For the first time in three years, OliverMcMillan CEO Dene Oliver came to Atlanta to talk about the progress of his company’s behemoth redevelopment project known as Buckhead Atlanta.
At the Buckhead Business Association’s annual luncheon Jan. 16, Oliver told members of Buckhead’s business community that his California-based company plans to invest $10 million into the streets, sidewalks and landscaping around Buckhead Atlanta. A “topping out” ceremony for one of the towers at the project was held on Jan. 17 with Oliver and city officials in attendance.
“The way we connect with people in an urban environment is on the streets and sidewalks,” Oliver said.
He said the experience of people-watching from a sidewalk cafe or walking between shops under shady trees is part of the experience he envisions. Oliver said the company is investing in 90 to 120 inch trees and granite curbs to provide a nice outdoor experience.
“Life on the streets and sidewalks is what will be so important here,” Oliver said.
He said the development will be built using quality materials, like stone instead of plaster, to give it the feel of an established area.
“It’s great design that doesn’t look like it’s all been done by the same person at the same time,” Oliver said. “We’re looking at bringing something to you that feels like it could have been there a while.”
Oliver said it was symbolic to see the cranes that have been looming over Peachtree Road for years begin working again in 2012.
“People have said, ‘you’ve been sort of quiet.’ We felt our actions were more important than our words,” Oliver said. “With the cranes being such a visual component, it was pretty hard to fake it. There isn’t a lot to say until you make them move.”
OliverMcMillan acquired the property after the original development plan, then known as the Streets of Buckhead, stalled in 2009 due to the recession. Construction is now in full swing. When Oliver visited the property Jan. 15, he said there were 825 people working.
When complete, Buckhead Atlanta will include 1.5 million square feet of shops, restaurants, offices and luxury apartments on eight acres covering six city blocks near the intersection of Peachtree and East Paces Ferry roads.
Oliver said including the $350 million invested in the project before OliverMcMillan acquired it, Buckhead Atlanta is expected to cost a total of $1 billion.
A few Buckhead Atlanta tenants have been announced, including several restaurants and the headquarters for Atlanta-based undergarment maker Spanx. But Oliver said he prefers to keep the majority of the future tenants a surprise.
“We are bringing a lot of people that are not already here in the [Atlanta] market,”Oliver said.
He explained some of the reasons behind renaming the project “Buckhead Atlanta,” a name he admitted was largely panned by the press. He said including Atlanta in the name was important for the European market, which isn’t necessarily familiar with the Buckhead area.
“Buckhead is the identity. The city is Atlanta,” Oliver said. “It was a far more inclusive name.”
He recognized the original developer, Ben Carter Properties, whom he described as a victim of poor timing.
“[Buckhead Atlanta] would not have happened had there not been some great vision by the Buckhead community and Ben Carter Properties,” Oliver said. “The vision, the tenacity to assemble that property and come forward with a vision was courageous.”
The first shops, restaurants and apartments are scheduled to open in July. Buckhead Atlanta is expected to be complete by the spring of 2015.