The new owners of the Sandy Springs Gateway project want to cater to nearby neighborhoods of North Buckhead, Chastain Park, Sandy Springs and Brookhaven.

Connolly, an Atlanta-based real estate developer and investor, announced the joint-venture acquisition with Coro Realty Advisors of Sandy Springs Gateway. The 121,370-square-foot, grocery-anchored shopping center is at 4600 Roswell Road in Sandy Springs, south of I-285 and just north of Chastain Park near Windsor Parkway.

Connolly and Coro Realty bought the center from Atlanta-based Core Property Capital for $40.5 million, with the transaction closing on Feb. 14.

“We are very, very excited about the future of the project,” said Timothy “J.R.” Connolly, chief executive officer of Connolly.

This was the third project Connolly has done with Coro. The other two were development deals, he said.

“Our goal is to take what’s already a very strong project and enhance it through bringing in new restaurants and retailers that will better serve the community and also add some common area improvements and so forth, to enhance the experience and make it more of a gathering place, more of a fun place to be than what it is today,” he said.

The mixed-use development features a blend of retail, restaurants and service providers, and 28,000 square feet of second-story boutique office space. Next door to the center, two luxury apartment communities, The Collection and The Gateway Chastain, consist of 630 studio, one-and-two bedroom residences.

Sandy Springs Gateway is anchored by Sprouts Farmers Market, with a mix of local and national brands that includes Snooze A.M. Eatery, Taka Sushi and Passion, Big B’s Fish Joint, Tupelo Honey Café, BLAST fitness studio, Corks & Caps, The Whole Dog Market, Chipotle, Kale Me Crazy, Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop and CVS Pharmacy, as well as other shops and services.

The center is 82% leased. Across the company’s portfolio, leasing is at 98 or 99 percent, Connolly said.

Leasing depends on which type of retail and where the property is located, he said. “If you’re talking about malls and big power centers, a lot of those are definitely struggling with competition from the Internet and the pandemic and so forth, supply constraints.”

A neighborhood-oriented retail center like Sandy Springs Gateway, which serves the local community is not as impacted by e-commerce, he said. People in the community want to go out and buy their groceries, head out to eat or have some drinks and get their hair cut. “You can’t do any of that on the Internet,” he said.

People are traveling less and are home more, with many people working from home. So they spend more time in their neighborhoods. His company finds properties like Sandy Springs Gateway do well in good locations.

“We’ve owned it for a week and we’ve already got very strong prospects for the parts of projects that are vacant. So I don’t think they’re going to remain vacant for long,” Connolly said.

They plan to merchandise the property, whether it’s restaurants or retailers, for the people that live in the neighborhoods.

“That’d be the neighborhoods of Chastain, of North Buckhead, of Brookhaven, of Sandy Springs.

These folks generally have higher income levels. It’s one of the higher income areas of the city,” he said. “And not that we’re going to have super high-priced boutiques necessarily, but we want to merchandise for who our customers are in that neighborhood.”

Don’t expect to see Dollar Stores as tenants.

“We’re looking for locally-owned restaurants that are more chef driven, not chain, at varying price points. Somewhere you can go in your shorts and T-shirt and somewhere you can have a very nice evening out,” Connolly said.

In terms of retailers, they seek tenants that serve the neighborhood. That could include day spas and fitness studios. 

“The property has huge potential to become the No. 1 high-energy, 18-hour destination in the neighborhood,” said Robert Fransen, president and managing partner, Coro Realty. “Our goal is to elevate the overall visitor experience no matter the duration of their stay. We are currently evaluating capital improvement plans that will enhance the consumer experience.”

More concrete plans will be announced in the coming months.

“Obviously, we just devoted a week at this point. So we’ve got some ideas we need to develop the model further,” Connolly said.

The community will start to see things happen in the next few months.

“We’re excited about the project and look forward to taking it to the next level and making it be a fun place that people want to go and spend time at,” Connolly said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.