Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Legoland Bringing its Bricks to Buckhead

Despite SIMON's public relations department having explicitly told me that the planned Legoland at Phipps Plaza was not yet a done deal and my reporting of it would endanger its opening, that appears to be untrue. The deal is done and the ink is dry so here you go...

United Kingdom-based Merlin Entertainment plans to open a Legoland Discovery Center on the third floor of Phipps Plaza in Buckhead. This will be the sixth of its kind in the world, the third in the U.S. Merlin also operates its larger LEGOLAND amusement parks in Carlsbad,California and will open a new location in Winter Haven, Florida this fall.

Current Discovery Center locations are in Berlin and Duisburg, Germany; Manchester, United Kingdom and Schaumburg, Illinois. A new location at Grapevine Mills in Dallas, Texas is due to open in April. Additionally, another location is supposed to open at the Meadowlands, formerly known as Xanadu, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The project was first approved in 2003, and if and when it opens, will be the largest retail and entertainment complex in the United States. Having gone through multiple owners / developers, it's now scheduled to open in July 2012, making the drama of Streets of Buckhead look like child's play. The Discovery Center is set to be located on the 3rd level (currently food court) of Phipps Plaza.

The third level of Phipps is probably one of the most underutilized portions of either Lenox Square or Phipps Plaza. (I might have previously said the Lenox wing leading to the J.W. Marriott, but we all know what's going in there.) The third level at Phipps features an AMC theater without updates such as stadium seating or new sound technology. Additionally, the food court is on the third level, making a "quick bite" a little difficult for white collars in the area. The rest of the level is made of short term leased spaces like Trio and a random jewelry store. A nail salon, tailor and photography studio are also tenants, but seem out of place.

Phipps Plaza is a three levels in most places but the third level stops at Chick-Fil-A , Moe's , Subway in the food court and the plan is to extend the mall past those eateries to make room for the Legoland. Usually 30-35,000 S/F, this would seem to make it possible to keep the AMC theaters. From what I'm told, the Legoland will span the floor from Fletcher Photography adjacent to Belk, to the current Planet Smoothie space adjacent to AMC. Legoland executives were spotted, blueprints in hand, measuring space at Phipps last week but no additional details were obtained. Nothing is confirmed but based on what I 've heard, some food court tenants will be offered space to relocate. Most likely, the old Gorin's to right of AMC and probably some of the currently short-term leased spaces next to it. The center should open by the second half of 2012.

Sources say other sites that were considered include the vacant ESPN Zone on Peachtree, North Point Mall in Alpharetta, Atlantic Station and assorted parcels in downtown Atlanta. With Disney still paying on the ESPN space and the owner hoping to wait out for S.O.B. to come to fruition, that site was gone before it could be taken seriously. North Point has plenty of room given the closures of Belk and Parisian, but Indiana-based Von Maur is supposedly taking the shuttered Belk store. Still, North Point already has the American Girl Boutique and Bistro, one of only two in the world, and would have made an ideal choice for a child oriented venture.

The location seems a bit odd to me but it being in Buckhead is a coup for Sam Massell and the Buckhead Coalition. There are just not enough kids' attractions in the area and especially in Buckhead. As I work in a hotel, I can personally attest to the fact that guests routinely ask for activities for their children and are not keen on going the aquarium and the World of Coke over and over.

Furthering my belief that all that is needed to work at Simon Marketplace is a pulse was the response I got from them over the weekend when I inquired about the possibility of Lego opening. The "guest services agent" said she had really no idea and that recommended I "ask the guys over at Starbucks, they're here all the time." Call me crazy, but this is like me telling a new guest at the hotel where I work to ask a "regular" as they're here all the time. I went ahead and took her advice and when I asked the Starbucks employee, he said no, not that he's heard of but "man, that'd be awesome." Guess I'll stick to my unofficial, unrecommended sources.

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Anonymous said...

Is Von Maur Indiana-based or Iowa-based?

Atlantan99 said...

My apologies, Von Maur is based in Davenport, Iowa and not Indiana as I reported.

Anonymous said...

Curious... is LegoLand the "Mystery Atlanta Opening" that you posted earlier this morning?

Atlantan99 said...

Yes, Legoland was the big opening I hinted at. I do have others, though not as large, upcoming.

Anonymous said...

Are any of the other announcements in 12th and Midtown? Aren't they suppose to be announcing retailers soon around CB2???

randy732 said...

I bet Pampolina is regretting backing out now. Although the mall seems to be empty most of the time, it surprisingly has alot of families there that don't want the crowds at Lenox. With stores like Hanna Andersson, Justice, Strasburg, Janie&Jack, and even Juicy Couture catering to the kids, and have you seen the line for Santa around Christmas! It's reservation only!, I guess we'll see how it all plays out.

Anonymous said...

"North Point already has the American Girl Boutique and Bistro, one of only two in the world"

I dont believe this information is correct there are American Girl locations in other U.S. cities.

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon from February 15, 2011 7:55 PM

Nothing that I'm aware of for 12th & Midtown. Just drove by STK today, looks the same as it did last year!

Hope to hear / see something soon!

Atlantan99 said...

@ Anon February 15, 2011 10:01 PM,

American Girl operates both "American Girl Place" and American Girl Boutique & Bistro." The North Point and Dallas Texas locations are the only two B&B's I'm aware of. AGP has locations in NYC, Chicago and and a few other cities, about 8 if I recall.

Sorry for the confusion in my post.