By John Schaffner

CB Richard Ellis Investors and other investors have forced developer Ben Carter and his company out of the unfinished $1.5 billion mixed-use The Streets of Buckhead project, which now will be completed by San Diego development firm OliverMcMillan.

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell said the change has been in the works for some time.

“The lenders have a new team to undertake it,” Massell said Dec. 23.

Carter declined to comment on the change. In an e-mail, Carter wrote, “I am sorry. I will not be making any further comment.”

Massell said he was happy that some steps were taken. The change may mean the work can begin on the stalled project, now a massive hole in the ground at Buckhead Village. The project was intended to include high-end boutique retail, gourmet restaurants, office and residential space and possibly a hotel or two, but has been stalled for two years because of lack of financing.

“We have communicated with Carter for some time and needed some relief from the stalled nature of the project,” Massell said. “Everybody had been very patient.”

In a press release, Massell welcomed the new developers.

“Our pleasure is not only the recommencement of this major mixed-use construction, but the realization that the new developer has a history of good civic relations,” Massell said. “Thus, we welcome them with our pledge of cooperation at every turn.”

Sally Silver, the new chair for Neighborhood Planning Unit B, which oversees the area where The Streets of Buckhead project is located, confirmed plans to move Carter out of the development of the project “have been in the works for some time.”
“A lot of people are going to be very relieved,” she said, “from city officials, to investors in the project, to businesses located in the area and residents who have waited for the completion of the project with anticipation.”

Silver said new developer may use the same architectural firm that Carter used for the project. NPU-B had approved all of the development plans over a few years since the project was started in 2006.

Silver said some of those plans may have to be run back through NPU-B due to the length of time nothing has been done.

Asked if the SPI-9 (Special Public Interest) zoning passed during 2010 for the area where the Streets project is located might call for some of the original plans to be changed, Silver said, “it just might. At this time they may have to start over.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Carter said he had been “pushed aside” from the project, which his company, Ben Carter Properties, launched in 2006.

Carter had said on many occasions that he was close to a deal for the $200 million in financing the developers needed to finish the six-block project. Carter had a traditionally structured loan for $170 million from Bank of America and $150 million in other funding from CBRE Investors. Carter and three partners invested $20 million of their own money, Carter has said.

The AJC reported that Carter said he believes the new firm brought in by one of his lenders, CB Richard Ellis Investors, will continue his vision for The Streets of Buckhead.

Carter was quoted in the AJC as saying: “Our priorities are really simple: I really want the project to get done for the city of Atlanta, for the retailers that have hung in there with us, and for the investors involved so that they can get some money back or make money. I am cooperative and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

OliverMcMillan is a 30-year old private firm that develops unique, high quality mixed-use retail, entertainment, office, hotel and residential projects, both privately and through public/private partnerships with public entities and redevelopment agencies.

In its 30 years, OliverMcMillan and its principals have designed, developed and/or managed over 8 million square feet of office, commercial, industrial, residential,

retail, research development and mixed-use projects, primarily throughout the United States with a total project value in excess of $1.5 billion, the company said.

OliverMcMillan now is working on executing new projects with a value of approximately $2 billion, the company said.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.