Developer gets $70M in tax savings to revitalize North DeKalb Mall

Struggling mall is set to be torn down and redeveloped as mixed-use ‘Lulah Hills’
Say goodbye to major metro Atlanta mall and hello to ‘Lulah Hills’

Say goodbye to major metro Atlanta mall and hello to ‘Lulah Hills’

A DeKalb County authority Thursday granted a developer $70 million in tax savings for the planned demolition and redevelopment of North DeKalb Mall.

The Decide DeKalb Development Authority unanimously approved a tax reimbursement program to Edens, the developer that proposed tearing down the shuttered mall and replacing it with an $843 million mixed-use development called Lulah Hills. Over a 15-year stretch, the developer will be reimbursed for up to $70 million in increased property taxes as aspects of its project are completed.

The agreement, which was first reported by online news outlet Decaturish, allows Edens to begin demolition work within 60 days.

“This landmark decision reflects the commitment of this community to seeing the redevelopment through,” Herbert Ames, Edens’ managing director and southeast regional lead, said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Yvette Humphries, manager of Decide DeKalb Redevelopment and Strategic Initiatives, said this incentive structure is less risky for county taxpayers because Edens will have to perform the work and pay its taxes before it can receive reimbursements. It is not a bond-for-title tax abatement, where a government authority leases land to a developer at a property tax discount.

“It’s minimal exposure to the county. This is not a bond transaction,” Humphries said during Thursday’s public meeting, according to Decaturish.

Last of North DeKalb Mall’s stores pack up, will be out by June before mall demolition

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North DeKalb Mall is mostly vacant and is considered a poster child among metro Atlanta’s dead retail centers. It was the region’s first enclosed and air-conditioned mall when it opened in 1965. It is better known today as a filming location surrounded by empty storefronts.

Malls around metro Atlanta and across the country have struggled in recent years to attract shoppers. Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, several malls are being reimagined or redesigned to incorporate apartments, office space, entertainment attractions and other mixed-use aspects.

Edens entered the picture in 2021 when it purchased the 73-acre mall site, laying the groundwork for its proposed Lulah Hills project. The developer, which also owns the nearby Toco Hills strip mall in North Druid Hills, plans to transform the North DeKalb Mall site into 1,700 apartments, 100 townhomes, a 150-room hotel and about 320,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. An existing AMC theater will be preserved.

Representatives for Edens previously said 10% of the housing built onsite would be reserved for below-market rate prices.

This is a rendering of Lulah Hills, the new name for North DeKalb Mall, which will be demolished and redeveloped into a mixed-use district.

Credit: Edens

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Credit: Edens

Its leaders also said they would forgo asking for a tax abatement and instead pursue tax savings through a tax allocation district, or TAD, around the site. The TAD will allow the developer to capture future increases in property tax revenue to funnel back into the area rather than the county at-large. The money can be used to pay for public infrastructure and other amenities within the TAD’s borders.

The tax reimbursements are intended to offset the infrastructure costs necessary to raze the existing mall, remediate asbestos, relocate utilities and construct a new street grid. It will also help cover the cost of a multi-use trail that is planned to connect the redevelopment to Emory University through Medlock Park.

Edens representatives said Thursday that they expect the first retail spaces to be open in 2025, and the first mixed-use building could open its doors in 2026. The entire project, which will be built in stages, is estimated to be complete in a decade.