Breaking news: Plans to redevelop West End Mall in jeopardyRendering of the proposed $400 million redevelopment of West End Mall (Special: Elevator City Partners)
By Maria Saporta
The visionary proposal for the $400 million redevelopment of historic West End Mall has hit a major stumbling block.
Charles “Chuck” Taylor, who co-owns the property with Martin “Marty” Halpern, said in an exclusive interview with SaportaReport, the contract to sell the property to Elevator City Partners had expired.
Elevator City Partners was co-founded by Ryan Gravel, best known for creating the vision for the Atlanta BeltLine, and Donray Von, a venture capitalist who has managed music superstars, including OutKast and the Roots.
“They were not able to obtain financing,” Taylor said. “We believe in their vision. We took a chance on them because we believed in their vision. We gave them two years to put it together. We are extremely disappointed they were not able to pull it off.”
Gravel, in a telephone interview Thursday morning, said he has not given up hope that the redevelopment could still happen.
“From our perspective, we are still working on the deal,” Gravel said. “I appreciate the opportunity Chuck and Marty have given us. There are a lot of people who are still working to try to make this project happen.”
The proposal for the $400 million redevelopment of the West End Mall would have transformed 12.5 acres into a retail, residential, cultural and office destination just one block away from the West End MARTA Station. Redevelopment plans also would have included public green space. It would have been one Atlanta’s biggest developments south of 1-20.
“It’s just a shame that nobody in this community was able to come through to provide financing for what would have been a model for community-centric redevelopment,” Taylor said. “The bottom line is that this development should have been a nationwide model for how to do urban redevelopment without displacement.”
The development planned envisioned having a $15 million fund to alleviate displacement and to support minority-owned businesses.
When asked if there was a chance the redevelopment deal could be revived, Taylor said: “It’s unlikely.”
Taylor said they had held off renewing longer-term leases for the tenants, anticipating the sale of West End Mall.
“We have lost tenants because of this. It damaged us because we weren’t renewing leases,” Taylor said. “We are renewing leases now.”
Gravel, however, said efforts are still underway to realize the redevelopment vision.
“From our perspective, we are still working on the deal,” Gravel said. “We have a lot of support from the community, City Hall and the Atlanta University Center. We still believe in the vision. To do something like this vision, especially in the new world we are living in, is extremely challenging. The world is different than it was when we started.”
Taylor said Elevator City Partners’ contract ran out in early September, but he gave them a few extra weeks to see if the deal could be salvaged. But negotiations fell through, and Taylor felt it was time to move on.
“We are signing leases and moving forward,” Taylor said. “We’ve got some really exciting things in the works. We want people to regain interest in urban communities. We are going to continue to operate it as a first-class urban mall.”
When asked if the mall was still for sale, Taylor said it’s not on the market.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but it’s not on the market right now,” Taylor said. “At the end of the day, I’m most disappointed this development didn’t happen. I thought it was the right project for Atlanta and West End. It would have a national model. I still believe in Ryan and his vision, and I still believe it should happen.”
Taylor has a strong family connection to West End Mall. His father, Mark Taylor, initially developed the mall in the early 1970s. Then his father sold it in 1977.
About 20 years later, Halpern and Taylor bought the mall from Dutch owner Farrandon Corp. for $3.5 million, according to published reports. They have owned the mall ever since.