It’s a grocery store more than a decade in the making. But for residents of the Moores Mill Road and Marietta Boulevard corridors in northwest Atlanta, it’ll be so much more – the badly needed fix to a food desert.On Wednesday, top city leaders and South Carolina-based developer Edens held a ceremonial ground breaking for a Publix shopping center and apartment community that will replace a rundown strip mall southwest of Buckhead.
The project was pitched by Edens in 2005, during the housing boom, but a series of legal and political stumbles helped derail a development that seemingly everyone wanted.
Legal challenges to the types of incentives used to help attract the project delayed development for years, going to the Supreme Court of Georgia. Ultimately, it required the aid of a constitutional amendment to overturn the high court ruling.Then last year, federal funds that were expected to pay for a 300-yard extension of Moores Mill Road to the planned Publix became mired in Washington gridlock.
Finally, the project had to overcome wrangling at City Hall over local funding of the road– including some sparring last year between District 9 Councilwoman Felicia Moore and Mayor Kasim Reed — before a deal was finally secured this winter.
But on Wednesday, Reed, Moore and a host of city council members and officials with the city’s economic development arm, Invest Atlanta, were all smiles.
Herbert Ames, a senior Edens executive who shepherded the project for more than 10 years got emotional when discussing his pride in seeing work finally get underway.
“I didn’t have any grey hairs,” Ames said, with a laugh. “I didn’t have a wife and I didn’t have a baby. Life was simpler back then. But life is a ton of fun now.”
The project will include 70,000 square feet of retail, including a 45,600-square-foot Publix store that will open next year. A second phase will include 345 apartments and additional retail.
The development is expected to create about 300 permanent jobs and $2 million in annual sales tax revenue. The project ultimately will receive the benefit of $5.5 million in various city incentive programs.
“I know there were folks that believed this day would never come. I know that because some of you folks emailed me to tell me that,” Reed said to laughs and cheering from several dozen attendees.
He said Wednesday’s ceremony showed the power of the community working together.
“It’s been a long, long journey,” said Moore, who recalled community planning efforts to get a grocery store in the corridor and also along Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway started in 1998.
She noted the many road blocks that held up development, but also said a key step to getting it back on track was when former Mayor Shirley Franklin turned to Reed, then a state senator, to help push the resolution for voters to decide the pivotal constitutional amendment.
Moore said the next step is finding a grocer willing to open along Donald Lee Hollowell as that community recently lost a grocery store. She thanked her constituents for helping push the Moores Mill supermarket, but asked for their support for neighbors who must travel a long way for quality food.
“For others it’s not that easy,” she said.