ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Commuters will soon see the beginning construction of Avalon, a $600 million mixed-use community scheduled to open in late 2014 on Old Milton Parkway and Ga. 400.
“Our community has never had anything like this,” said Al Nash, executive director of economic development for the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. “Avalon will most certainly strengthen the community economically.”
Avalon’s developer is North American Properties.
The site, right off Exit 10 and Ga. 400, was once planned to be Prospect Park, which sat as an undeveloped eyesore for Alpharetta for several years.
But now, the former shell has come down and Avalon has been heavily marketed as an upscale live, work and shop experience. The development has often been compared to something well-suited for Buckhead.
Plans for Avalon include housing about 800 residents in 250 rentals with 101 homes and townhomes and 500,000 square feet of retail space, including a Whole Foods, Regal Cinemas, Cru Food and Wine Bar, Marlow’s Tavern, Banana Republic and Orvis.
“Something of this size will draw people to the community,” Nash said.
Nash said North Fulton is on the watch lists of big companies looking for facility locations.
Verizon Business, AT&T, ADP, McKesson Corp., State Farm Insurance and Kimberly-Clark Health Care all have locations in North Fulton, and Nash believes Avalon will help attract even more.
“The development will attract young professionals who want a more urban environment, but not necessarily the commute,” he said. “Companies know that and know a development like Avalon is beneficial in attracting and keeping employees.”
Nash also believes the development will appeal to the older community.
“Empty-nesters will find Avalon appealing because of the variety of housing options and ability to shop just outside of their door,” he said.
North American Properties, an Ohio-based company, isn’t new to the metro area.
In 2011, they joined forces with Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis to purchase Atlantic Station’s Town Center.
Managing partner Mark Toro worked with a team of top marketing, retail and real estate executives to turn the dwindling Atlantic Station into a mixed-use development appealing to young professionals.
Some residents have posted concerns to online forums about the possible impact a development like Atlantic Station could have in Alpharetta, but Avalon is not expected to be as massive as Atlantic Station.
Alpharetta resident Mary Paradis expressed concern about the amount of empty retail space already located throughout the area.
“I like the idea of a mixed-use development, and I think it could work, but I’m concerned about its success considering the amount of empty retail stores we already have here,” Paradis said.
Paradis said she and her husband will closely watch the Avalon development, even as a possible new home.
“I would love to have the ability to walk to a coffee shop or a restaurant,” she said. “And it would be great to be able to shop without having to deal with traffic.”
Some local businesses were a bit reserved about the new development, fearing that it could potentially reduce their customer base.
“When North Point Mall opened several years ago, many local businesses were afraid of what it might do to their business,” Nash said. “I suspect it’s the same now.”
Nash feels the addition to Avalon will increase exposure to local businesses and drive more customers their way.
“When people from other cities drive out to shop at Avalon, there’s a strong possibility they’ll shop at stores around it, too,” he said.
Cristine Holland, a stylist at Borelli’s Salon located on Old Milton Parkway and Ga. 9 in Alpharetta, agrees with Nash.
“I think my business here will grow,” she said. “Not only will people from other areas shop here, but with the additional residents, we’re bound to see an increase in business.”
Similar open-air pedestrian-friendly developments have been built in metro Atlanta to varying success.
Vickery Village, a mixed-use development in Cumming, started off well, but took a turn for the worse when the economy crashed in 2007.
Vickery recently experienced degrees of success as it continues a revival.
The Forum Peachtree Parkway and the Avenue at Forsyth, both outdoor malls with nearby residential, have maintained a steady stream of shoppers. Most cite their locations as key to success.
“The chamber feels the addition of Avalon will be very good for the community,” Nash said. “Overall, we believe we’ll see positive changes to an already positive economic environment.”