Some metro malls hit their stride while others struggle

Credit: Hyosub Shin /

Credit: Hyosub Shin /

For every Lenox Square in metro Atlanta, there’s a Gwinnett Place Mall.

One is full of swanky, trendy shops. The other is burdened with vacancies and surviving with a ragtag assortment of discount shoe shops, beauty supply stores and other nontraditional tenants.

Retail experts say about one-third of Atlanta’s roughly 17 malls are thriving, while another third is struggling.

The middle ground is occupied by the Stonecrest Malls of the world, which struggle to keep ubiquitous chain stores, such as the Gap and Starbucks, but are bolstered by big anchors.

The health of the area’s malls, in decline for years, is important because shopping is a huge draw for metro Atlanta’s $12 billion hospitality industry. Visitors to the area spent more than $1.7 billion in 2012, according to the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The malls that are surviving here are the ones in affluent areas,” said Ellen Dunham-Jones, a professor of architecture and urban design at Georgia Tech, who studies dead malls and mall redevelopment.

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