By  on August 17, 2007

ATLANTA — With The Streets of Buckhead, developer Ben Carter believes he has the formula to transform Buckhead Village from a troublesome bar district into a new street scene of world-class living, dining and retailing worthy of this city's wealthiest neighborhood.

The ambitious, $1.2 billion project broke ground Aug. 3, with a target of opening phase one in fall 2009. With four new hotels, two 21-story condo towers and 600,000 square feet of retail construction spanning seven blocks, the project is being touted as Atlanta's version of Rodeo Drive and other famous shopping streets.

"My vision for this is something comparable to Madison Avenue from 59th to 70th Streets," said Carter, founder of Atlanta-based Ben Carter Properties, a commercial real estate firm that has developed many of the Southeast's major malls, including Mall of Georgia.

In the past two years, Carter bought up nine acres — seven city blocks — in the heart of Buckhead. In July, dozens of businesses and bars that brought negative publicity for the area over the past decade closed down to prepare for the new construction.

So far, announced fashion tenants include Hermès, Bottega Veneta, Domenico Vacca, Etro and AG Adriano Goldschmied. Hotels will include Starwood Capital Group's 1 Hotel & Residences and a "green" luxury hotel brand. Restaurants will include two New York eateries: La Goulue and Bottega del Vino.

The "Village," an eight-block neighborhood, had become an eyesore in the heart of Buckhead, a 28-square-mile area 10 miles north of downtown that is well-known as Atlanta's toniest district. With its old-money mansions on rolling green lawns, Buckhead's median household income is $160,000 and its 70,000 residents swell to a population of 140,000 during the workday.

And The Streets of Buckhead isn't the only project around. The area is booming with new construction. A total of 21 major new developments, mostly high-rises, have sprung up along or around Peachtree Street in recent years, according to the Buckhead Coalition, an organization of 100-plus chief executive officers of businesses in the area.

But the dream of many such developments, including The Streets of Buckhead, to create viable, pedestrian-friendly street retail with shops, restaurants and walkable avenues, has been elusive. Unlike other cities' famous retail streets, Atlanta's Peachtree Street, which runs north to south from downtown Atlanta through Buckhead, has never sustained a successful retail scene.

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