This Week on The Street 11-11

by Harold Shumacher

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This Week on The Street

(A more or less regular compilation of news, factoids and observations.)

Atlanta ICSC characterized by Cautious Optimism

When 2,500 Real estate developers, agents, brokers and tenants gather in one place there’s bound to be activity. That was the case at the recently concluded Southeast Idea Exchange (aka the Atlanta ICSC.) Downsized and re-located from the Georgia World Congress Center, this year’s show felt busy especially in the crowded registration area, in the narrow hallways leading to meeting rooms and the compact exhibit hall. The general consensus from most attendees-they’re glad to be back in the suburbs. (The show’s likely home for the next few years until the attendance begins inching up.)

If there was a single mood to the show it was hard to detect-as evident by the event’s tag line “Reset-the New Normal.”   Most people we talked to –several hundred over the course of two days-were glad to see this year behind us and were guarded about 2011.

There are the beginning hints of new development. Wal-Mart and Home Depot are back in the active column as is Target.  Dick’s and Academy Sports are showing up on site plans.  So are movie theatres, soft goods and pet supply stores.  The bookstores and office supply stores look like troubled segments   and we wouldn’t be surprised to see casualties in both by year’s end. Many retailers are counting on a big Christmas for survival-we’re not so sure. What’s interesting is that the sale of luxury goods are on the upswing at the same time as stores like Dollar General, Family Dollar and Goodwill  are rapidly expanding. Goodwill is developing their first ground up store in metro Atlanta in Alpharetta.

What else did we glean?  There remains a strong interest in single tenant buildings, especially with credit tenants in place.  There are still  large pools of money chasing the same type deal-an undervalued center, with tenants, cash flow and upside or   grocery anchored neighborhood centers, all in short supply.  The pool of less desirable assets continues to grow as banks continue to take back properties. Not content to get the properties back, many lenders are now scrutinizing the borrowers  for any sign of fraudulent activity or liquid assets to go after to cure the shortfalls.

Two new projects caught our eye.  Jacoby Developments’ Aerotropolis, under construction adjacent to the new Atlanta International Terminal,  and featuring Porsche’s North American headquarters-including a test track  and Watkins’ proposed mega sports complex on I-75 in Acworth. The 1,300  acre development will include training facilities along with    numerous soccer and lacrosse fields and baseball diamonds. Ringing the development will be hotels and restaurants all geared to traveling teams from throughout the region and the rest of the country.

Are sports bars, Mexican restaurants and barbecue joints becoming the new Chinese buffet?  It certainly seems that way. These categories, along with gourmet burger stops are among the most active segment of the restaurant business.

Some newcomers to keep an eye out for include the second  Verde Taqueria Collier Road; Three Chefs, in the former Madison Grill, Midtown and a large Chinese restaurant from renowned Szechuan chef Peter Chang at the former Olive’s Waterside, Powers Ferry Road/I-285 area.  Best names we’ve heard recently for new restaurants-Burnt Fork BBQ, Decatur and Crank Coffee House Kennesaw.

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