Friday, April 27, 2018

[UPDATE] Residents Looking Forward to North DeKalb Costco, Less Enthusiastic About Apartments, Traffic

The first of what will likely be many community meetings was held last night to discuss upcoming redevelopment plans at North DeKalb Mall.  The new development, dubbed "Decatur Landing," is set to include the long awaited Costco store, along with a few relocated existing tenants as well as new retailers and restaurants plus apartments, townhomes and a hotel.  
Click to enlarge 
Unsurprisingly, the crowd of nearly 300 in attendance at the meeting was largely in favor of the Costco, but was rather concerned with the amount of traffic that the planned 425 apartments, 40-50 townhomes and 150 key hotel would bring.  (10% of the apartments will be "workforce" housing) The development would also include a food hall which developers likened to Krog Street Market in Inman Park.  

Originally opened in 1965, North DeKalb Mall was for the first couple of years of its existence an open-air mall, similar to today's redevelopment plan.  Over the years the mall went through a number of renovations and name changes, at times known as Market Square but eventually returning to the North DeKalb Mall moniker.  

A Costco store, which one meeting attendee  called a "ghost" has been publicly linked to the North DeKalb Mall property for over ten years.  Hendon Properties, which bought the mall for $25 million in 2003, reportedly had plans dating back as long as its purchase to add Costco to the mall. On May 15, 2014, Lennar Commercial Investors LLC, together with Sterling Organization, purchased the nearly 623,000 square foot mall, and its nearly 70 acres for an undisclosed amount, with plans at that time to convert the enclosed portion of the mall into an open-air concept, commonly referred to as "de-malling."
The "de-malled" North DeKalb as proposed by then owner Hendon Properties in 2008 

The plans revealed yesterday were not for a "de-malling" but for a complete demolition.  Existing anchors Marshalls and Burlington would be relocated to a new "power center" essentially in place of the current Macy's parking area behind Chick-fil-A/McDonald's with AMC Theaters also rebuilt, but closer to their current space, adjacent to where the multi-family would be built.  

The power center portion of the development, including Costco, would be built first, followed by the residential, hotel and food hall components. 

Dennis (Den) J. Webb, Jr. partner in the zoning, planning and land use practice of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, represents Sterling Organization and led the meeting.  Webb indicated that the next step for the development is for its planned May 3 submission to the Atlanta Regional Commission as it is identified as a Development of Regional Impact (DRI).  The development's potential impact on traffic will be "immense," according to Webb.  Despite the work already completed, there is still a long road ahead for the development.  Zoning meetings, among other things still need to occur and are months away from even being scheduled.  Webb said the first phase could open in 2020 but may not open until 2021. 
Decatur Landing as currently proposed 

The approximately 150,000 square foot Costco would be situated on about 15 acres, in place of a portion of the current Burlington, interior mall space and parking area.  In the 10+ years since the Costco was first proposed, its location on the mall property has changed a number of times, with this layout being at least the third known site plan. There was talk in 2015 that the closure of the mall's Macy's store was to make way for the Costco to be built in its place.  

Burlington, which occupies the former Mervyn's/Uptons, is currently 75,200 square feet but would shrink to 40,000 in its new space.  Marshalls, which occupies the former Rhodes Furniture/Shoder Furniture/K & L Furniture, would also shrink, going from 28,645 square feet, to 22,000 in their new space, adjacent to Burlington.  As it stands now, the power center strip that would house Burlington and Marshalls would include one other 20,000 square foot space as well as pairs of 8,000 and 10,000 square foot "junior anchor" spaces.  

AMC Theatres North DeKalb Mall 16 would also shrink in size, likely also in theatres.  The current AMC, which occupies much of the former Lechmere/Phar-Mor, measures 63,395 square feet but would shrink to between 45,000 and 48,000 square feet in the new development. (Two maps at the community meeting showed differing sizes of 45,000 and 48,000 square feet so its not clear which is accurate.)  The theater, which opened on December 13, 1996, showed such films as Jerry Maguire, Space Jam, Mars Attacks, Star Trek and 101 Dalmations during its opening weekend.  Today the theater is known as a an "AMC Classic" and shows first-run movies at unbelievably reasonable prices.  
An ad from the AJC promoting the 1996 Grand Opening of AMC North DeKalb Mall

If you were to purchase tickets for the digital (standard) showing of the new Avengers: Infinity War film at North DeKalb, you'd pay $4.49 for matinee screening and $6.49 for an evening showing. Serious fans who prefer a "premium" experience might opt for the "REAL D 3D" version of the film where $7.49 gets you a matinee ticket and  $9.49 gets you an evening ticket for the film.  

Many in the crowd were concerned that the new theater would increase ticket prices.  As a former movie theater employee myself, I know first hand that theater companies actually make very little on the tickets themselves, at least at first.  A new release, the Avengers film for instance, in its first few weeks of release, the movie studio, Marvel (Disney), is likely to receive as much as 90% of ticket sales.  The longer a film stays in theaters, the better the equation gets for theater operators.  A film like Black Panther, which has been out for over two months but is still being shown in theaters, can become rather lucrative to theater operators where their slice of the pie could swell from as little as 10% to as much as 40%.  
Nearly 300 neighbors came to hear about the proposed redevelopment 

All this to say, AMC is basically guaranteed to increase tickets at least a few bucks given that part of the reason the theater offers such reasonably priced tickets is to first-run films is because the theater is so old.  Sources close to the project also indicate that the theater is not likely to be a "Fork & Screen" or premium format theater and that it will likely be fewer screens, perhaps 12-14, which is more in line with the company's current concept and what it feels the market can support.  

It's worth mentioning that AMC also operates a number of other "Classic" theaters including the Snellville 12 on Scenic Highway in Snellville.  All tickets at the Sneville theaters are 50 cents higher than North DeKalb.   

At least some in attendance were hopeful that longtime tenants of the mall like Challenges [Games & Comics] would not be "priced out" of the new development.  Tony Cade, current owner of Challenges was credited by many, including Decaturish editor Dan Whisenhunt, as having "kept the mall alive and attracted people to it."  Webb indicated that there are plans to make small shop space financial feasible for local shop owners.  
When I asked if the development would still happen if zoning needed for the apartment/townhomes and/or hotel did not get approved, Webb said he couldn't say but did indicate that the residential portion is "driving the redevelopment."  

Medlock Area Neighborhood Association, INC. (MANA) was one of many neighborhood associations with representatives at the meeting.  The association posted a complete rundown of the Q&A session that followed the developer's presentation can be found here

What are your thoughts on the planned redevelopment of North DeKalb Mall?  Are you pleased with the developer's plans for the redevelopment?  Do you think the residential component will add too much to already awful traffic at the North Druid Hills & Lawrenceville Highway intersection?

Please share your thoughts below.    

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

My favorite feature of that AMC newspaper ad you posted is the 99X Freeloaders Special. Aw, I miss 99X.

Thanks for including what each store at the "mall" used to be...great reminiscing for me about my childhood in the early 90s. I grew up in the area and my mom still lives there, so it's interesting to see all this growth and new stuff lately!

Anonymous said...

Town Brookhaven has lots of apartments and a Costco, but I don't think it has really caused an unbearable increase in traffic. Not sure why this would be different.

Anonymous said...

In the 13 years I’ve resided in the area, I’ve seen a lot of commercial development, and I’ll say that, overall, I’m mighty encouraged. As a result of all this new growth between Decatur and outer Tucker - - the Tuck-Catur Corridor, if you will - - I spend 95% of my walking-around dollars within 5 miles of my house, rather than 40% when I first moved here. Something new at N. Dekalb Mall is long-overdue. I’m looking forward to status updates.

Anonymous said...

ok, your turn Northlake Mall. Good job Tony Cade and Challenges Comics and Games for not giving up on North DeKalb Mall!

Anonymous said...

Tuck-Catur? Or Dec-ucker?

Anonymous said...

I guess that depends on your centre of gravity.

Anonymous said...

Ladies and gentlemen meet the new "Camp Creek Marketplace"!!! ... And the crowd/shoppers cry as they get robbed.

RichKnobSales said...

I'm not seeing where the 48000 ft of restaurant space is on this map. They can take Burlington completely out of the mix and put that "Krog Street Market" right there in it's place and I'd be in foodie heaven!!! Burlington makes Walmart look attractive :(. Bottom of the shopping cart - looks like the stuff came from Marshall's or TJ Maxx's leftovers. Nothing upscale or attractive about it as a store.

All in all traffic there will probably be no worse than it was when the mall was a bustling place. It looks like a good plan.

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