The City of Atlanta’s secretive plan to expand Piedmont Park appears to not be coming soon, according to details of leases and negotiations in a crucial shopping center.
Among the tenants of Clear Creek Center at Monroe Drive and Piedmont Avenue is a hair salon that says it is negotiating a new lease and a real estate office with a deal that appears to run at least to 2027.
The City did not respond to questions about the status of the five-year-old park expansion plan. Obtaining leases from the City for several shopping center tenants took more than five months and intervention from the chief transparency officer, and even then, at least two of the leases appeared to be outdated by years.
The roughly four-acre park expansion to the Monroe/Piedmont intersection, and a separate expansion of the Atlanta Botanical Garden along Piedmont, were announced by then-Mayor Kasim Reed at the very end of 2017. The privately orchestrated $100 million concept was presented as getting ahead of redevelopment pressures at the time.
Since then, the Garden – a private nonprofit that leases its space within the park – has bought most of the land for its expansion. The Garden is in the midst of a controversial plan to build a new self-storage facility in Virginia-Highland as part of a $44 million land swap that is part of its expansion.
The status of the park expansion onto commercial properties at the southwest corner of Monroe and Piedmont, though, is not so clear. In 2018, the Atlanta City Council approved Reed’s $20.4 million, behind-the-scenes deal to acquire the 3-acre shopping center at 1529 Piedmont as a key piece. Today, that center has huge vacant spaces but also many businesses. Meanwhile, the Garden bought one adjacent property, while the owner of another key property – the Octopus Kitchen restaurant – said late last year that he’s never heard from the City at all. The Piedmont Park Conservancy, a private nonprofit that manages and maintains the park on the City’s behalf, said in December that planning continues quietly but would not provide details.
A security guard at the property previously told SaportaReport that sentiment among tenants was that the park plan was dead or stalled due to new businesses coming in and negotiations for long-term leases. The new lease information supports the existence of those deals.
Area 4 Salon is one of the tenants for whom the City’s Department of Enterprise Asset Management (DEAM) provided an outdated lease – apparently expired in 2018 – in response to the SaportaReport request. Salon owner Robbi Hutchins said her lease actually ran to 2022 and was renewed, with negotiations for a new lease underway, though she did not clarify who is representing the City in those talks. She said that she is also uncertain of the park expansion status.
“I don’t have any information on what the City of Atlanta is planning on doing with the property at Clear Creek Center,” she said. “…. Every time I have asked what the long-term plans are, no one seems to have an answer. I do believe that new leases and extensions are being offered, but as for long-term? I don’t know who knows.”
A major tenant of the center is a Harry Norman real estate office, which partly occupies a three-story commercial building erected about three years ago after a permit approval that preceded the City’s purchase. The lease for that business provided by the City dates to 2017 and has a 10-year term with two five-year options to renew. The base rent escalated from $243,000 in the first year to more than $380,000. The office’s managing broker did not respond to questions about the status of that lease and the park expansion plan.
Among the lease information provided by DEAM that appeared to be outdated or incomplete was that for the Varuni Napoli pizza restaurant. That business’s main lease document, as provided by DEAM, was undated and did not name all of the parties to the agreement. The restaurant’s owner was traveling and unavailable for immediate comment, according to a spokesperson.