During the Cobb County Board of Commissioners hearing held at the end of June, North American Properties (NAP) gained unanimous and unopposed approval to move forward with its redevelopment of Avenue East Cobb (AEC), NAP this week announced in a press release.
The developer will now begin the permitting process and aims to host a community-wide groundbreaking celebration later this fall.
Originally opened in 1999 as one of the first outdoor, pedestrian-friendly lifestyle centers in the US, NAP entered a joint venture partnership with PGIM Real Estate, the real estate investment and financing business of PGIM, the $1.4 trillion global asset management business of Prudential Financial, Inc., last July to reposition AEC as the community’s third place. NAP’s redevelopment vision focuses on “engaging the public realm and elevating the overall guest experience through an infusion of five-star hospitality and experiential programming.”
Plans call for a portion of the central building near Kale Me Crazy to be demolished to make way for an 8,000-square-foot Plaza surrounded by restaurants with vibrant patios to increase street-level energy. Other features slated for The Plaza include a covered, raised stage for performances, an LED screen for broadcasting live events, and a deck with soft, flexible seating. Once complete, The Plaza will play host to AEC’s 100+ annual, community-driven events.
Connected to The Plaza will be a 500 square-foot Concierge building where guests will have access to services such as dining reservation assistance and optional valet, which will be offered seasonally as well as during large-scale events. The building will also feature a roof extending over a drive aisle to allow for covered vehicle drop-offs. In addition, two 2,500-square-foot jewel boxes — standalone retail/restaurant spaces — will be constructed adjacent to Concierge.
“This project has been a long time coming and we are grateful to the Cobb County Board of Commissioners as well as local residents for supporting our vision,” said Mike Lant, senior vice president of development at NAP. “For over two decades, Avenue East Cobb has served as a staple in the community, but now it’s time for the property to be redefined into a social gathering hub that inspires a new generation of memories.”
“Post-acquisition, NAP initiated its signature pre-development strategy and began preparing the site for construction while working closely with the city to define and refine its proposal,” according to the release.
Upon taking over management duties, NAP’s corporate operations team, led by Director of Operations Michael Saadalla, identified several immediate areas for physical improvement and implemented new processes such as daily pressure washing and street sweeping; installed property-wide music; and upgraded the landscaping. The team also implemented a new daily operation structure and regulated tenant hours to be consistent with one another; hosted hospitality training for all departments; increased security and housekeeping hours and hired a dedicated maintenance employee; instituted a uniform staff dress code; and worked with existing tenants to complete much-needed spatial repairs.
Simultaneously, NAP’s corporate marketing team, led by Director of Marketing Sara Hemmer, completed a comprehensive rebrand strategy, including the creation and application of a new logo, website, and social media channels. Consistent event programming was rolled out last fall, too, with over 75 activations, attracting an average of 80+ attendees each, being hosted to date.
The permanent onsite management team has also been established, with Melissa Jones, former assistant general manager of Avalon, at the helm as general manager, Madison Murphy as marketing manager, Erica Cunningham as social media and community coordinator, and Kelly Skinner as administrative assistant.
Brooke Massey, senior leasing representative at NAP, is focused on refreshing AEC’s tenant mix with relevant fashion brands and chef-driven restaurants. The latest concepts to join the property’s merchandising lineup include Kendra Scott, which opened in June under a one-year pop-up agreement, and Vanilla Café, a family-owned coffee and sweets eatery.
Legacy tenant Hand & Stone is now under new ownership and relocating next to Loft to allow for the construction of a new restaurant with a Plaza-facing patio. Owner Suresh Vanukuru is doubling the spa’s footprint to 4,500 square feet and refreshing the overall aesthetic to better accommodate locals.
New retailers coming to AEC include:
- Warby Parker — Launched as an online retailer in 2010 and expanded to brick-and-mortar in 2013, Warby Parker offers eyeglasses, sunglasses, contacts, and eye exams at an affordable price. Its home try-on program also offers consumers the option to test up to five pairs before purchasing, and for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. Warby Parker will open at AEC this November in an 1,800-square-foot space across from Panera Bread, marking its fifth Georgia location.
- New York Butcher Shoppe –A full-service butcher shop, specialty grocer and wine bar, NY Butcher offers hand cut steaks, poultry, fresh seafood, salads, dips, wine and more available for dine-in or takeout. The 2,500-square-foot location at AEC will also feature the concept’s first-ever wine bar and is expected to open in November next to J. Jill.
- Tempur-Pedic — This manufacturer and distributor of sleep products is opening a 2,800-square-foot showroom at AEC between NY Butcher and High Country Outfitters next spring. The store will carry the widest selection of Tempur-Pedic products, including mattresses, adjustable bases, pillows, sheets, and more.
“As more young families continue moving away from bustling city centers and into suburban communities, destinations like Avenue East Cobb are becoming more attractive to brands seeking to appeal to this demographic,” said Massey. “We’ve been gaining a lot of leasing momentum over the past several weeks, and now with the necessary approvals in place, we’re full steam ahead.”