A long chapter in downtown Alpharetta’s development history may be coming to a close. Coro Reality is exercising its options to purchase 2.5 acres of prime downtown property. Looking back with hindsight, the deal is a case study in how not to arrange a public-private partnership with developers. Here’s the back-story.
Way back in 1997 Alpharetta’s Community Development Department was looking for ways to spur growth and development downtown. Sound familiar? They crafted a sweetheart deal with Buckhead-based Coro Reality Advisors. Coro was granted a 30 year ground lease on the properties along Roswell Street. They also had an exclusive option to purchase the properties during the life of the lease.
Coro promised they would develop two restaurants, retail and office space on the property. The city thought it was just what downtown needed, a little push to get development moving.
And to Coro’s credit, they did build Alpharetta Town Commons, the property where Corner Deli and Aria Salon now live. It’s a pretty building that fits well into Milton Avenue.
But one of the promised restaurant spaces turned out to be half baked. The suite where Corner Deli now operates was instead designed to be a coffee shop or ice cream parlor. It wasn’t built with a grease trap or restaurant-grade hood. Operating a deli here is pushing the space’s use.
Long vacancies have also plagued Alpharetta Town Commons. Meanwhile Coro’s other local property, the Alpharetta Crossing shopping center, has thrived. The property on Haynes Bridge (currently anchored by Walmart Neighborhood Market) received a lot of attention from Coro over the years, remaining almost fully leased through the recession.
By 2007 Alpharetta has had enough. Lead by the city’s Development Authority who oversees the ground lease, Alpharetta pushes Coro to do more. It was then that the spec restaurant space at 45 Roswell Street was born.
Measuring in at 5,300 square feet with a 1,300 square foot patio, it’s one of the biggest restaurant spaces in town. Certainly a large and thriving restaurant would bring people downtown?
The restaurant has sat empty the entire time, unmarketable to an industry looking for much smaller spaces like Pure Taqueria down the street. Unfinished on the inside, it’s a beautiful facade on empty hopes.
Coro nearly had the place sold in 2011 to a film production company. The deal fell through. Thankfully the rumor is that Coro may have found a buyer for this space. And this may be the motive behind exercising the options on the property. We’ll keep an eye on who the future tenant might be.
The closure of the Coro story is relevant today. Alpharetta is actively seeking a development partner for the City Center project. The city has left the structure of that deal open, a negotiable detail that should be part of the proposals. Let’s hope there were some lessons learned from Coro that can be applied to City Center. Alpharetta can’t afford vacant and languishing properties in an area promised to be vibrant.