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Expert's take on Sembler's Town: Brookhaven

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Expert's take on Sembler's Town: Brookhaven

sembler co.'s town: brookhaven ~ what now, atlanta?

Are there parallels between Town and Atlantic Station?

Town: Brookhaven, Sembler Co.'s latest Atlanta project, is a whopping 600,000-square-foot mixed-use development.

The 54-acre project near Oglethorpe University in DeKalb County offers restaurants, retail, and more than 1500 residences (Alexan Brookhaven and The GoodWynn apartments).

Town's largest retail tenants include Costco, Publix, LA Fitness and CinéBistro and recently welcomed Here to Serve's Noche restaurant, the third location for the brand in Atlanta.

It was thought for sometime that Sembler would not be able to weather the economical storm that hit during the project's conception.

Keep in mind, Sembler bought the property (previously an old apartment complex) for more than $40 million-- entering the market at a major disadvantage considering the cost per square foot land value at the time.

While there are more "for lease" signs in the windows than occupied space (slightly feels like a ghost town), the quality of tenants Town has attracted so far is a strong starting point for the development-- pulling together this project during a recession is impressive.

One could assume the strategy Sembler used in finding merchants was to attract a select few retailers that could survive or possibly see growth during the down-turned economy. Sembler doesn't seem to be signing leases for the sake of filling space; instead they are trying to create a community where the retailers will play an intricate role.

Being a fan of Costco it's exciting to have one located closer to metro Atlanta. CinéBistro is once again, an attraction that has virtually no competition in the Atlanta market and will serve as a destination and unique experience (with the exception of Buckhead Backlot-- similar to CinéBistro in that it serves food and alcohol in a theater).

LA Fitness is a smart play since the Buckhead location seems to be more congested than downtown Bangladesh.

Another creative move by Sembler was to convert the original plan for condominium units to apartment homes. The apartment business is recovering much faster than the home market, mainly because these days it is much easier to rent than to get financing-- young professionals are able to secure a place to live with great amenities and close proximity to Buckhead.

Brookhaven has already broken away from Buckhead as the independent hipster version of Buckhead and Town will add another destination point outside of Brookhaven Village.

So what does the future hold for Town Brookhaven? Will the success continue or will it be the next Atlantic Station? Please share your thoughts.

Dotan Zuckerman

Intown residents Shaun Weinstock and Dotan Zuckerman are innovative Real Estate professionals with nearly 20 years of combined experience in helping retail and office clients align their real estate with their objectives. To learn more, visit or email our expert:

23 responses to “Expert's take on Sembler's Town: Brookhaven

  1. I am bullish on the project since I will be opening my 4th Which Wich Superior Sandwiches on the property. I believe the area is underserved for quality retail and will continue to attract a good level of customer as more things open. We plan to open hopefully by late summer!

  2. I rarely venture that far north, so I'd wondered how that project was faring. Smart move on their part to change the condos to rental. Lots of people were unable or unwilling to take that chance and have a lot of vacant units to show for it. Can't say I would ever expect the words "hipster" and "Brookhaven" to appear in the same sentence, at least without a negator somewhere between them, though.

    Oh, and, not to nit-pick, but isn't Bangladesh a country?

  3. I don't think this will end up like Atlantic Station... Atlantic Station isn't horrible... it's just the tenant mix is very meh. At least Town is attracting some local places from the get-go and that seems to be the path the new owners of AS are taking.

  4. "young professionals are able to secure a place to live with great amenities and close proximity to Buckhead"

    I am told this was also the case 30+ years ago. Hence what we have on Buford Highway.

  5. Town will do well because it's going to be another master planned community, catering to what is nothing more than a suburb in the city. I don't know how you could ever use the term "hipster" to describe Brookhaven-ites, unless the definition of "hipster" was just changed to something synonymous with "frat-boy". Probably the same type of person who thinks there's such a thing as downtown Bangladesh. I mean, c'mon, do your research. EAV is what I'd consider Atlanta hipster, Brookhaven isn't even close.

    The condo portion of this was a poor idea, as are most condos in Atlanta. Most people who want to own a condo -instead of a home - do so, because they want the urban amenities that condos typically offer. Try want to be able to walk to a bunch of good restaurants, coffee shops, newsstands, dry cleaners, etc. and feel like they're part of an urban community. There are VERY few places in all of Atlanta that provide something remotely close to that.

    The retail will do ok, because it will eventually be full of Verde-esque restaurants, over which the Brookhaven populace will go gaga over. Crap food, in a boring space, that describes itself as an independent neighborhood spot (I have to pause and pay respect to Haven - the one bright spot in Brookhaven). Having a theater is a horrible idea though, as theaters give people a place to loiter - could become a popular spot for the middle and high school kids that live around there.

    Wish I could opine more, but I've got to go catch a plane to downtown France.

  6. I think you are comparing apples and oranges....but it is easy to see where Atlantic Station completely dropped the ball when it came to working their tenant mix and their residential strategy. Atlantic Station (AS) could have been a real destination for Atlanta's shoppers and tourists but the opportunity was completely missed.

    Sembler has done a remarkable job in a down economy holding the integrity of its retail tenants and their residential component. You don't feel like you are driving into a subsidized housing project like you do at AS.

    AS has to take several step backwards to fix the mess they have created and rebuild their PR. Town has a clean slate.

    Town will at some point serve its immediate neighbors well and those within a 10 mile radius, but it will never become a tourist or Atlantan destination.

    Unless of course they open up a few hair salons and frozen yogurt shops, then people will drive in from Chattanooga to shop there.

  7. It is amazing to me that Sembler can be so great at coming up with perfect locations and concepts yet then execute them so poorly. Every Sembler property is an absolute cluster f*&%, the ingress and egress are never even considered on their site plans. It seems like at most of the properties they had a contest to see how poorly they could lay out the site plan. Edgewood Retail complex is an awesome location and a fantastic concept but I avoid going there because the ingress and egress and the parking layout is so poor. Their Midtown Home Depot/Whole Foods shopping center is again an incredible assemblage of land and location but the layout of that site plan and parking lot deserves an award for being the absolute worst of any shopping center I have ever been to. It really does seem like they are trying to make things convoluted, is there some ulterior motive to frustrate people into spending more time in their parking lots?

    Great Vision, horrible execution.

  8. Spot on Urbanist. I have had experience with Sembler from Florida
    and experience is not good whith this developer. Very cheap construction.
    They hype the properties get tenants and then sell out. I can't understand why they
    insist on movie theaters that always attract people who are not there to buy anything
    but a ticket or cause trouble, dumb! Give it a few years of the bad element that
    will chase the descent patrons away and you will have another disaster
    like Atlantic Station.

  9. Many comments here seem to be more focused on labeling/critiquing Brookhaven than answering the question asked - will TB be successful. IMO I think it will because it fulfills very specific needs not previously available in the Brookhaven area. In fact, I think it has actually benefited from the downturn. Originally it was supposed to have more of a up-scale, non-chain, maybe even "hipster" tenant-mix. Trying to react to a changing environment, Sembler brought it some winners that may not be the coolest but will draw people in. Costco is going to consistently draw in traffic flow, so will LA Fitness and no one wants to admit they shop there, but I bet Marshall's will do well too. Still, Sembler has managed to preserve some good restaurant/destination choices which will benefit from the healthy retail activity and the fact its not located in congested Buckhead.

  10. @Practicalist: I think that's been agreed to - that Town will do well over here, because it doesn't bring any differentiation to the neighborhood. What is will do is further homogonize the neighborhood, but as long as there's granite countertops and crappy sports bars, Brookhaven will love it. Of course, in ~10 years, the new apartments will be a bit old, they'll cater to a lower income demographic, and you'll have a movie theater where people will loiter (and drive away a lot of nearby families). Another factor is that the sustainability of this development depends heavily on a continued migration north along Peachtree. Of course, Sembler will be out of there by then, so somebody else will be left holding the bag...

  11. I'm not a fan of what Sembler has done with their previous Atlanta projects. To me, they've always got a halfway-alluring sheen of walkable urban density from the front, but then the allowances they make for car traffic screw things up. Try walking from block to block in most of the Sembler developments and the danger involved will make you want to hop in your car and drive to the neighboring store instead.

    But at least Brookhaven is a better fit for this kind of development than the the other locations. This is an unabashedly suburban, car-dependent area with little chance for being otherwise and I think the surrounding neighborhoods will end up embracing this development. Sembler's style is certainly more appropriate for this neighborhood than it is for Midtown.

  12. haha - wow. Does the Urbanist writer above seem bitter or what? "nothing more than a suburb in the city"...Sounds like they were voted off Brookhaven's version of Survivor. I could not imagine being so outspokenly negative about an area/people of Brookhaven. I mean hell, I've been up there plenty and really enjoy the resturants (K-pub, Haven, Valenza, etc) and vibe they have going.

    Anyways, did they open the LA Fitness up there yet??

  13. I live right behind the development and think it will do OK because the area is right now severely lacking in places to go within walking distance. Only issue I have is the cinema (loitering) and big box stores (traffic) but this develpoment is still better than the appartments that were there before. With Olglethorpe being so close and the Marta I do think the area will also encourage some walkers.

    Also sure Brookhaven isn't midtown but its a much better place to live than the redneck OTP suburbs once you have a family. We can't all stay in Midtown for ever.

  14. Jon, why would you have to ruin a decent response by labeling the suburbs of Atlanta in such a sophomoric, shallow and sadly broad way? You tool...

  15. Just a note regarding the theater. CineBistro looks to provide upscale in-theater dining. You must be 21 to see a movie there which I think will virtually eliminate any loitering. As a resident of the area, I think that the development will do well.

  16. As a longtime resident of Brookhaven / Ashford Park. Glad to have some development but not thrilled with the density of it. That being said, I hope that we don't see an Atlantic Station type environment. People in Brookhaven did not want to live in downtown or Midtown, they do not want to have the traffic and noise that comes with living in a city. We do enjoy the pockets of developement and revitaliazation as long as it continues to be a neighborhood first and retail district second.

  17. The development looks very interesting. It looks to be like a better executed Lindbergh - except there is no train station - which is very bothersome. Why does Atlanta insist on creating dense areas in the middle of fields and refuse to develop its train station sites? Do we really need more cars in North Atlanta?

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