Developer envisions ‘mini version of Avalon’ in Atlanta’s Southside

Macauley Investments to pursue $210 million, mixed-use project in Union City
This is a site plan for Nexus Union, a proposed project for Union City by Macauley Investments.

Credit: Macauley Investments

Credit: Macauley Investments

This is a site plan for Nexus Union, a proposed project for Union City by Macauley Investments.

One Atlanta developer plans to bring a “northside quality development” south of I-20.

Stephen Macauley, CEO of Macauley Investments, recently announced a 42-acre mixed-use project called Nexus Union in Union City, southwest of Atlanta. The giant project will consist of hundreds of apartments and more than 200,000 square feet of retail, upscale dining and service establishments.

Macauley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he sees Union City and the surrounding south Fulton County area as some of the most unfairly overlooked parts of metro Atlanta.

“I love the south Fulton market,” he said.

Nexus Union will be Macauley’s fourth project in south Fulton, an area that often struggles to get the same amount of developer interest as the county’s northern counterpart. Macauley said he aims for his project to be a “mini version of Avalon,” the popular and influential high-end shopping district in Alpharetta.

“It would be a destination development for the Southside that will have a large amount of restaurants, retail and other commercial development and will provide the amenities to the citizens of south Fulton that to date do not have those kind of commercial amenities,” he said.

The project site is near the intersection of South Fulton Parkway and Ga. 92, roughly 10 miles west of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. A few large development projects have been proposed for prime property near the airport, but developers typically favor industrial and logistics projects rather than residential and commercial endeavors.

Macauley said he’s one of the few developers interested in pursuing high-end projects south of I-20.

Not every venture was a rousing success. Macauley’s Le Jardin luxury development, which included former Atlanta Braves slugger Brian Jordan as a top investor, faltered and was later scaled back from its initial vision due to financing issues amid the Great Recession in 2008. Macauley was also chosen to redevelop a portion of Fort McPherson, but eventually parted ways with the local authority overseeing the former Army post’s redevelopment.

Last year, filmmaker Tyler Perry acquired additional land at the post, and a group led by Bishop T.D. Jakes has since been named the developer of the remaining Fort McPherson acreage.

Macauley said obtaining financing for the $210 million Nexus Union project is a top priority, and his company is exploring multiple options. He said getting a tax break from Union City will make or break the plan.

“That’s necessary, very necessary, critical actually,” he said. “There are no comparable (developments) south of I-20 that are of this quality, so that makes financing it without the tax abatements almost a non-starter.”

In a recent news release, Union City Mayor Vince Williams endorsed the project.

“We’ve set the foundational stage with our strong commercial base and Union City is excited to welcome long awaited vibrant quality retail, dining and living environments,” Williams said.

The project’s first phase will include 310 apartments, a 20,000-square-foot grocery store, a 12,000-square-foot food hall, a gym and a private club in addition to several restaurants and retailers. Macauley added that he plans to incorporate workforce housing but said it’s too early for specifics.

This is a site plan for Nexus Union, a proposed mixed-use district in Union City by Macauley Investments.

Credit: Macauley Investments

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Credit: Macauley Investments

Site development is expected to begin in early 2023, and Winter Construction is the general contractor. Macauley said there will be a series of community engagement meetings.

Macauley said one of his goals for the Nexus Union is a diverse group of tenants, business owners and corporate partners. Macauley, who is white, said he wants the project to represent Union City, which is 90% Black.

Developer Stephen Macauley describes the proposed Campbellton district to some audience members during the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority Board Meeting at Fort Mac LRA in July in Atlanta. Macauley and the LRA have since parted ways. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

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T. Dallas Smith & Co., one of Atlanta’s top Black-led commercial real estate firms, is a partner on the project, and its president said this could be a transformative project for Union City.

“Local citizens that commute to other parts of Atlanta, find themselves driving many miles for fine dining and shopping,” T. Dallas Smith said in the release. “To have a quality project like Nexus Union developed on such a high-profile site is significant.”

Ackerman & Company is in charge of leasing, and tenants are being sought. No tenants have been announced, but Macauley did say a Black-owned grocery store is expected to anchor the project.

“I think once we show success with this project, and it will be successful, others will follow in our footsteps,” he said.

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