Buckhead Shops Wait 'for the Cranes to Move'
Businesses worry as they watch and wait for progress at the Buckhead Atlanta construction site.
But one characteristic unites them all -- living in close proximity to the giant construction site promised to become Buckhead Atlanta.
Al Ozelci, owner of Café Agora on East Paces Ferry said he’s been around Atlanta for a long time, so he knows how things have changed. “Now you can’t even walk around,” he said, referring to traffic and general congestion near his locally renowned Mediterranean Cuisine restaurant.
“But my business has never suffered,” Ozelci said proudly. The upcoming new location for Café Agora in Midtown is proof enough that the construction zone of Buckhead Atlanta has not hindered his business.
But steady business is not the case for many other retailers working out of buildings alongside the future Buckhead Atlanta strip.
Erin Wertenberger of Twenty21 Collections Gallery Rodin in the Aaron Building said he never expected walk-in business to degrade so much. Because of the seemingly ever-present obstruction of the OliverMcMillan land plot, he said pedestrians hardly ever venture into his gallery. “I’ve gone two months before without ever having one person step foot in my door,” he said. “[The construction site] is constantly giving the impression that the neighborhood is torn up.”
To make up for his lack of walk-in business, Wertenberger has redirected his pursuits to telephone and internet sales, with reasonable success. Most of his clients now, he says, are not from Atlanta, but out of state. “It just takes time to develop clientele,” he said, sympathizing with other new businesses moving in nearby.
What would be an ideal addition to the area? “Anything that brings people,” Wertenberger said.
During the initial planning for what was formerly called Streets of Buckhead, he heard there would be two new restaurants built on street level directly across from Twenty21. “That would be excellent,” he said. “But they’re not developing it.”
Wertenberger said he's losing hope.
“We’re waiting for any sign of life… we’re not sure they exist yet,” Wertenberger said of the OliverMcMillan developers.
David Copeland, manager of Frabel Gallery Buckhead said the construction site has “basically killed” business for the glass art gallery, and he will start to hope for improvements “when [I] see a crane move.”
C Lighting on Buckhead Avenue is having a 70%-off moving sale; it is relocating to Roswell Road. Kim Prather, LS, ALA Lighting Specialist said the original push to move was from the building owners, not OliverMcMillan, but business has suffered because of the construction. “Ever since they dug ‘the hole,’ there’s really no destination here anymore,” Prather said.
But she has hope for the future of Buckhead Atlanta, if only it would get established. As Prather ventures out to new territory she knows she leaves behind many other business owners biding their time, waiting for the Buckhead Atlanta dream to come true. “Time will tell,” Prather said. “And good luck to everybody.”
Alan Avery Art Company has been at its current location on East Paces Ferry for more than 20 years now, just around the corner from the future Buckhead Atlanta. “I call it The Big Dig,” said owner Alan Avery. He said he has been witness to all the different stages or “reincarnations” of that plot over the years, and now he is worried the current infrastructure in place is rusted and insecure, perhaps making it difficult for OliverMcMillan to get city permits.
But Avery is confident of the development’s future success. “I have no regrets about being here,” he said. “In ten years this will be the place to be.”
Hunter Richardson, Development Director for Buckhead Atlanta, told Patch that the mixed-use development is moving forward as planned and it is currently on pace for a late 2013 opening.
“Our significant redesign effort continues, with multiple design meetings on a weekly basis,” he said.
“Since we acquired the property 10 months ago, we are carefully responding to market desires for a more human scale as we create a fantastic Buckhead Atlanta.”
Erik Garcia, manager of the Blue Moon Pizza on East Paces Ferry said he is optimistic about the development. Construction workers on the project eat at Blue Moon Pizza a couple days a week, and Garcia said they mentioned the tower cranes should start moving in three weeks. [Patrick Hill of Jackson Spalding told Patch in an email that the cranes are not set to move until later this year.]
“[Buckhead Atlanta is] absolutely a positive thing for the neighborhood,” Garcia said. “It’s one of the reasons why we came here.”
Chris McLeody, manager of Bottle Bar Buckhead is slightly less hopeful. He said he would prefer Buckhead Atlanta to include more shops and office buildings, fewer condos and apartments, of which Buckhead already has too many. He predicts that increased shopping would help Bottle Bar’s success. “But is it ever gonna get finished?” he said. “Probably not.”
Jonathan White, manager of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams on Peachtree appreciates the progress of the future Buckhead Atlanta site, including maintenance of its nearby sidewalks, redesigned fencing and billboard signage. “It looks better now than it has for years and years,” he said. White said last year this Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams building was remodeled and expanded in anticipation of the opening of Buckhead Atlanta.
Copeland said, “Whatever they do, I hope they finish it. Buckhead means too much to all of Atlanta. It will come back.”