Carter says he will downsize Buckhead project

Ben Carter said Friday he’s still optimistic he can get the cranes at his long-delayed Streets of Buckhead moving again in October, but he acknowledged that he has downsized the first phase of the project.

Carter said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he likely will leave 75,000 square feet of his proposal for a second phase. The downsized project will be 300,000 square feet, giving him a higher lease percentage, which is a crucial hurdle for lenders. He said the proposed project is 70 percent leased.

He also believes he is two to three weeks from closing on new financing – to the tune of $200 million. But his project has been plagued by delays since early 2009, when he sought to renegotiate costs with his general contractor after the economy tanked. Then he had trouble getting financing to complete construction on the luxury retail destination.

If Carter can get construction restarted in October, the project would open in March 2012, nearly three years after his original opening date.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to pull off a miracle here soon,” Carter said. “I only say ‘miracle’ because there’s just no bank lending going on whatsoever. It’s all private capital, or folks with cash versus debt.”

Carter’s project is one of the most watched retail projects in Atlanta, given its high-profile address and leases with luxury brands like Hermes and jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels. Carter made an enormous gamble when he paid more than $169 million for parcels in the Buckhead Village.

"Usually we have time on our side, capital behind us and retailers that want to expand," Carter said. "But in this economy, it’s all difficult to get lined up.”