5,000-square-foot financial institution.

NAP will develop, lease, own and manage 250 luxury rental residential units above retail with an average rent of $1,400. The project will include 150 one-bedroom and 100 two-bedroom units, all with high-end interior finishes and resort-style amenities for residents. And Monte Hewett Homes, of Atlanta, will build 132 townhomes and detached single-family homes with resident amenities that include a community pool, playground and clubroom.

In addition, NAP says, 10 percent of Avalon’s acreage will consist of public space. An area called The Plaza will have events and programming such as outdoor concerts, art in the park and family camp-outs. The Boulevard will feature “comfortable, shaded seating areas” and three jewel-box restaurants with alfresco dining, a bocce court, chess tables and an outdoor fireplace. A “jewel-box restaurant,” Toro explained, is a very small format restaurant, wine bar or fast casual outlet.

Avalon’s financing, he said, will be “typical construction financing with a commercial bank to be determined.”

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