The Belk store in Phipps Plaza closed July 31, clearing the way for the mall to begin its expansion on a revised plan that they say has improved pedestrian access to the hotel, office tower, restaurant and fitness center development that includes a renovated public green space.

“It’s great to be able to activate existing green space,” said Sally Silver, a member of a zoning review committee that recommended the changes. “They know how important that is to Buckhead.”

As part of the expansion plans to bring a new hotel, office tower, restaurant and fitness center to Phipps Plaza, the existing green area will be built into a public park with walkways, plantings and seating. (Simon Property Group)

Meanwhile, the city approved permits in July for the fire station relocation that must be completed before demolition can begin.

Simon Property Group, which owns both Phipps Plaza and Lenox Square malls, announced in late 2017 plans to bring the major expansion to Phipps Plaza. The plans include demolishing the Belk store at the north end of the mall. Belk has said it will not reopen in the area.

The development would bring the first Nobu hotel and restaurant brand to Atlanta, a company co-founded by actor Robert De Niro. A two-level food hall is also planned that would bring an outdoor event space and about 20 food stalls, according to the plans.

Simon began leasing the 13-story office tower, called One Phipps Plaza, in May.

The Atlanta Fire Rescue Department’s Station 3 is located underneath that parking deck, meaning it has to be moved. Construction has begun on the new station, which is planned to bring upgraded facilities in a slightly larger space.

Simon has received its required demolition and building permits from the city, according to the permit site. But it has not yet set announced a date to begin building, Simon representative Haley Sheram said.

Simon is still on track to begin this year and open the development in phases starting in 2020, according to its website.

The Development Review Committee of Special Public Interest District 12, a city zoning area that includes the mall, has finished its review of the plans after approving revised plans changed based on the group’s recommendations.

The committee’s chief recommendation was to improve pedestrian access. SPI-12 is set up in part to increase walkability in the area, which covers both the Phipps Plaza and Lenox Square malls.

A map shows the plan for the expansion, which includes a hotel, restaurant, office tower and fitness center and moving the existing Atlanta Fire Rescue Department’s Station 3. (Simon Property Group)

The committee expects a lot of pedestrian traffic due to the mall’s proximity to the Lenox and Buckhead MARTA stations, PATH400 and the planned multiuse trail on Lenox Road, according to the report.

Because of that, the committee recommended Simon exceed the bicycle parking requirement of 50 bikes, but Simon said they plan to only meet the requirement, the report said.

The committee was dissatisfied meeting with the developers for the first time in December, saying the Phipps Boulevard facade, the main entrance to the development, was an “unwelcoming fortress-like aesthetic.”

Simon moved the existing staircase and added an additional staircase that accesses the new green space to be more visible and easier to use, according to a Simon presentation. The changes to the plan also included making the pedestrian entrance more visible and “inviting,” and improving lighting and signage to make access easier, the presentation said.

The green space would be a more developed version of the grassy lot currently on the site now outside the parking deck. The plan would add trees and other plantings, a walkway and seating to the space.

The committee encouraged Simon to “activate and enliven” the park space with programming, outdoor fitness and a play space, according to the report.