By John Schaffner
johnschaffner@reporternewspapers.net

When merchants began moving into the new shops of CityWalk in the fall of 2005, they believed they were moving into the retail center of Sandy Springs.

Sandy Springs officials , who took over a new city a couple of months later , also looked to CityWalk with a wishful eye that this would be a catalyst for development of a city center.

But, for the most part, CityWalk has been a disappointment to both merchants and city officials over the past several years—never meeting what was considered its potential. Almost half the stores are empty.

CityWalk recently went into receivership, said Charles Swain, president of Colliers International Management, which was appointed by the DeKalb County judge to manage the property as well as handle leasing.

Swain said the first role of his company was to ensure the safety and physical condition of the property and then to work on leasing the empty spaces to “enhance the value of the asset” during the receivership period of negotiations between the owner of the property, CK City Walk Owner LLC , and the financial lender.

Swain said it is “too early to discuss the possibility” of whether or not the center might be put on the market for sale. He said the whole idea of the receivership is for the owner and lender to work through the financial issues and come to a determination as to whether the center will be foreclosed on or a financial plan will be worked out.

In the meantime, however, Colliers International has the responsibility of managing the property and also leasing space in the center and reporting back through the court to both the owner and lender as to what actions are being taken, Swain explained.

CK City Walk Owner LLC, is located in Tucker. The DeKalb County court handled the receivership proceedings and the appointment of Colliers International, which has its Atlanta headquarters at 5871 Glenridge Drive in Sandy Springs.

The principal of CK City Walk Owner LLC, which purchased CityWalk in February of 2007 for $47.8 million, is Ming Chu. Chu did not return phone calls.

CityWalk was purchased from Maxwell Properties, the Sandy Springs company that developed the shopping center and adjacent townhomes.

Julie Routenberg owns Potpourri, one of the original boutiques, and has stayed on through changes in ownership and management and battles over signage and marketing responsibilities.

Routenberg said she learned two weeks ago about the receivership of the shopping center, located at the corner of Hammond Drive and Sandy Springs Circle.

Routenberg said she has since met with the representatives of the new management and marketing company and they have announced plans that “sound very reasonable.” She said the company has hired all new vendors to handle the maintenance of the center, which has been a bone of contention with merchants in the past.

The boutique owner said Colliers international has “a whole group of people working on this project.” I am pleased so far.” She said, “I love my store and it would take a lot to get me to move.”

However, two retailers who have been there from the beginning have decided to move. Belles Choses has moved to another shopping center on Sandy Springs Circle and Kai the Medical Spa, is planning to move to a nearby center in February.

Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos, who has tried to work with the merchants to improve signage and other elements, happily greeted the news that CityWalk had gone into receivership.

“Maybe there will be new owners who will turn the center around so that it can meet its potential,” she said.