By John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.net

After months of slowed activity and virtually no construction on The Streets of Buckhead — Ben Carter’s $1.5 billion luxury mixed-use development in the heart of Buckhead — the cranes will be moving, concrete pouring and workers scurrying again in July, according to a May 22 report in Women’s Wear Daily, a leading national retail trade publication.

Carter, the developer of the seven-block planned development of high-end boutiques, renowned restaurants, hotels and residences, halted the project in March to renegotiate contracts for labor and materials during the downtown in the economy. He said the negotiations were successful in reducing those costs by at least $10 million.

The development, on the east side of Peachtree Road between Pharr and Paces Ferry roads, is to feature 600,000 square feet of retail space and 350 rental apartments.

The first phase of construction, with 375,000 square feet of retail and all the rental units, now is targeted for completion in fall 2010, according to Carter. The initial target date was fall 2009.

A hotel component has been shelved until 2012, and plans for office space were eliminated. The developer for the since-canceled 1 Hotel & Residences in the Streets development, Barry Real Estate Cos., now is involved in a similar hotel/condo project a couple of blocks away on West Paces Ferry Road.

When he stopped construction this year, Carter said that because of the effects of the recession on sales, retailers were not in a hurry to open stores at The Streets of Buckhead or anywhere else.

But Carter touted signed leases with 20 retailers, including Oscar de la Renta, Van Cleef & Arpels, Brioni and Etro.

As a sign of its commitment to the new development, Hermès recently left its location at Lenox Square Mall and now is in a Carter-owned temporary space until Phase 1 of the project is ready for move-in. Mayor’s Jewelers also moved to a West Paces Ferry Road location, just around the corner from the Streets construction site, into temporary space in anticipation of moving to the Carter project.

“The project has been significantly delayed, but we have faith that it will be completed,” Robert Chavez, the chief executive officer of Hermès USA, told Women’s Wear Daily. “It’s not like we’re shutting down and will be left homeless in the streets.”

Bottega Veneta, AG Adriano Goldschmied and Vilebrequin signed letters of intent for The Streets of Buckhead but “have decided to wait on executing leases until the economy improves,” a spokesman for Ben Carter Properties told the trade publication.

“Retail projects are obviously being challenged by the retailers’ sales results. … Across the retail spectrum there aren’t a lot of folks who are anxious to expand,” Carter told Women’s Wear Daily. “Our retailers are in 100 percent agreement that 2010 is a better time to open. The economy has a better chance of recovering in 2010 than it does in 2009.”