By John Schaffner
johnschaffner@reporternewspapers.net

Some of the Abernathy Square stores along the northbound side of Roswell Road have been demolished. Although shopping center owner Developers Diversified Realty has been vague about the reason, the work could be connected to plans for turn lanes onto Abernathy Road.

After years of uncertainty about how the widening of Abernathy Road would change the three commercial corners at Roswell Road, property owners know what the future will bring and are beginning to plan for it.

Coro Realty Advisors, which bought Sandy Springs Crossing shopping center in 2006, now knows it will lose “less than a foot” of its property to the road widening, according to Patti Pearlberg, vice president of asset management.

However, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) does have a construction easement on the property during the road work, Pearlberg said.

Mimms Enterprises, which owns the commercial property on the southwest corner of Abernathy and Roswell roads, expected it might lose the former Blockbuster video store on the corner to the widening but now understands that store is safe, according to Lonnie Mimms, the company’s CEO.

Some of the stores across Roswell Road at the Abernathy Square shopping center have been demolished recently, but no one is saying for sure whether it is directly related to the road project at the Roswell and Abernathy intersection.

The official word from all but one person after seven calls to shopping center owner Developers Diversified Realty out of Cleveland, Ohio, was only, “We are not allowed to talk to you about that.” One person at the company, however, did say, “We’re doing a portion of the work to get ready for DOT.”

So far, a couple of buildings that stood at the corner of Roswell and Abernathy roads, including one that housed the children’s clothing store Chocolate Soup, have been demolished. Chocolate Soup moved farther back into the shopping center, locating next to the Publix grocery store. Several phone calls to Chocolate Soup went to an answering machine.

DOT project maps of the intersection seem to indicate additional turn lanes will be added on northbound Roswell Road onto eastbound Abernathy Road, which could be the reason the stores are being removed. But there was no confirmation of that from Developers Diversified Realty.

Now that ground has been broken on the city’s linear park along Abernathy Road and GDOT has begun its work on Abernathy from Johnson Ferry Road to Roswell Road, property owners in the area hope better days are ahead.

Pearlberg said that when Coro bought Sandy Springs Crossing, the company had plans “to turn it into more of a mixed-use development, but always with a large retail component,” but that any such plans now are on hold because of the economy.

The road work has affected the company’s leasing of the shopping center, she said. The center needed a major anchor store to help push leasing efforts for the smaller retail spaces, she said, but efforts to attract an anchor tenant had been thwarted by uncertainty over the road work. “DOT has had its full plans done for quite some time,” she said. “But the timing on getting the project going has been the problem.”

Now there appears to be some movement. Pearlberg said Coro recently agreed to lease LA Fitness 50,000 square feet of space in the center. The fitness center will occupy space vacated quite a while ago by Sports Authority.

“We are thrilled with this new direction for this investment,” Pearlberg said. “We think that LA’s decision to locate at this strategic intersection in Sandy Springs is a win-win for LA, the other tenants in the center and the owners. Locating a first-class fitness facility adjacent to the Sandy Springs green belt and multipurpose trail along Abernathy is a perfect fit.”

Mimms said his property on the southwest corner of the intersection “is very valuable and most certainly will be redeveloped to a higher use in the future.”