A few years ago, when the economy started downhill, he forecasted Buckhead would be the last to feel the pain and the first community to exit from it.
“We are indeed coming out of it quicker than anybody else,” said Massell Thursday at the Buckhead Business Association’s weekly breakfast at the City Club of Buckhead, in his annual State of Buckhead Address.
He said the community is in “full recovery” now, referencing a recent Atlanta newspaper article cites J.P. Morgan and Cousins Properties’ joint ownership of the Terminus complex serves as validation.
“We have 40 neighborhood associations, 34 houses of worship, 13 PTAs and nine service clubs,” he said. “They all have leaders pushing us forward.”
He said last year’s retail sales were up 6 percent from 2011 and Buckhead had metro Atlanta’s lowest leasing vacancy rate, which is 23 percent lower than the rates in Midtown and Downtown.
“From time to time, if it looks like I’m competing with Midtown and Downtown, I am,” Massell said. “Obviously we feel like we’re part of the whole and work very closely with the mayor and council, but we do compete.”
The entire growth of Atlanta between 2000 and 2010 occurred in Buckhead, Massell said, and the largest benefit from that is new construction projects.
“Development of choice this year is apartments. There are 3,549 rental apartments under development in some stage,” he said.
However, some of the apartments will be struggling once “it’s all done and said,” he said, but it will pay off for the community.
“We have supply with the demand. Having the apartments is extremely important,” he said. “If they were all built, it would double our inventory in six years.”
Massell said Buckhead had four office buildings sitting vacant about six years ago.
“We were ridiculed by the Wall Street Journal for making a mistake,” he said. “Now, three of them are practically full. … We had the supply when demand came back. It is a formula that is just practicing the fact of life.”
One association member asked about the status of the Buckhead Atlanta mixed-use project, formerly called Streets of Buckhead and owned by Buckhead developer Ben Carter, and now owned by San Diego-based developer OliverMcMillan. It had remained dormant for more than 2½ years before construction resumed in August.
“It’s under way. It looks slower than what you might have wanted to see,” he said. “But cranes are moving, concrete is being poured, bricks are ready to be stacked.”
He said the project will provide several new opportunities for Buckhead retail and buying, and it will be opening late next year.