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Evolving Atlanta Retail Industry Counters National Trends

New mixed-use projects have helped drop netro Atlanta retail space vacancy to 8.5 percent.
New mixed-use projects have helped drop netro Atlanta retail space vacancy to 8.5 percent.
Credit / Atlanta Business Chronicle
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Metro Atlanta is bucking several national trends when it comes to the retail industry. Despite some high-profile store closings, this week’s Atlanta Business Chronicle reports metro Atlanta’s retail space vacancy stands at 8.5 percent, the lowest point in a decade, according to real estate services company Colliers International.

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Most retail experts agree retail isn’t dying — it’s evolving. Look at the Atlanta projects developers have embarked on over the past five years. Not one enclosed mall has been built. Instead, most new retail space is attached to resort-like mixed-use projects.

Many people spend their weekends on the Atlanta Beltline. And Beltline projects such as Ponce City Market are now achieving $1,000 in sales per square foot, comparable to Buckhead’s Lenox Square. Ponce City Market is home to traditional mall retailers, such as Williams-Sonoma.

More retail projects are also becoming entertainment districts. Take The Battery at SunTrust Park next to the Atlanta Braves’ new Cobb County stadium. The Battery includes a Terrapin brewery and a host of restaurants and bars, including a new steakhouse from Chef Linton Hopkins.

Moving forward, though, it’s unclear how metro Atlanta’s retail landscape will fare. Some retail experts expressed concern about its future, especially if there’s an economic downturn.

Amy Wenk covers hospitality, retail and restaurants and Douglas Sams covers commercial real estate for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.