Greenbriar Mall isn’t going anywhere any time soon. It’s making money and has the potential to serve a renewed purpose for southwest Atlanta neighborhoods.
That’s the message Atlanta City Councilwoman Marci Collier Overstreet shared with 250 attendees at a virtual community discussion Monday.
But the mall, located at I-285 and Arthur Langford Jr. Parkway and a longtime anchor of the community, is at a “crossroads” after the Macy’s at Greenbriar announced last month it was closing, Overstreet said. With large department store Burlington also closing recently the mall is missing its two large anchors.
“The opportunity for Greenbriar is huge ... it’s like a south downtown,” Overstreet said. “It’s up to us to ... make sure that we have all of the things over here that we want to see.”
It’s unclear what’s next for the mall; no plans have been announced, but the Greenbriar owners are looking to rebrand and repurpose the 90-acre property, Overstreet said. Since it is private land, the city’s role in any possible redevelopment is limited.
But Overstreet urged nearby residents to make their voices heard about what they would like to see at Greenbriar: “They are listening to us right now. What do you want to see there?”
Ideas brought up during the meeting included a transit hub at Greenbriar, more medical space, an art center and a new sustainable design.
The councilwoman said she has talked with the mall’s management and ownership, which told her Greenbriar is currently profitable and about 90% of the stores are rented.
Charlie Hendon, Greenbriar’s co-owner since 2006, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month that he’s “going to make lemonade” from Macy’s departure. He said retail staples like Foot Locker, which is already there, have the drawing power and are the new “anchors.”
“We probably sell $20 million of shoes (a year) out of that mall,” Hendon said.
But the mall, which opened in 1965 and was the birthplace of the modern food court concept, has endured many setbacks over the years. A community study in 2019 found that a small number of residents in the surrounding area regularly use the mall.
“People are really moving away from malls, so malls have had to go through a transition and be repurposed,” Overstreet said.
Eloisa Klementich, the president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, also joined the meeting and provided updates on its efforts to promote economic development in the area.
She said Invest Atlanta’s strategies are to work directly with the mall owner to recruit businesses to open at Greenbriar and build up around the mall to bring more attention to the area. Klementich said the community is especially in need of more medical facilities.
“We’ve come to them with options about working together,” she said of the Greenbriar management.
Invest Atlanta also said projects currently being planned are set to bring more than 1,000 housing units to the surrounding area.