EAST COBB — The Avenue East Cobb hosted a splashy groundbreaking party Thursday night, swinging a wrecking ball into one of its storefronts to mark the start of construction on a facelift for the shopping center.
Citing a need to “activate” the 23-year-old shopping center, bring in “experiential” retail and create a “socially magnetic” space, North American Properties is adding two new freestanding buildings. It is also demolishing the former Bravura bridal shop and adding a public plaza in its place. Beside that — directly across from Michael’s — will be a new concierge building with a valet lane. The mall’s managers hope a revamped layout and new tenants will increase walkability and make the shopping center more of a destination.
NAP’s Tim Perry told the crowd that when the property was first developed, there were few retail shopping opportunities in the immediate area. Over the years, most customers have experienced the shopping center by driving there, parking, visiting a store and leaving.
“But over the last 23 years, habits have changed. … We can’t have that anymore. So North American Properties … what we do is create great experiences. Great experiences need great places. And that’s the place and the space between the buildings, not inside it,” Perry said.
The two new buildings will be constructed where two pedestrian crosswalks currently intersect the parking lot. With 2,500 square feet available in each building, new stores coming to the center will include Warby Parker, Tempur-Pedic, and the New York Butcher Shoppe.
The construction is expected to wrap up next summer, per NAP, which manages the mall.
Perry, a managing partner with NAP, told the MDJ that the shopping center can serve as an unofficial downtown for east Cobb, a place where customers hang out and enjoy not just shopping, but also live entertainment and high-end dining.
Perry declined to say how much the changes would cost.
“I’m gonna go and do my shopping or returning or whatever it is, then I’m gonna go attend a yoga class, or go attend a comedian, or go listen to some live music, and then grab dinner. … It sort of stacks those experiences, so you’re not just coming for one singular thing and leaving. And to do that, you need a great central plaza and a great central area,” Perry said.
Cobb’s Board of Commissioners gave the changes the green light in June. Commissioner Jerica Richardson, who represents the area, said she grew up going to the Avenue East Cobb, and is excited for the changes coming.
“This next phase is about family fun, creating the space to gather, connect, and really just engage one another, something that tightens our community, and also supports our businesses,” Richardson said. “We know that this next phase is going to make sure that our businesses are able to keep up with the market, and that we keep them flourishing within this area.”
Thursday’s festivities in the shopping center’s parking lot included a waiter on stilts serving up champagne, a live band, and vendors offering beer, popcorn, ice cream and art.
While other groundbreaking ceremonies typically entail politicians and business leaders shoveling dirt, the Avenue East Cobb had attendees sign a wrecking ball, which was eventually used to shatter a window of the former Bravura bridal space.
“We hope it’s very successful, we need it,” said east Cobb resident Linda Kazzmare.
Mike Bland, who lives across the street, said he hopes the renovation brings new, better dining options to east Cobb. But he wishes the changes to the shopping center’s layout went even further.
“I just looked at the schematics over there and I’m underwhelmed by what I saw,” Bland said. “I thought it was going to be a much bigger green space.”
East Cobb couple Jenny and Jameson Storm live six minutes away, and said they find themselves at the shopping center at least one weekend a month.
“We think that any opportunity to bring live music, things for the kids to do is always a draw for us,” Jenny Storm said. “... If there’s opportunities to stay local on a Friday night, grab a couple of drinks, let the kids have fun, run around, grab dinner here, that’s always a plus.”