Expert weighs in on the future of Atlantic Station

Shaun Weinstockindustry insights, real estate, restaurants, retail166 Comments

atlantic station: past, present and future ~ what now, atlanta?

How realistic is the new developer’s hopes of an “Evolution?”

Atlantic station reminds me of the Atlanta Falcons performance in the playoffs this year: the hype before opening up on the big stage was set only for it to fall flat on its face.

As both a condominium owner, member of the Homeowners Association (HOA) executive board, and real estate professional, the whole “evolution,” or lack there of, has been painful to watch.

I dare not say “Underground Atlanta”, but the comparisons are clearly there. The concept of Atlantic Station was and still is the perfect idea for an urban sprawled city such as Atlanta and has the potential to offer a festive and unique atmosphere for families, residents, and tourists to enjoy.

The ATLofts, Atlantic Station’s 330 plus unit development that initially sold out to young professionals, represented the development’s  initial vision. Keep in mind, this represented more than 600 full time residents. Plagued by delays caused by poor construction, the completion of ATLofts were postponed by nearly a year, and when they were finally complete, the initial buyers who had planned to live in there, had purchased elsewhere, or no longer had the interest to live at Atlantic Station. The vision that excited them to the concept of Atlantic Station was clearly failing to translate.

When the units were ready for closings, Atlantic station already had a bad reputation of crime and cruising.

The hype had disappeared and failed. What was supposed to be a vibrant live, work, play setting, was now a retail area with dark lights of empty homes, nesting above the retail. Retailers did not have the support of true local residents. The “daily shopper” changed from a full time, live in resident, to a destination point for outsiders.

The layout is an issue as well.

Target and IKEA, the two largest traffic drivers of Atlantic Station are technically not part of Atlantic Station. When patrons frequent these stores, they are not steered to indulge themselves in the additional amenities offered by Atlantic Station.

While the movie theater is in an ideal location, the patrons it attracts are not ideal: young teenage kids, dropped off at Atlantic Station for hours who do not have the funds to shop at the different retailers.

Next time you are at Atlantic Station, take notice of how many people are actually carrying shopping bags, not labeled Publix.

The “evolution” is possible but it will take time.

Right now is a critical juncture: either it rebounds and reclaims what could have been or as tenants continue to default on rent, stores continue to close, and leases begin to expire (five year leases are approaching expiration, tenants will have to chose to renew or not), it will continue its downward spiral.

Atlantic Station will have to win back the trust and business of both retailers and patrons, those who originally believed in the project.

The most important supporting factor that could jump start said “evolution” is that the new owners purchased the asset at a distressed purchase price. As a result, they can deviate from the original financial projections required by the initial developer and still reach attractive returns on their investment. Having a significantly reduced entry price allows the new owners to lower the rental rates on vacant retail suites and still hit the rate of returns they need to satisfy their targeted rate of return on costs.

Current Atlantic Station retailers can restructure their leases ensuring their overhead costs are lowered and can remain in business. The initial rental rates paired with the absurdly high triple net lease (Net-Net-Net or NNN) pass through charges are damaging to attract the “right” tenants. But the new owners have the ability to adjust these charges to remain competitive and attractive to these tenants.

Where the original developer may have needed to rent space at $30 per square foot to cover their initial basis, the new owner can cover their basis, but at say, $20 per square foot and hit the same returns.

Atlantic station shopping needs to distinguish themselves from the “norm.”

This means a unique shopping experience with more boutique clothing stores, furniture stores, or specialty shops. Patrons will want to go if a need is created. Commercial stores such as Old Navy, Gap, J Crew, etc., offer a nice mix to the boutique stores and are the less risky play for a landlord but it also leaves patrons deciding between going to the generic retailer at Atlantic station versus the generic retailer at any mall in Georgia.

One-off retailers or retailers that are corporate, yet still boutique in their number of locations, is what the development needs. The perfect destination tenant would be Apple. Urban Outfitters or Anthropology would provide a nice edgy attraction, something like LuLu Lemon would create some buzz and Nordstrom or Saks would also be ideal to replace the low budget Dillards. IMAX is a great addition and it works because it’s needed; there is no competition in the city.

Past events such as Cirque De Sole, Taste of Atlanta, The Christmas Tree Lighting and associated fake snow at Santa’s Village, Weekend Art Fairs, Train Rides, Fashion Trunk Shows, Bodies exhibit, Dialogue in the Dark, even the constant music playing in the streets, are all steps in the right direction. These events make Atlantic Station unique from anywhere in the city.

Make me want to go there for an experience that I cannot have elsewhere. Make me want to have brunch there and spend the rest of the day enjoying the various shopping and eating venues. Virginia Highlands has succeeded at this and Decatur has as well. Atlantic Station, as currently constructed, is simply put, an outside generic mall.

The dining scene needs to change.

The difficult task the new owners face is in a poor economy, who will want to invest in opening a new concept? While restaurants like Fox Sports Grill, California Pizza Kitchen (Corporate), and Strip have done well, the overpriced “celebrity” concepts of Dolce, Geisha House, and Ten Pin have truly struggled to even pay rent. What will happen if they go under? That’s more than 20,000 square feet of restaurant space available, making an entire wing of Atlantic Station empty that will mirror the vacant and dark windows of the lofts.

Atlantic Station needs to incentivize local restaurateurs to open up, creating a forum for Atlanta dining: Highland Bakery (unfortunately went to 14th), a Metro Entertainment Concept (ie: Einsteins, Garrisons, etc), Flying Biscuit, Goldbergs, or a Fifth Group Concept.

Atlanta born restaurants, combined with Atlanta boutique shopping, will help create an “evolution” that is Atlantic Station; something Atlanta can call its own and represents the very best our city has to offer.

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Shaun WeinstockExpert weighs in on the future of Atlantic Station

166 Comments on “Expert weighs in on the future of Atlantic Station”

  1. Mary

    I’ve been following this thread for awhile and I finally decided to post something as a person who visits Atlantic Station roughly 3x a week during the day to go to the gym. I have two small children and I would love a reason to hang around with my kids, but the restaurants are not anywhere my kids want to eat and there are no other places to go with them. For example, some have mentioned children’s clothing stores – even something like The Children’s Place would draw in moms with small children as there isn’t one ITP – the nearest is at Cumberland Mall. You could combine that (or a Baby Gap or Gymboree) with a more ’boutique’ type of shop – Hanna Andersson, Janie and Jack, etc. – I’d love to be able to shop for my kids at A.S. As it is, we hit the Old Navy and then we leave. I’d love to see a shoe store like Abbadabba’s that sells shoes for kids and adults that people like myself (30 something’s) would wear.

    As far as restaurants, I actually stopped into Which Wich last week to grab a sandwich and someone popped in and asked the employee where she and her son could get a hamburger. The person who runs this blog seems to think that there’s some sort of burger fetish happening in Atlanta; why is there no decent burger joint at A.S.? GOOD pizza? (Sorry, but CPK’s food sucks and they are extremely overpriced.) Bring in a family restaurant – something like Mellow Mushroom, a great burger joint like George’s, a Mexican restaurant for the normal person (Rosa Mexicana is a bit too upscale for kids and Moe’s isn’t a real restaurant and there’s a dearth of *good* Mexican food in this city), a good Italian place – somewhere my husband and I can eat with the kids that is a sit-down place would make it a destination for our family instead of a place we don’t go during evenings with kids in tow.

    A bookstore – with story time for kids – would be an awesome draw for me. Again, I’m looking for reasons to stick around after I get in my workout. I know you tried the stroller mommy meet-up, but honestly, the mommy walks don’t work because there’s not a lot to offer moms with young children at A.S.; it needs more stores with clothing and accessories for children and I’d love to see at least one specialty children’s shop. I’ll second the suggestion for a carousel.

    We did stick around for the ‘National Night Out’ last spring after we left the gym and my son loved the bounce house. We also happened upon a free screening of the last “Shrek” movie this past fall, which also had a fair in Central Park, and that was a lot of fun.

    I’ve never felt threatened there – my husband and I go to the movies at Regal Cinemas on occasion. I go to the L.A. Fitness regularly. I shop at The Gap. I live in SW Atlanta and it’s basically the closest development to my home, so I’d like to see it improve and provide more of a destination for those of us that are underserved in our own neighborhoods.

  2. Mary

    One more thing – what about commissioning a local artist or two to create some ‘interactive art’ for Atlantic Station? It would be fun to have a cool statue or something that the kids could also crawl around and play on since a playground type of structure isn’t really feasible.

  3. brian

    “Never mind that young African Americans hanging out at AS (because they have no place else to go) have never caused personal harm to 99% of all posters.”

    Disagree with ya here…they are killing our property values. Period, End of Story.

  4. One Love Mike

    Derek1268: Tell’em that “the problem is 100% a black problem” and AS should “get rid of the blacks and let the whites know that you got rid of the blacks and the whites will come back.” As a matter of fact tell your customers to read your post as Derek1268…see how long before you need to revamp. Your first post is very different from your second; please take a hard look at yourself and deal with the duality of your racial views. I hope my son, who has far more white middle-class freinds than I ever had growing up, can continue to build his comradery with them and not be disconnected because his not-so rich father can’t keep up with their socio-economic status. The truth is, everybody wants the same things. If we get to know the hip-hop kid with the baggy pants or the punk rock girl with the pink hair, we’ll learn that they like us want the same things.

  5. LongTallSally

    First, let me say I love this site and following you and Mark Toro on Twitter. I’m going to make a few suggestions based on my personal needs so I hope the other posters will indulge me.

    My husband and I are in our 30’s and live in a condo in Atlantic Station. Full disclosure…We’re white, employed/school and have dogs. We plan to live in Atlanta for another 2 years, we’ve been in Atlantic Station for 3 1/2.

    The shopping district for Atlantic Station is right across the street, but we find that we have certain needs that are not currently being met by the businesses here. For these things, we travel away from Atlantic Station and end up doing the bulk of our dining, shopping, etc. while we are out.

    1. I like beer. I enjoy sitting down with friends at dinner and enjoying a few glasses of beer. I’m too old to drink liquor and it gives me a headache. Doing shots are for young people who don’t need to get up early or who are young enough to still be cute when they’re plastered. I outgrew that years ago. When I relax, I like a good beer. At Atlantic Station, their idea of craft beer or import is Heiniken. The standard beer list at any restaurant or bar in AS is Bud, Bud Lite, Miller, Miller Lite, Blue Moon, Sweetwater (if you’re lucky) and Heiniken. Perhaps a Sam Addams. Instead of the boring beer list at AS and the iffy service, we go to one of the many bars close by, such as Ormby’s, Cypress Street Pint and Plate, Taco Mac or 6 Feet Under. Those restaurants offer an impressive selection of craft beers and imports. I’m a beer snob, so you’re losing my business. Craft beer is one of the fastest growing segments of alcohol sales and most high end beers are bought by people with higher incomes.

    2. A quiet night at the movies. We usually drive to the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. I’m not a high-brow movie fan (again, I like beer over swanky liquor), but my husband is. We’ll sometimes split up to see two different movies. I like stuff blowing up and sharing a theater with adults. My husband likes sub-titles, but we make it work. Perhaps the theater at Atlantic Station could work to bring in more artsy titles. I also like Landmark because they sell beer at the theater. (I’m simple in my needs).

    3. I like not getting murdered. I appreciate the fact they have security but there isn’t nearly enough. They probably need to increase the security presence by at least 50% everyday and more on weekends. My husband and I were there one afternoon before the movie at Central Park. He saw a woman run past him chasing a young man. He had stolen her purse. She screamed to a security officer for help, he smirked, and continued his conversation. I’ll suggest beefing up security and start with checking their IQ’s. I heard there were 19+ car break-ins last week. Three cars in my building were on cinder blocks one morning in the parking garage. We have armed security, but not enough of them. I also suggest you talk to the area condos about beefing up their security. If you have armed guards and things are still getting broken into, you don’t have enough. I caught two kids breaking into cars. I notified security and it was swept under a rug. The condos and businesses here don’t want to report things to APD because it can hurt property values. Perhaps have AS security patrol the parking garages at the condos too and push the condo associations to increase security patrols.

    4. I need a hair salon. The last one closed above CPK but not before selling my husband a $100 gift card that is scrap paper. People need an affordable salon, not a $300 hair cut spa. There are lots of students in the area and I think affordable is better. A lot of people were burnt by the salon, including the employees. It was shortly after a holiday so there were lots of people with worthless gift certificates. People remember that. A national or local chain may work best and bring a sense of stability and trust. (The dry cleaners closing may have had more to do with the previous dry cleaners closing than blood splatter. I was scared to take my clothes there and when I did I picked them up the moment they were ready. The last place closed up and many people had to go out of their way to get their clothes back. Trust is big.)

    5. We could use a yoga studio. The closest one is on Peachtree and parking is awful. I’d stay closer to home if there was a yoga studio. (Gotta work off that beer).

    6. I agree with an electronics store but I don’t know where they could find the square footage unless they give up the Cirque spot to Best Buy or Fryes. Now we’re driving to Lindburg for Best Buy or Wal-Mart. (Considering the geek to normal human ratio with Georgia Tech, an electronics store would do very well.)

    7. I go to the book store at least once a week. The closest one is Borders and it’s closing. Books-A-Million doesn’t have a location near by and they have the Joe Muggs coffee. The Starbucks at 12 has very limited hours. It was common for me to go to Borders and then run next door to Kroger. It is cheaper than Publix. If the folks at the Publix weren’t so awesome I’d always go to Kroger.

    8. I don’t like hearing my neighbor got robbed at gunpoint walking home from Georgia Tech. It makes me scared to go anywhere at night. It’s not really the problem for AS but their suggestion can influence those making the decisions about shuttle routes.

    9. I’d like the restaurants to offer more vegetarian options. Atlantic Grill had a veggie burger but took it off the menu. We can’t eat there now unless I settle for a plate of french fries to go with my Blue Moon. (Yuck!) Side salads are a smack in the face to vegetarians. I’m not asking for a full menu, but two or three things added in. Most restaurants in town got the memo on vegetarians. Can someone make the suggestion. We rarely eat in Atlantic Station for this very reason.

    10. Re-vamp the A-card. Let people use it and an ID with an AS address to get priority seating at the AS restaurants and skip the wait. I’m running across the street to get food, not necessarily making a night of it. I want to eat and get on with my life. I think the people who live across the street should get more perks.

    11. I like taking my dogs to restaurants with pet friendly patios. We typically don’t eat at AS because of the poor beer list and lack of vegetarian options for me, but I’d stick with a nasty side salad and a Blue Moon if I could take my dogs.

    12. I’d appreciate a winter weather plan on the part of AS. I don’t think ice skates should be required to grocery shop. Following the winter storms, it takes forever for AS to be usable. They should hire a company to salt or brine the roads and sidewalks and clean up any ice. I nearly broke my neck getting into Publix. The parking garage was closed and we had to park on the street. It was like an ice skating rink for days. Businesses should also be responsible for cleaning the entire sidewalk in front of their business and not just a 12″ path. Perhaps AS could store salt and shovels as a courtesy to the businesses since many don’t have the storage.

    13. As much as I would love a farmer’s market, I’m guessing Publix has that off limits as part of their leasing agreement. The same agreement that says Target can’t sell meat and produce. Is there a way to get around it? Perhaps an organic farmer’s market?

    14. I like the outdoor shopping and the craft stands but I do find the art and other items tend to be more ethnic/urban. Has anyone checked out the jewelry stands in VaHi? I’d even like some of the New York Central Park type vendors who sell hats, scarves, pictures of Atlanta pre-framed for the tourist, etc.

    15. I like live music. Center Stage has great shows and will usually have a great turn out. Perhaps look at their bookings and get complimentary bands to play when it makes sense. Have they thought about booking regional bands/performers to play on weekend nights? I think jazz or even some all ages jam bands could be fun in the summer months.

    It’s not about cutting people off but offering what more people want.

  6. Amy

    I am a resident/owner in the Element condos and I feel this is an excellent, well written article. I agree with all suggestions in the article (and only with a few of the resulting comments). There are two things I would like to add. Diversity is not the problem, it is the LACK OF DIVERSITY that is the problem. On Friday/Saturday nights there is 99% only one group of people there which is a lack of diversity and not representative of the whole population of Atlanta. Secondly, the “artists market” is a great concept but is a joke in it’s current state. If those are “artists” anyone could call themselves an artist. How about some high quality artists that will attract affluent people in. Revamping ALL of the restaurants is definitely in order. As residents, we do not eat there. Local, unique restaurants would be great. Thanks again for this fantastic article! Let’s make this happen!!

  7. Darren

    Not trying to make it a race issue, but we need to understand the problem and address it. To turn a blind eye to who is committing these crimes in ignorant and does not allow us to find out where to start making changes. In the past 18 months the HomePark neighborhood by Atlantic Station has had close to 60 violent crimes. All, but one committed by an african american. The numbers don’t lie. As this does not nor should not be a slant to the entire race, I think it is where much of this fear is rooted in terms of the “element” at Atlantic Station.

  8. Amy

    One other comment I forgot to mention in my last post. How about charging $5+ for non-residents and non-employees of Atlantic Station (and the surrounding condos/apartments). Make it free only for employees and residents and maybe the loiterers would not be so inclined to come hang out and not spend any money (unless they fork out $5+ for the shuttle, or drive themselves).

  9. Amy

    *correction – $5+ for the SHUTTLE (not entrance into AS). Shuttle free for residents and employees, not free for everyone else.

  10. LongTallSally

    I’ve found that I cut my visits short to avoid paying for parking. I always tell myself that I’ll walk back over when I have time, but never do. Perhaps they can develop a free parking option for residents. I understand that completely free parking would lead to problems. I’d suggest offering free parking to residents Monday-Thursday 10a-6p and forbidding overnight parking. Require residents show a drivers license with an AS address. They could direct residents to use one of the slower exits (P2 on 16th?) or dedicate the exit nearest the attendant. This may help weekly daytime foot traffic as well.

    Of course, I’ll be more likely to go when there are more things to interest me. AS may be able to bring in new tenants but the challenge will be working with the current businesses to broaden their services, menus, etc. to appeal to families and not 22 year olds.

  11. midtown lover

    Please stop with talk of curfews. Ridiculous. We live in America not the Soviet Union. I dont mind the kids, I might the punk adults. The 12 Hotel services cash intensive offenders’ partying habits (drugs and hookers). That hotel needs to clean up it’s act. Need a williams sonoma.

  12. SteveK

    AS could take advantage of it’s town-like layout and create unique activities that make the public spaces profitable and attract more people:

    1.The Saturday and Sunday markets could be enhanced with family oriented street performers such as jugglers, face painters, balloon twisters, caricaturists, puppeteers and magicians. The performers would work for tips.

    2.Friday and Saturday night street performers could have more of an “edge” with traveling performance artists, mimes, talented solo musicians, fortune tellers and fire breathers.

    3.I also like the idea of letting people walk The District with their drinks on Friday and Saturday night – lots of security – and clean up!

    4.Free morning Yoga/Tai Chi in Central Park 3 or 4 times a week for residents and workers could be hosted by LA Fitness. Encourage the participants to visit a coffeeshop or restaurant after the workout.

    5.Be the weekday evening start/finish location for running/biking groups. All that exercise makes the folks hungry.

    6.Have an ASO fundraiser by hosting a Sunday night of Atlanta’s best musicians appearing on the streets performing solos for donations. The same could be done for The Ballet and Opera. It also acts as marketing for them.

    7.I like the idea of having some parallel parking spaces rented to car companies to market luxury and “green” vehicles on an ongoing basis. This makes the streets a cutting edge car showroom.

    8.The last time I was there, there were no food carts in Central Park. That might have changed but it would be nice to get a crepe, falafel or locally made pastry in the park.

    9.Regal will never have the great films that Landmark has but they could work with Regal to attract more film festivals to the evolving town center.

    10.Take advantage of Tech events by hosting Buzz, The Ramlin’ Wreck, Tech cheerleaders and other Tech icons during rush, homecoming and graduation.

    11.One of the most popular events at Atlanta Pride is shopping at Phipps and Lenox. Attract shoppers to AS by presenting an LGBT performer/comedian in Central Park or featuring an LGBT Screen on the Green.

    12.Ice skating has become overdone in Atlanta during the Holiday Season but a rollerskating rink in Central Park may be cheaper and warmer – Disco Christmas.

  13. mypitboss

    @Midtown Lover: Don’t forget that this is private property. They can introduce a curfew if they’d like.

  14. Mark Toro

    SteveK, I really like where you’re headed. It’s what we call “experiential retail”. Have you ever been to The Grove in LA or Santana Row in San Jose?

  15. VT

    @SteveK and Mark Toro: Brilliant suggestions to improve the atmosphere of Atlantic Station. By changing events depending on time of day you can attract a wide variety of constituencies so that AS is not just seen as a “family” place or a “party place” etc. New Orleans has managed to do this with their riverfront area next to the French Quarter. I do think that it is crucial mark, for you to take a good hard look at the clientele and business practices of the 12 Hotel. I am friend with a lot of guys who work for APD, and to a man they see that hotel as the epicenter of AS’ problems. The hotel is no controlling its customers and looking the other way on a LOT of bad behavior. That clientele attracts other undesirable elements that spoil the AS experience and have people encouraging their friend sto stay away.

  16. SteveK

    Thanks Mark. I got the ideas from my travels to places like New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and European cities. I wouldn’t over do it. I can feel desperate or kitschy.

    I looked up the places you mentioned and they would be great models for AS: local, trendy, family, upscale and fun. AS currently lacks this diversity.

    Have you thought of changing the name? It may encourage people to give it a second chance. “Old Mill Village” or “Steel Town Square” or something that keeps a reference to the site’s history.

  17. KS

    Wow is all I can say. First let me say that I am aN African-American female Pharmacist and all of my friends are pharmacists and other health care professionals and we frequent AS often to shop and dine when we don’t feel like going to Lenox. I enjoy the artist market and just getting some fresh air as I enjoy my ice cream. So many of you have spoken about this so called “black problem” however it should be pointed out that there has been many a time that white people have behaved very badly as well. Many of YOU hang out with no money in your pocket acting like you own the place, while my friends and I try to manuever around you with shopping bags in our hands. I could really go there and type a list of the asshole behavior I’ve experienced from white people in AS over the years. Atlanta is full of well to do African American, Hispanic, and Asian people who enjoy spending our money at the establishments in AS. My male friends can go from baggy jeans to business suits but the ignorance some of you convey would automatically label him a thug from what you see. We love word of mouth and I am going to circulate all of these comments because obviously you all don’t want our money, not only black money but gay money as well because I belong to both communities and we love to indulge regularly on good clothes, shoes, food and drinks. So one of two things will happen, majority will be appalled and choose to take their money elsewhere or, knowing that you all don’t want us here, we will come out in full force and really take over. When will you all learn to coexist peacefully. Half of you talking all of this madness will never have the balls to say anything outside of the anonymity of this thread. So stop it. To the GM of the Grape I liked it better when it first opened it was jazzy and really comfortable before, when I was there a two weeks ago it felt cold and unwelcoming. A bookstore would be a wonderful addition. We do read in case some of you were wondering.. I empathize with the residents who have watched their homes go down in value. I lived in a mixed development in Jacksonville and it was wonderful. Any HOA meetings attend them and let your voice be heard Please. One would think that for a city that is roughly 50% African American you all would be used to us by now. Some of you need little sterile close minded bubbles to live in so you won’t be subjected to “ghetto, thuggish” and whatever other terms you used to describe black people. I wish those who have money and time invested in AS the best of luck and would advise MR. Toro and others to make sound business decisions to make AS better for EVERYONE!!

    1. YT

      Bullsh t. WHy don’t you inspire the gays and blacks to boycott the place. That would solve ALL the problems.

  18. KS

    One more thing @ Steve K in regards to your #11, you are totally accurate and I will tell you why. When everyone comes to town for Pride it is put out there through once again “word of mouth” that Lenox is more gay and lesbian friendly than AS is. We can hold hands, walk through the mall, and shop in peace without the dumbfounded looks and sub-par treatment from other shoppers and employees. Here is another experience we had a group of 8 well dressed gay & lesbian mixed crowd to eat at Copelands where given a two-hour wait, a group of 10 well dressed white people comes after us and we overhear them being told a wait of 40-45 minutes. We promptly let them know what we heard and to cancel our table. We went to the Cheesecake Factory instead and spent almost $500 that night with them. Any place that shows this lack of open-mindedness we do spread the word to avoid them.

  19. Mike

    Great ideas SteveK! All of those things would make me want to visit more often! And I think The Grove in LA is a great model for AS, especially in terms of retail.

    Also, I agree about Twelve – they need to do a much better job with enforcement. Definitely something that needs to be looked at…

  20. SteveK

    Atlanta is a metropolitan city but it is not a very cosmopolitan city. We’re not a melting pot, we’re more of a tossed salad. Many African Americans have simultaneously embraced diversity on one hand and people who belong to the “Thug” sub-culture on the other. Unfortunately, thug culture seems to have a very strong anti-White streak in it. When Whites criticize thug culture, African Americans see it as racism. When African Americans defend thug culture, Whites see it as “reverse” racism.

    AS needs to attracts all people: gay, straight, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, young, old, student, professional, tourist, singles, families. etc. AS needs to make all feel welcome with diverse events and stores while focusing on the taste of its Midtown/Buckhead market. If a group that intimidates others based on race appears (such as Thugs or Skinheads), they must be eradicated immediately. They also need to let owners/mangers know that if they develop a reputation of hostility toward one group, management will work with them to develop a more cosmopolitan clientèle. The previous management company did a very poor job of this but I think the new management is wrestling with this thorny issue.

  21. Darren

    KS, no one wants to see your male friends exposed butt because his baggy jeans are so low. Maybe he isn’t a “thug”, but he certainly has no class. Indecent exposure isn’t cool. Just because the rappers do it, doesn’t mean it should be acceptable.

  22. Jonathan

    Mark, I know it would be an expensive undertaking but I truly believe a light rail streetcar component in Atlantic Station would really set it apart. That’s what sets Dallas’ West Village apart. A loop through the residential area, down to Ikea, and back up through the village is not only quaint but a functional way for people with groceries and such to not have to drive.

  23. Darin

    Yes to that, Jonathan. The transporting-groceries thing is something that bugs me occasionally. The #37 MARTA bus runs too infrequently through here to be as usable as I need it to be. And the shuttle, on the weekend especially, can get very crowded and cramped. Trying to fit on it with a few full shopping bags can be a pain. A light rail — or even a more frequent, simple bus route like the Peach Bus — would get a lot of use here.

  24. Sara B.

    I just found out today.

    I arrived at Atlantic Station to learn that Black Market / White House had closed, I was so disappointed. This was the first place I looked, so THANKS Caleb and Shaun. I was really surprised to read some of the things that I did, I mean really surprised. But, I never really hung around Atlantic Station in the evenings, and I guess when I think about it, it was for these very reason.

    There aren’t to many stores that I go Atlantic Station for because they really are for a younger crowd. I loved Black Market/ White House however, and I like Anne Taylor lofts.

    I’ve been hearing alot about what’s going on with the new ownership and how things are “going to change” I can only hope that they change for the better.

    I think its funny however, that they are targeting the Midtown to Old Fourth Ward as “their client base” when I live in Peachtree Battle, which isn’t that far from Atlantic Station. Hello,, neighbors to the north.

    I am a big fan of the weekend Artist market that they have their and I hope that is the one thing that will stay! Its one of the things that keeps me coming back, as I can find new things all the time, sometimes, I’ll come on a Saturday and Sunday or two weekends in a row, because its so much fun. I will often come down with my Mom or girlfriends (and we spend a long time) to look at jewelry vendors that they have there.

    Its one of my favorite things to do in Atlantic Station, then of course we go to DSW.

    I’d like to see some a better line of women’s store there, GUESSS, H&M and EXPRESS just don’t cut it for me.

    I hate the parking garage and there isn’t any change machines on street level. None of the store will give you change either. And, that new parking meter “call in system” is the worst. I got charged one time for 24 hours! I couldn’t beleive it, and when I called, they said it was my fault and I should have remembered to call and cancel it when I left. That was the last thing I was thinking.

    So if there was one thing that I would change is the parking and the meters, and if there was one thing that I would keep, that would be the open air market on the weekends.

    But, I’m just someone from Peachtree Battle, not, Midtown.

  25. Jason Teeter

    @Mark – have you considered getting some consulting help from Georgia State University’s Criminal Justice department? They have some expert researchers there who do work on public safety, gangs, and crime prevention through environmental design. I took classes there and they are nationally recognized scholars. They have something called the Crime/Violence Prevention Policy Initiative that would probably be perfect for helping you make some changes and tweaks to AS that would elevate safety and (more importantly) the perception of safety.

  26. Sara

    One other comment I forgot to mention in my last post. How about charging $5+ for non-residents and non-employees of Atlantic Station (and the surrounding condos/apartments). Make it free only for employees and residents and maybe the loiterers would not be so inclined to come hang out and not spend any money (unless they fork out $5+ for the shuttle, or drive themselves).
    Sorry Amy that won’t work. Marta is only 2.00 or people can walk from the train station for free. If I pay 5.00 for a such a short shuttle ride then it better serve imported beer with a masseur as well.

  27. Tonys

    I spotted a website yesteday that appeared a decent amount similar to this, are anyone convinced an individual seriously isn’t copying this web site?

  28. SteveK

    JM – Monaco Pictures is an EXCELLENT idea! I looked them up and it would definitely make the necessary upgrades to the AS movie experience and attract an upscale crowd (that would spend more money at AS stores). It would be a risy but bold move to get rid of a big company like Regal but the crowd Regal attracts, the movies they show and their ugly decor have got to go!

  29. KLS

    Love to hear changes are coming, but how about taking care of what we have now? For example, the AS website still lists White House/Black market and the Cleaners on the shops page. In addition, we’re 7 days from March 1 and the March events calendar is not up yet. How about planning ahead so that people can get excited for upcoming events like the Sham Rock N Roll run? Hope things get better, or we’ll be moving next year.

  30. Mark Toro

    Many thanks to all whove taken the time to share their perspective on Atlantic Station. We’ve identified a number of themes emerging from posts here and elsewhere. Please visit our Facebook page and share your comments to our “What We Heard” posts.

  31. Dick

    How did the HOA meeting go on the 24th? I couldnt make it. Is there a transcript or write up online I can read?

  32. C.O.

    I agree with alot of the suggestions stated, however I dont agree with the underlying tone. Everyone keeps talking about “black,thugs,poor,ghetto”. Unfortunately, if you look at the inner city demographics those are the people you are amongst when living in an urban environment. If you look at the inner city in itself there is nothing for the group of people you are referring to, to do but hangout at AS. There are no other outlets for these individuals to go to. The malls have just as many “black thugs, poor, ghetto, and gay” people visiting them as Atlantic station. Wherever you have public transportation and free bus rides you will have young people (no matter what demographic) hanging out. I like the idea of a curfew. This would get rid of alot of the very young people hanging out late nights, however living in the city, crime is a part of the equation. Hell, I lived in Alpharetta and had my car broken into twice and stolen. There are very few of the “undesireables” living way out there. To the buyers, you should have known what you were signing up for before moving into that area. Statistics dont lie. If you want majority “white, non threatening blacks, less homosexuals, and a greater sense of security” move to the northern subarbs, because you all know whats on the eastside, southside, and westside of Atlanta. The people who were displaced so you all can have the “Urban lifestyle” you are looking for. Get real….Im from NYC…the complaints that you are giving would be laughed at….You would think that with the high taxes you guys are paying to live in that zip code you could have you own highly visible police department…Property values everywhere are falling and its due to the original inflated house prices, vacancies do to unemployment and lower wages, and foreclosures. If they left Buckhead alone midtown would not have this problem…lets hear it for the “Rodeo Drive of the South” that never quite happenned….SMH

  33. Sabrina

    Copy a complete success – The Grove in Los Angeles. Beautiful organic open spaces, the right, successful retailers and restaurants and virtually no bad element. Nominal parking fees from the first minute and no through streets keep out the bad element. No thru streets and no traffic also make it very kid friendly. Adjacent to a permanent farmers market brings in more of the right demo. Has a nice movie theater that’s a dollar or so higher than others nearby, so keeps the element out as well. Only thing that can’t be replicated is the weather – so consider some outdoor fans, heaters and rain shelter to get closer.

  34. Mark Toro

    Sabrina, you are spot on!

    We are in the process of copying The Grove, blatantly and shamelessly, as it is the best example of experiential retailing in the US. To assure that we get it right, we have brought on a General Manager who knows how it’s done…because he’s done It. Tom Miles ran The Grove and Santana Row, another great example of experiential retailing, and he is already hard at work…shaping our guest experience.

  35. mypitboss

    Mark Toro, I’m sorry I ever doubted you. I’m a fan and am looking forward to seeing how you get AS up to par.

  36. SteveK

    As an urban designer, I have to refute “C.O.”‘s causal relationship between urbanism and crime. Cities like Tokyo are much more urban than any city in the U.S. yet their crime rate is lower. Each society must calibrate its tolerance between personal freedoms and public safety. Most Americans visiting Tokyo might find it too restrictive although they appreciate the safety of the city. Atlantic Station on the other hand needs to improve public safety even if that means restricting some personal freedoms. As for the young kids who have nowhere else to go, parents need to teach them that they are free to be rude and coarse but that behavior will restrict where they can go in life. Instead of their parents asking society to lower its standards to the kids’ level, these parents need to tell their kids to either aim higher or accept the fact that there are places where they will have a hard time being accepted.

  37. BDM

    I’m looking forward to Atlantic Station being the type of destination place it was originally designed to be! I’m also super excited that – for once – we feel that our voices are being heard! I would love to see some sort of niche boutique or retailer come in that’s no where else in Atlanta. Too bad you couldn’t get Jonathan Adler in there! He’s on your side of town, though 😉

    Keep it going! I can’t wait to see what you all have up your sleeve…

  38. mypitboss

    C.O.: Who is complaining about too many homosexuals in malls? Did I miss something here? That’s rich.


    Atlanta just sucks! I just moved back after living in Chicago for 4 years and this town will never be in the same class as the Miami, New York, Chicago, LA, London’s of the World.
    You need great visionaries for that not just developers trying to make a buck.
    It’s funny…Chicago had an area kind of what Atlantic Station was. An industrial area on the West Side that was old factories and 1920-1940’s era buildings. Did they tear it down to build a new cookie cutter, city within a city cut off from the rest of CHicago w/ the same old corporate chains.

    No they are CHicago not Atlanta. They filled the place up with retro lofts, trendy restaurants bars and nightclubs with easy access to the city all the while keeping the architecture and character of its era.

  40. mypitboss

    @Atlanta Sucks:
    We’ve done the turn-old-factories-into-trendy-loft thing over and over again (see Ford Factory Lofts). And, like a lot of cities, we’ve also done the live-work-shop thing a few times (which is the idea behind Atlantic Station).

    There are plenty more opportunities for that. For example, we have Old City Hall which, at least a few years ago, was going to be yet another live-work-shop complex (I think it was abandoned).

    I’ll tell you this. I really hated Atlanta when I first moved here. But, I really like it now. You’re going to make yourself insane if you expect it to turn into Chicago.

    Take a deep breath.

  41. TW

    I personally am not surprised at the end result of Atlantic station. I have had the opportunity to develop a hotel/condo tower on the east side of the connector for some five years. (Granted, now would not be the time.) The project was shelved because we realize the city of Atlanta will always force “inclusion” upon developers when they (the city) know darn well the developer will sell those units (Section 8) at a loss. They also know that in Atlanta low income inclusion means the “ghettoization” of an area.

    Perhaps in the future we will have a new Milton County where development will thrive.

  42. Everette Sommerfeld

    Normally I don’t comment on your posts but I wanted to let you know I have placed a link to your page on my blog. I was thinking that maybe you could benefit from my visitors since we have somewhat similar pages.

  43. ATL Station Resident

    What a great article! I’ve lived in Atl. Station for 3 1/2 years and love it. I moved to Atlanta from London and chose this part of town for it’s convenience and close proximity to all the things I love…the museum, great restaurants, easy access to the airport, etc.

    I would love to see the concept of Atl Station evolve, and under the new ownership, I do see some changes ( albeit small) making a positive difference.

    I’m not from Atlanta, but I do find that anytime you see a large contingency of African Americans, folks tend to get a little nervous…this is still GA, after all. But, I suppose, that’s another post for another time.

    I’m anxious to see how the changes that have been implemented pan out in the coming months. I’m hearing rumblings that there will be a few major overhauls to the stores and restaurants here. I really wish Empire State South would have opened in the area. THAT would have been a definite game changer. Overpriced chain restaurants are never a good look. A farmer’s market would be a GREAT addition as well.

    Overall, I don’t think folks from Atlanta will truly embrace the concept of live, work, play…most of the residents in my building are from elsewhere. The price-point is high, and Atlanta isn’t necessarily conducive to $1500+ rentals and $500K condos…but for those of us who enjoy urban living, it’s a great concept.

  44. Anonymous

    Atlantic Station is the next Underground Failure and “Downtown Buckhead: Failure waiting to happen. You can’t frequent the place after the sun goes down, it’s infested with the filth that took over the Buckhead district that finally shut it down….Gang bangers, Guns and Thugs.
    Just wait, 2-Shootings/Murders and a 1/2 dozen muggins from now and the place will be a Ghost town…(Did I just read American Eagle is bailing on the complex????). Sounds familiars.

    And in their short sitedness…they’ll start charging for parking for “everyone”…that will be the nail in the coffin…

  45. mypitboss

    Okay, Anonymous. We all know that AS has had problems. Did you miss all of the things the new owner is trying to do to fix the problems? I think they’re reconsidering the parking issue. Would that change your mind at all?

    Don’t you want for this to work? If you have suggestions, you should put them on here. Or, should we just assume that all development in Atlanta will become like “Underground”, throw up our hands and be done with it all?

  46. LC

    I could NOT agree more about the restaurants. Atlanta’s local restaurants are so strong, and I think the developer missed out in not getting them to consider a new location at Atlantic Station.

  47. AHK

    I’m a black female physician in my thirties. I’ve patronized AS multiple times per week for years. I’ve never felt unsafe and have never witnessed any crime. To read these posts, I guess I’ve just been lucky. The changes the new management has made are palpable, but they definitely make me feel that I am not a target demographic. There seems to be such a tremendous desire to bring in more whites (the music being played and the performers being booked) that you exclude people of other races regardless of their upbringing, values, class and socioeconomic status. This thread has shown me that several of you equate black with poor and thug. It’ll be interesting to see if this “white wash” can be created in a city with so much diversity. I cannot continue to patronize places that cannot see past race and considers all people of my coloring to be the same. I don’t do that to other racial groups.

  48. bob

    I am looking at this place for a vacation rental, would there be any problems with the home owners association or covenants that would prevent me from doing this? Mostly looking at the condos in the high rises.

  49. David

    I love the changes at Atlantic Station! It’s finally beginning to have some unique qualities instead of just being a boring suburban lifestyle center. I had quit going there, but have begun to shop there again recently. Does anyone know if the report is true that Neiman Marcus is going to open a “Last Call Studio” store there?

    1. caleb j. spivak

      hi david, thanks for your comment. we reached out to our atlantic station insiders to confirm the alleged reports of neimans opening a “last call studio” there. the report is false.


  50. Midtown Resident

    Decided to give AS another chance. Our family went into a restaurant after Christmas, across from the movie theater, and turned around and left after 30 seconds. The four 25 year old guys with their pants down to their knees in front of us made us sick.

    The place is full of gangsters and there is no way can I bring my 2 kids into that kind of environment. It’s really too bad. Get rid of that movie theater and you might have something. Bring in a farmers market or something. Check this out to see how it’s done Atlanta.

    So long Atlantic Station. We will never return. Epic fail.

    Saddened Midtown Resident

  51. Terresha Anthony

    For those that brought the race issue into the discussion. Yall are disgusting. White people need to get used to the fact that no matter where you go, you gonna see black people. There are all kinds of black people just like their are all kinds of white people. If you dont want to see black people stay at your country club. Get over yourselves. When Atlantic Station was built there was no real incentive to go there instead of a regular mall. Strip was wack, the menu was weak and the restaurant was raggedy from the very beginning. The movie theater wasnt well kept either. It was filthy. I thought what is so special about coming here if they cant keep it clean? I did think that Dolce, Geisha, and California pizza kitchen was great, but now they need to put stores and restaurants there that are unique. I agree with the idea of boutiques with one of a kind pieces. I never saw a hair salon but that is needed ( an upscale salon) and a full service spa. If you get some creative minds Atlantic station will be fine.

  52. ATLien

    HA – “Terresha”… wow – your parents sure played a joke on you!

    Either way – your argument is just as racist as any other made on here – “stay at your country club”? Ridiculous. Maybe some of us like to go shopping without having to worry about our cars being broken in to, purses being snatched, or just making a wrong turn down a dark alley. I had a friend who living in one of the condos and had someone climb 2 stories up and break in through her balcony. Luckily she wansn’t home but I’m sure you can guess where he DIDN’T live…

    End the free shuttle and the crime will cut in half. If all of these people want somewhere free to hang out they need to stay in their own neighborhood.

  53. Midtown Resident

    What is Kimco? Suburban Square is a nice place to go and you don’t have to worry about dudes walking around with thier pants at their knees. At least you feel safe.

  54. MikeH

    Well, the last 2 times I tried to support AS I was treated like I wasn’t really wanted there. The first time was earlier this summer when the wife and I were on our touring motorcycle (not a loud Harley) and wanted to have dinner. The “security” there said we could park our motorcycle anywhere except the Target parking lot. So, we went somewhere else where we were more welcome.

    The second time was a couple of weeks ag. After spending about $140 at one of the restaurants we get to our car where one of the meter maids was writing a ticket for our car. It had literally just expired by 2 minutes and as we were walking to the car. The “meter maid” wrote the ticket anyway even after we showed our receipt. So, guess what….we will NEVER come to Atlantic Station again.

    I’m sure the retailers and restaurants are real happy about that. AS needs to be much more consumer friendly in addition to having better options for shopping.

  55. Adriana

    My husband and I (50-something empty nesters) moved to Atlanta 3 years ago and were looking for a one year rental at the time. We looked at Atlantic Station and passed because it felt cold, half-empty and not dog-friendly. At the time we were not aware of “the element” issue which is unfortunate.

    As a resident of midtown for the past 3 years, I go to AS a couple of times a month, but it tends to be a one-stop trip – to Ikea, to Target or to Dillards, West Elm, etc. I have seen improvements over the past 3 years – the parking, while still confusing has improved with better lighting, signage and attendants, thank you!

    We have recently bought a condo in midtown and would love to see a Midtown-AS loop/shuttle/trolley which allows us midtown residents to not have to navigate TWO parking garages (at our condos and again at AS) or give up our coveted on-street space. A hop-on/hop-off trolley for residents/students/tourists that runs from AS to Arts Station to Colony Square-10th St -5th St- Ga Tech Conference Center would encourage traffic and make all of Midtown a destination rather than the one-way ticket for teenagers with nothing better to do.

    More stops will encourage shoppers as well as schelpping packages/groceries 5 or 10 blocks is a hassle, 1-2 blocks, not so much.

    AS needs to connect with the Midtown Mile as you have shopping experiences that those residents need! You need to tap in to the thousands of current mid-town residents as well as the 1,000+ new apartments/condos coming on stream in the next 12 months. It’s not Us vs. Them. We are all in this together to make this a thriving community!

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