By John Schaffner
The primary investors in The Streets of Buckhead have forced developer Ben Carter out of the $1.5 billion project and replaced him with San Diego development firm OliverMcMillan, which is planning to restart construction next summer after possible changes to the project.
Dene Oliver, OliverMcMillan’s chief executive officer, and other company leaders were not available for comment during the holidays. Nor were representatives of CB Richard Ellis Investors, the lead financial supporter of the project from its inception.
However, a person familiar with the project, but who wasn’t authorized to discuss it on the record, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution “the California firm likely will restart work on the project next summer, after tweaking the design and possibly adding new residential units.”
Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell said the change in developers for the project has been in the works for some time.
“The lenders have a new team to undertake it,” Massell said.
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 more than 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.”
Massell added that Carter was recently asked by the Coalition for a schedule going forward in response to widespread community concern with the negative appearance of the “hole in the ground.”
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, but suggested OliverMcMillan may want to make some design or use changes.
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 no work 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.”
“We are pleased that the original investors have apparently been able to attract a partner with the financing and development skills to jump start the stalled project,” said Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID). “With the new zoning for the area recently adopted by the city, we seem poised for an urban renaissance in the Village.”
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 and mixed-use projects.