By John Schaffner

The Garden Hills strip shopping center, in the 2800 block of Peachtree Road, could soon get a facelift and some new shops.

The big question: Could the popular Garden Hills Cinema return?

Michael Hoath, president of Brand Properties, said, “We want to reload the center and bring it back to being a vital contributing part of the neighborhood.” Hoath said there is leasing interest in the center by a coffee/ice cream/sandwich shop operator, another restaurant and a major retailer.

The shopping center is home to Fellini’s pizza, LaFonda Latina restaurant, Peachtree Bikes, Fantasyland Records and the House of Fleming gallery.

As for a rebirth of the Garden Hills Cinema, Hoath said, “We would love to have a cinema as part of the mix. However, single-theater operators are hard to find these days.”

Before some of these potential shops can move into the center, Brand Properties found it needed to rezone the property to remove a condition that was placed on it in the 1970s that would require the addition of more parking spaces. He said, however, the 80 spaces presently on site have proven to be enough for the traffic over the years.

An application has been filed for the rezoning and was scheduled to go before the Zoning Committee of Neighborhood Planning Unit B during the week of Nov. 23. However, Hoath said a Garden Hills resident who sits on the NPU-B Zoning Committee has asked that his company request a 30-day deferral on consideration of the application.

Brand Properties is the development and asset management arm for Gwinnett-based Brand Bank, which is the oldest bank in Georgia and owns the majority of the strip center. The Fellini’s building, which previously was a gas station, and the LaFonda building are not owned by Brand Bank. The LaFonda building is a stand-alone structure that butts up to the rest of the stores.

However, Hoath said his company is very friendly with Clay Harper, owner of Fellini’s and LaFonda and there is agreement that the facelift improvement done on the rest of the stores could carry over to those two buildings.

Hoath explained that the company originally planned to build onto the center vertically and use part of the center for the entry of Brand Bank into the Buckhead market. “With the economy being what it is today, we have decided for the time being to dress up the buildings and get the empty spaces leased out,” he added. “We want to cover our expenses while at the same time making it a more attractive and vital part of the neighborhood.”

Hoath said the first comment made when he discussed the plans for the center with a group from the Garden Hills neighborhood was, “We sure would like that theater to come back. We would love to have that happen too, but…”

Hoath said work on the center would begin as soon as the zoning application and permits are completed through the city process.