Stockbridge leaders promoted Jodeco South as the "next big development" in 2016. The $300 million project was going to include dozens of shopping choices such as outdoor retailer Cabela's, a food hall, hotels, an amphitheatre and a wetland preserve.
But the project hit several snags. The development originally was pitched to be built on land in unincorporated Henry County. But the county balked and Stockbridge annexed the property at the developer’s urging. That led to a court battle between Henry County and Stockbridge with the city the eventual victor.
During that time, the original developer of the project, Huntsville, Ala.-based RCP Companies, left the project, and the land's owner, Yee Chong Chen, died in a car accident. Then in 2018, Stockbridge put the project on hold again to focus on fighting an effort by Eagle's Landing, a community on Stockbridge's southern end, that wanted to secede from the city. Voters defeated the Eagle's Landing referendum.
Emil Gullia, a principal and executive vice president of brokerage firm Retail Specialists, said Stockbridge is smart to make a play for retail in a mixed-use development.
Consumers — especially millennials — are gravitating toward the mixture of shopping and amenities like walking trails and outdoor cafes. They want retail mixed within walkable communities as opposed to impersonal strip malls that require you to get in a car.
“There is a convenience factor,” he said. “The consumer has become more welcoming to mixed use because they are more educated about them. They see that they have proper restaurants, have good events and are dog friendly.”
He said that Stockbridge, however, should set realistic expectations on what retailers they may attract. While many residents have dreamed of pulling in a Whole Foods or an upscale restaurant to the city, Stockbridge doesn’t have the density to make that work yet. Retailers are traditionally reluctant at taking risks before others have proved that an area can support them.
“A lot of the higher-end retailers have to see proof of concept before they make a move,” he said.