By John Schaffner
The Streets of Buckhead developer Ben Carter says he has found the $200 million in financing needed to restart and ideally complete construction on the first-phase of the massive mixed-use development that has been stalled since early 2009.
Carter recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he will close on the new financing in mid-July and that construction on the project would restart immediately after that. He is predicting the first-phase of the development will open in November 2011. It was originally scheduled to open in late 2009, but the economic downturn stalled the project.
Daily phone calls to Ben Carter Properties for more than a week—seeking an interview and confirmation of the financing—produced no responses.
Carter did not divulge who the lender for the $200 million is, but told the AJC the firm has been involved with retail property along Chicago’s retail magnet, Michigan Avenue.
Carter has for months said he was close to securing the necessary financing to restart construction on the project near the intersection of Peachtree and Roswell roads. He told the newspaper he has letters of intent for several large tenants, including a movie theater with a bar and restaurant, a high-end bowling alley and a facility for a local catering company. He also claimed to have signed new restaurants.
With the new letters of intent, the first phase of the project—about 375,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space of the of the total 500,000 square feet announced—is 70 percent leased.
Asked if he felt sure the financing has finally been arranged, Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell said, “I have faith in Ben Carter and I have faith that a project will be developed on that site. You have to have faith.” Massell previously said he tried to help Carter secure the financing.
Longtime Buckhead real estate owner George Rohrig, who sold Carter some of the property for The Streets of Buckhead project, said he understood that in the past month or so it came down to Carter needing to raise $25 million to finish the central parking deck in order to secure the $200 million he needed to secure.
Rohrig added, “$25 million is a drop in the bucket when you are talking about a half-a-billion-dollar project.” That total includes the cost of purchasing the properties in the old Buckhead Village, some of which Carter reportedly paid $500 a square foot to purchase.
Rohrig, who still owns several pieces of commercial and retail real estate on the fringe of The Streets of Buckhead project, admitted he was one of those who got top dollar from Carter.
Carter already had traditional land financing for $170 million from Bank of America and $150 million from CBRE Investors. Carter and three partners invested $20 million of their own money, Carter has said.
Since the 2007 groundbreaking, Carter has announced leases for Hermes, which is open in temporary space on Buckhead Avenue, and jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels, among others. Some of the other high-end boutiques Carter earlier said had signed letters of intent included Oscar de la Renta, Loro Piana, Christofle, Bottega Veneta, Etro, Optical Shop of Aspen and Domenico Vacca.
Some of the restaurants Carter said were committed to the project were Le Colonial, Brioni, Japonais and La Goulue.
It is unclear whether these previous commitments remain firm.