Once upon a time, it was major news when a mall broke ground in the suburbs. But new outposts of Chicos and the Gap and the Cheesecake Factory became quickly monotonous to customers as the American shopping mall began to decline nationwide in the late 2000s.
Here in metro Atlanta, a not-so-little development named Avalon changed the suburban shopping game when it opened in 2014, offering the most-loved amenities of the city to those living 30 miles away from it. While the “live-work-play” development hosts shops found in many malls around the country—Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, even the Gap—it also offered outposts of beloved Atlanta restaurants such as Ford Fry’s El Felix, Antico Pizza, Rumi’s Kitchen, and Bocado Burger. Add to that a movie theater (with plush reclining seats), a hotel, a host of community events, and a Whole Foods—it’s been an overwhelming success. The development even ended up landing Atlanta’s first Chanel store—a huge surprise to the ITP fashion community.
Similar mixed-use developments with a heavier focus on local businesses have popped up since: The Battery at SunTrust Park brought many of the eateries loved at Avalon—Antico, the El Felix—to Cobb County, along with new bars, music venue the Roxy, and entertainment restaurants like Punch Bowl Social, emphasizing the “play” in live-work-play. In Forsyth County, the upcoming Halcyon development will have a local brewpub, Cherry Street Brewpub, and an outpost of Gu’s Dumplings alongside its shops and movie theater.
North American Properties—the team behind Avalon and Atlantic Station—will attempt to work their magic again in Gwinnett County with Revel, which looks to be a mashup of the most-loved aspects of Avalon and the Fuqua-developed Battery. Play has been an essential component since the project was first announced in 2017—the $900 million mixed-use development will surround Duluth’s Infinite Energy Center, which includes the arena, conference center, performing arts center, and Hudgens Center. Revel will add to that, per a press release from NAP earlier this week, 300,000 square feet of shopping and dining, 650,000 square feet of office space, a hotel, 900 residences (single-family and multifamily), and 275,000 square feet of “community greenspace.”
Just like the Battery and Avalon, there will be a Ford Fry Tex-Mex spot, Superica, which has two other locations at Krog Street Market and in Buckhead. Just like Avalon, it will have a Regal movie theater, and like the Battery, it’ll have an entertainment dining spot with the second location of the Painted Pin, the boutique bowling alley and bar Justin Amick opened in Buckhead’s Miami Circle in 2014. Rounding out the local businesses are Honeysuckle Gelato, Secreto, American Barber, Local Expedition Wood Fired Grill, and Maker’s Coffee & Wine, which the press release notes as being a project from “the founders of Octane Coffee” and “local investors in the Gwinnett community.” L.A.-based Jinya Ramen Bar will open its fifth planned metro location at Revel, and a fact sheet posted on Revel’s website also mentions plans for an 18,000 square-foot food hall and a grocery store. The developers haven’t yet announced an official opening date.
Suburban “live-work-play” developments are clearly vying for the dollars of millennials entering their 30s and 40s. Will they suffer the same cookie-cutter fate as their shopping mall counterparts? Unclear, but at least for now, they are expanding the footprint of local businesses and giving metro Atlantans more options for where to spend a night out.