Phipps Plaza’s new act readies to debut

Construction continues on the 13-story multi-use tower located next to Phipps Plaza. Adding uses other than retail to the shopping center is injecting new life into the development. (Daniel Varnado/For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Construction continues on the 13-story multi-use tower located next to Phipps Plaza. Adding uses other than retail to the shopping center is injecting new life into the development. (Daniel Varnado/For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

It’s part of a strategy to change from a single-use location — retail shopping

As malls in the U.S. struggle or even tip into bankruptcy, Phipps Plaza in Buckhead continues to evolve from the high-end mall of yesteryear with lots of parking lots and enclosed spaces to a diversified retail and business center sporting a sizeable chunk of greenspace.

Simon Property Group, which owns Phipps Plaza, topped out a new 13-story office building this week that will be the North American headquarters of Novelis, the global aluminum maker. The redeveloped area will include a separate 152-room NOBU hotel and restaurant, a building that will contain a Life Time athletic club and co-working space, and a Citizens Culinary Market food hall, as well as a parking deck. And part of what had been mostly hard surfaces is turning into 30,000 feet of green space.

Eric Howard, the manager of Phipps Plaza, said the space will be a public gathering spot and also used for concerts, weddings and corporate events.

“It’s what I am most excited about,” Howard said. “It will be where people gather, whether coming to shop with us nor not.”

It’s part of a strategy to change from a single-use location — retail shopping — to a development with a diversified stream of incomes and attractions for residents and visitors.

Malls across the U.S. and metro Atlanta have been battered by cultural and societal changes from the rise to online shopping to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gwinnett County bought the shuttered Gwinnett Place Mall for $23 million and is deciding what to do with it. The 77-acre North DeKalb Mall died a slow death, and a developer is proposing building a mixed-use development on the site. Others malls from Town Center in Cobb to the Mall of Georgia in Gwinnett continue to operate, but malls across the country are facing declining occupancy rates.

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A view of the future green space located between LifeTime Fitness building and the 13-story multi-use tower next to Phipps Plaza.. (Daniel Varnado/For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

A view of the future green space located between LifeTime Fitness building and the 13-story multi-use tower next to Phipps Plaza.. (Daniel Varnado/For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Combined ShapeCaption
A view of the future green space located between LifeTime Fitness building and the 13-story multi-use tower next to Phipps Plaza.. (Daniel Varnado/For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Simon Properties is working to keep Phipps Plaza relevant and is getting close to completing it.

Tom Boney, the president of Novelis North America, said he expect to begin moving 500 workers into three floors of the building in the fall.

The building will have capacity for up to 1,800 workers total. NOBU’s website says it will open this year.

Simon broke ground on the project in late 2018, and its completion has been slowed by the pandemic.

Boney said Novelis’ plans for how and how much office space it would use changed as they waded through the pandemic’s problems.

“We made some adjustments. That’s key for Novelis even at this late date,” as they continue to learn and make small adjustments, he said. What they ended up with was flexible office space where no one, not even top brass, will have their own desks. Workers will “hotel” — check into a desk before or when they arrive. Technology will help track where people are sitting from day to day so teams and individuals can find each other.

Flexiblity and technology will allow people to work and collarborate, “but without obligating people to be there five days a week 8 to 5,” he said.

Howard said he believes Phipps Plaza is not finished evolving. The new mix of office workers and businesses such as NOBU, as well special events will bring an influx of people that will also change the demand on the location’s retailers.

“That will continue the evolution of the tenant mix inside the mall,” he said.