California developer takes over Streets of Buckhead

by Steven Josovitz

Post image for California developer takes over Streets of Buckhead

California developer takes over Streets of Buckhead

By Rachel Tobin

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

1:40 p.m. Thursday, December 23, 2010

A San Diego development firm, OliverMcMillan, is taking over the massive but stalled Streets of Buckhead retail project from Atlanta developer Ben Carter.

Carter on Thursday told the AJC he has been pushed aside from the project, which he launched in 2006, so that OliverMcMillan can bring in new capital and finish it.

Carter said earlier this year he was close to a deal for $200 million to finish the six-block complex.

Thursday, Carter said he understands that the new firm brought in by one of his lenders, CB Richard Ellis Investors, will continue his vision of creating a “Rodeo Drive” luxury retail shopping district in what was once one known as Atlanta’s most raucous party scene.

Said Carter: “Our priorities are really simple: I really want the project to get done for the city of Atlanta, for the retailers that have hung in there with us, and for the investors involved so that they can get some money back or make money. I am cooperative and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

He added, “My whole team has put a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears into it. We think we are certainly capable of getting the job done, but if they’re going to take over and do it themselves, we have to understand that.”

The Streets of Buckhead project has been one of the most watched retail developments in Atlanta, given its high-profile address and leases with luxury brands like Hermes and jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels. Carter made an enormous gamble when he paid more than $169 million to assemble land parcels in the Buckhead Village.

Carter had a traditionally structured land loan for $170 million from Bank of America and $150 million in other funding from CBRE Investors. Carter and three partners invested $20 million of their own money, Carter has said.

But construction stopped on the project – which currently is a large hole in the ground with some infrastructure built as well as a partially finished parking deck – in early 2009 after the economy tanked and banks stopped lending.

Carter had been seeking concessions from his lenders and new financing and said he was close to a deal in the summer. In the end, he said, it appears his lenders want to bring in a new partner.

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