Gwinnett Place Mall owner responds to criticism from business leaders


Nick Masino was seated in the audience Thursday morning when someone asked the panel assembled before him what could be done to revive Gwinnett Place Mall.

As Gwinnett County’s top economic development recruiter, Masino wasn’t bashful about standing up and taking a mic to answer the question — or about revealing that he and other folks are actively trying to get rid of the mall’s current owner, Moonbeam Capital Investments.

“We have to replace Moonbeam Development. They talk and talk and talk and do nothing,” Masino told dozens of business leaders gathered for a forum sponsored by online media outlet Bisnow.

“So if you’re interested in replacing Moonbeam, call me. Call Joe Allen, the Gwinnett Place CID executive director. Call Jace Brooks, the District 1 [county] commissioner,” said Masino, the senior vice president of Partnership Gwinnett, the economic development arm of the county’s chamber of commerce. “Let’s all hashtag-get-rid-of-Moonbeam. The answer is we don’t have a professional developer that owns the property that knows what the hell they’re doing. So let’s get rid of them… you can quote me on that.”

The bluntness of Masino’s answer drew a few gasps and “wows” from the crowd seated on the fourth floor of an office building across Satellite Boulevard from the once-proud but now struggling Duluth-area mall. But Masino later told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he stood behind his words.

And Allen, the community improvement district director Masino referenced in his comments, agreed. His group, in fact, voted last month to spend about $120,000 to market the area, money that will include a regional and national search for investors and developers.

Of course, no one could actually force Moonbeam out. But the thought is to “present opportunities” that would encourage the developer to sell the mall, or even to partner with someone else.

“I don’t have a badge. I don’t have a gun. I have no enforcement,” Allen said. “But what I can do is facilitate discussions.”

Asked for comment Thursday, Moonbeam CEO Steven Maksin said his team would respond shortly. A lengthy statement was sent to The AJC around 8:30 p.m.

“Since Moonbeam purchased Gwinnett Place Mall our company began planning a redevelopment play at the mall site. Unfortunately, the retail aspect of the redevelopment had to be re-designed several times since the consumer retail needs have changed drastically over the last 5 years,” the statement, emailed by marketing and leasing direrctor Anna Khavulya, said.

“Fortunately, Gwinnett Place Mall is well suited for a mixed use redevelopment (retail and office) with a large sports/entertainment component. A multi-family development is also in the cards. In addition, a number of national-caliber real estate development teams have proposed joint-venture opportunities to us. Finally, our local team has been in constant contact with the officials at Gwinnett County who have been very helpful and supportive of our redevelopment efforts.”

Moonbeam owns dozens of properties across the country, including at least 10 malls. Though the woes of traditional malls are widespread, recent media reports have highlighted struggles at Moonbeam properties from Louisiana to upstate New York.

Gwinnett Place hasn’t fared any better.

Moonbeam purchased the already-flailing shopping center in late 2013 and, in January, floated plans for a grand makeover that included demolishing one department store to build apartments and converting two other wings into office space. The company said it would submit redevelopment plans to the county in March.

That never happened and, last month, CEO Steven Maksin declined to offer a new timetable.

Asked at the time about those doubting his company’s redevelopment efforts, he quoted a movie: “I’m not your best friend. I’m your only friend.”

If certain Gwinnett leaders have their way, Moonbeam may no longer be a friend at all.

Brooks, the county commissioner, said Thursday that he, too, was “disappointed in Moonbeam’s lack of action or follow through on any redevelopment plan.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Delta pushes for anonymity in second airport opposition
Delta pushes for anonymity in second airport opposition

In the protracted fight over creating metro Atlanta’s second commercial airport in Paulding County, supporters of the idea have long alleged that Delta Air Lines is funding lawsuits filed by residents challenging that effort. Delta says it’s no secret that it opposes the commercialization of the Paulding airport, 38 miles northwest...
Atlanta-based SunTrust says data on 1.5 million customers tapped
Atlanta-based SunTrust says data on 1.5 million customers tapped

Atlanta-based SunTrust on Friday said it feared that a now-former employee had wrongly accessed basic information about 1.5 million customers. The company became aware in late February that the person – an employee at the time – had access to confidential information including names, addresses, phone numbers and some account balances. However...
Delta adding more inspections of its Boeing 737 engines
Delta adding more inspections of its Boeing 737 engines

In the wake of the Southwest Airlines engine failure that left one woman dead, Delta Air Lines said it is adding more inspections of those engines in its fleet. Atlanta-based Delta’s entire Boeing 737 fleet has the same type of engines that were in the Southwest plane that blew an engine Tuesday. The CFM56-7B engine that blew on the Southwest...
Former FAA administrator joins Delta board of directors
Former FAA administrator joins Delta board of directors

Michael Huerta, the former administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration is joining Delta Air Lines’ board of directors.  Huerta served a five-year term as FAA administrator after being nominated to the position by President Barack Obama and sworn into office in January 2013. He stepped down at the completion of his term...
Georgia loses jobs in March, but unemployment rate steady
Georgia loses jobs in March, but unemployment rate steady

After two strong months, Georgia’s economy lost jobs in March. The number of jobs dropped by 7,400 during the month after adding 9,200 in January and 18,300 in February. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different, less extensive survey, held steady at 4.4 percent, according to a report issued Thursday by the Georgia Department...
More Stories