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Is the retail mix at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta too luxe for locals?

Corso Coffee quietly closed shop in mid-August after just over two years at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta. I discovered this fact last week when I was scheduled to meet someone there and neither of us was aware that Corso was no longer open for business.

Read More: Corso Coffee closed in Buckhead, to be replaced by Revelator Coffee concept

While store openings are a much heralded occasion, the closings slip by without much fanfare. This has particularly been the case at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta, the upscale retail development that officially opened in fall 2014.

The upscale coffee bar, a transplant from New York City, opened in December 2014 just a few months after the grand opening of the high-end, mixed-use development.

Corso, which will be replaced later this season by a new coffee concept -- the Mourning Dove from Revelator Coffee, is one of several retail/restaurant casualties at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta.

In 2016, Raised Palate Restaurants group closed American Food and Beverage and Thirteen Pies (subsequently replaced by Taverna). The closures were reportedly part of a change in corporate strategy.

On the retail side, the development has lost Helmut Lang and Scoop NYC, the brand that redefined boutique shopping for a new generation, which shuttered its Buckhead location along with all of its other locations.

This was followed by the short life of North Carolina based Urbana Wellness Spa and Denim & Soul, a denim focused boutique that has franchise locations across the country. This spring, Kit and Ace, shuttered all of its stores including locations at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta and Ponce City Market.

The Shops Buckhead Atlanta has worked to expand its offerings including a few more moderate retail shops scattered among the luxury brands such as Hermes, Dior and Tom Ford. Stores such as Cos, Joie and Planet Blue have thus far held their own among the more luxe brands that survive with a solid client base.

The development has also introduced a range of fitness boutiques, service upgrades such as personal shopping and three-hour complimentary parking (with validation) and an annual fall shopping/style event called Style South.

Still, there has been continued speculation that this six blocks of upscale shopping in Buckhead is living on borrowed time.

Bisnow, a commercial real estate website, recently wondered " Is Luxury Losing Its Luster At The Shops Buckhead Atlanta?"

The story suggests that a lack of foot traffic and high retail rents, and perhaps a limited appetite for luxury shopping among millennials, are at the heart of the development's problems.

Lawsuits filed by the Shops Buckhead Atlanta developer Oliver McMillan against former tenants for unpaid rents show pricing that ranged from about $50/SF up to $90/SF early in the leases, reports Bisnow. Those rents may have gone up to as much $100/SF by year 10 of the lease.

According to the story, those rates are comparable to the $50/SF to $70/SF retail rental rates at Lenox Square (with an added $20/ SF for extra expenses), but well above the average Atlanta retail rent of $12/SF, quoted in a recent Colliers International report.

But Lenox Square has the kind of foot traffic that retailers in the Shops Buckhead Atlanta just don't see on a daily basis and that could make it hard for smaller boutiques to justify paying higher rents, said local experts quoted in the story.

While the closures at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta can mostly be summed up as the result of brands making the decision to shut multiple stores across the country or smaller operations that have struggled to gain a foothold in the market, it is unclear what that means for the future mix of retailers.

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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.