By John Schaffner
Don’t look for the cranes over The Streets of Buckhead to start moving again in July, as developer Ben Carter told Women’s Wear Daily in May they would. Now Carter is saying construction will begin anew in September.
Carter, the chairman of Ben Carter Properties, says the first phase of the $1.5 billion luxury mixed-use development in the heart of Buckhead is still on schedule to open in October 2010.
Construction on the seven-block development of high-end boutiques, renowned restaurants, hotels and residences halted in March so Carter could 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 East Paces Ferry roads, is to feature 600,000 square feet of retail space and 350 rental apartments. The first phase of construction includes 375,000 square feet of retail and all the rental units; its initial target date was fall 2009.
Carter now says he hopes to begin Phase 2, which is planned for a hotel and apartments, in 2011.
The first phase will be anchored by fashion boutique Hermès and high-end jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels. Hermès recently left its location at Lenox Square and is in a Carter-owned temporary space until Phase 1 of the project is ready for move-in.
When he stopped construction, Carter said that because of the effects of the recession on stores, 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, Brioni and Etro.
“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 in May. “It’s not like we’re shutting down and will be left homeless in the streets.”
In addition to the delays and cost-cutting, the economy has affected the retail lineup for The Streets of Buckhead. An Italian fashion company that would have leased two boutique spaces has filed for bankruptcy. Also, Equinox apparently has suggested that Carter find another health club to take over its lease on space.
In May, Carter said: “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. 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.”
Carter has said that leasing activity interest started to pick up in April after a slow period between October and March. When construction resumes, Carter wants to have 70 percent of the Phase 1 retail space committed so that he can secure a bank loan on the project. Up to now, the project has been financed through Carter’s personal investment and his equity investors.