Urban Sleuth :
May 8, 2011
ATL On The Go
Major real estate moves and mergers
By Nancy Staab
Streets of Buckhead gets a makeover, Harry Norman gets hitched to Christie’s, plus Tyler Perry’s big purchase
Streets of Buckhead and Atlantic Station Get Makeovers
Local press has been buzzing about the recent announcement of a new developer/owner and the infusion of new cash to Ben Carter’s $1.5 billion Streets of Buckhead project. Oliver McMillan, A San Diego developer specializing in mixed-use developments plans to honor Carter’s vision of an Atlantan Rodeo Drive, in general, with additional financial backing from Boston hedge fund The Baupost Group in the amount of $300 million. Work on the project is slated to resume this summer. Dene Oliver, CEO of Oliver McMillan, promises “inspiring” retail, restaurants, two residential towers and boutique office spaces, according to The Atlanta Business Chronicle. Stay tuned to see if Streets’ initially established leases with Hermès and luxury jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels will help lure other blue-chip vendors like Oscar de la Renta. However, we do know that the new owners released national restaurant vendors like La Goulue from their leases in the hopes of hooking local ones instead. In the meantime, Atlantans have had a lukewarm response to the project's banal new name, Buckhead Atlanta, which seems to portend a less luxe vision for the project than the one Carter envisioned. Renderings of the re-imagined project above.
The Atlantic Station in Midtown also has new owners: Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis Investors and Cincinnati-based North American Properties. The new joint owners promise significant changes to the retail and restaurant lineup, as well as heightened security and a reconfigured parking deck. Geisha House was the first casualty of the new ownership (sorry Ashton Kutcher), followed by American Eagle, as the new proprietors seem to want to move away from club-like venues and impersonal national chains in favor of more local boutiques and Atlanta chef-driven restaurants that will cater to Midtown’s affluent, hip and sophisticated population. Also rumored to be under consideration a Fanueil Hall-like festival marketplace and a potential collaboration with SCAD students on a pop-up shop concept. A spokesman for the project claims they have been studying Seattle, Denver and Austin in attempting to get the right mix of cool local restaurants and retail and with projects like L.A.'s The Grove on their resumé, they may pull it off. Both the new owners of Streets of Buckhead and The Atlantic Station avidly vow to be “anti-mall.” The recently established Food Truck Fridays lunch hour at Atlantic Station seem to be a good augur of things to come
The Georgia Aquarium, the brainchild of local philanthropist Bernie Marcus, ups its aquatic ante with the recent opening of a major, multi-million dollar dolphin exhibit. The AT&T Dolphin Tales Gallery includes a 25-foot long underwater viewing gallery, interactive displays, serial “webisodes” via a website accessible by any mobile device with an Internet connection, and a kid-friendly live dolphin show that incorporates theatrical lighting, music, singing, actors, and an Emmy award-winning production team. Of course the adorable dolphins steal the show--cavorting, leaping and demonstrating astonishing balletic tricks. The dolphin theater can seat an astonishing 1,800 guests and was packed to the rafters the day we visited, including the splash rows. The Georgia Aquarium has also partnered with the nonprofit The Dolphin Conservation Center at Marineland, Florida, dedicated to research and rescue of dolphins and small whales. Since the aquarium’s inception, its economic impact to Georgia has been estimated at $3.5 billion.
New Owners for Hotel Palomar and The St. Regis
Atlanta’s Hotel Palomar and St. Regis both have new owners. The St. Regis Atlanta was acquired by Tavistock Group, a private investment group founded by Joe Lewis. Starwood will continue to manage the St. Regis Atlanta property and no word yet if the new owners plan on making any changes to the stellar property (let’s hope not), but they seem intent on promoting the residences as “the most desirable address in the city of Atlanta” according to The Atlanta Business Chronicle. Rumor has it that the plans for a new Pano’s restaurant at the hotel are dead in the water, but neither the hotel’s PR or Buckhead Life Restaurant Group's PR team would comment. Meanwhile, Annapolis-based Thayer Lodging Group plans to acquire the leasehold interest in Hotel Palomar Atlanta and rebrand it as a Marriott Renaissance Hotel. The new owners recently closed the hotel’s Italian restaurant Pacci. No word yet on where talented young chef Keira Moritz might land, but we sincerely hope she remains in Atlanta WITH her heavenly mussels with anisette cream, basil, crostini recipe.
Harry Norman Gets Hitched to Christie's
Atlanta’s leader in luxury home sales, Harry Norman Realtors, is now affiliated with Christie’s International Real Estate. The new union adds an extensive portfolio of posh global properties to Harry Norman’s network, including Ringo Starr’s Aspen retreat and the $95 million Hearst mansion in Beverly Hills!
Tyler Perry's Chateau Nouveau
After 17 years and a $32.4 million-dollar reduction from it’s original asking price, this past fall entertainment mogul Tyler Perry bought the famed Dean Gardens Mansion, owned my software entrepreneur Larry Dean, for a cool $7.6 million. Though the architecture of the house itself is handsome, by Bill Harrison, the interior décor and kitsch factor makes Graceland look like the height of good taste. Think: painted cupolas, faux murals worthy of Vegas, tons of tufted and fringed poufs and ottomans, baroque flourishes, even an homage to a ‘50s-style diner a la the Varsity and Versailles-worthy formal gardens (Ok, the gardens are pretty exquisite).
And speaking of Presley, a little piece of trivia: Michael Jackson once considered buying the property for his wifey at the time, Lisa Marie, if that tell you anything about this mega-mansion’s over-the-top factor. So should we question Perry’s aesthetics? Nope. Word has it Perry has ordered a tear-down, with an eye more for the lush, 58-acre Johns Creek land, complete with 18-hole private golf course, rather than the, um, chateau nouveau.
Karl Lagerfeld Does Coca-Cola
Atlanta-based Coca-Cola has guarded its top-secret original Coke formula tighter than Fort Knox, but after 126 years, has the secret recipe suddenly slipped out? Far be it from us to publish the recipe, though it has spread like wildfire on the Internet, but rumor has it that in addition to standard vanilla and caramel flavors, more exotic ingredients like orange oil, nutmeg and neroli are involved. Whatever the recipe, we consider this stuff liquid gold. Always on the marketing cutting-edge, Coca-Cola recently commissioned Karl Lagerfeld to design special-edition Coke bottles featuring none other than the sunglass-wearing designer on it's cans. You can find them at chic emporiums like Colette in Paris.