by Sophia Jactel
Among the main draws of a major metropolitan city, retail options are a big contender. Ask any Atlantan where to go for a luxury shopping experience in town and there’s a high chance that they’ll mention Phipps Plaza. The high-end mall has been famous since its establishment nearly 50 years ago for its name-brand retailers and opulent offerings. Residents from all over the metro area — especially Buckhead, where Phipps is located — flock to this destination to shop, dine and hang out with friends. But it wasn’t too long ago that the site was due for a facelift — even the nicest things need updates sometimes. Since April of 2014, major renovations have been under way to revamp and refurbish both its facade and interior.
“The nature of retail is changing,” explains Eric Howard, the new mall manager, as we tour the space. “It’s less about the transaction and more about the experience. We want to maintain the legacy of Phipps but bring it into the 21st century. The high level of service is something that we want to preserve — we also want to be guardians of Phipps’ modern classic aesthetic.” In short, it isn’t transforming into something completely new, it’s simply getting a makeover. Specific stores such as Herve Leger, Elie Tahari and Nicole Miller will be moving around within the mall to larger spaces to create flagship establishments, while new stores like Ticknor’s Men’s Clothier and Rigby & Peller are being introduced. The main anchor department stores — Saks Fifth Avenue (the only one in Atlanta), Belk, Nordstrom — are staying put. Strolling through the halls, director of marketing Leslie Bland pointed out the upgrades: new floor tiling, over 1,000 new LED light fixtures (which have resulted in a whopping 34 percent reduction in energy costs), new marble columns and new seating in the common areas. Changing brass to brushed stainless steel finishings, replacing chandeliers, modernizing the outside design, all while keeping Southern touches like the double staircase in the entrance reminiscent of a traditional plantation home, is the recipe to this transformation: refreshed and light. “The space is so much more open and illuminated,” Bland comments.
The inspiration of the remodel stems from the changing demographic of the area as a whole. “We had to really think about Buckhead and the changes it’s undergoing as a neighborhood with major urbanization and a transition into a more European way of life incorporating master communities where you can work, shop and live all in one place,” Howard continues. He’s referring to the AC Hotel, a European establishment going up on the corner of Peachtree and Wieuca, and to the Domain at Phipps, a residential community development called Plaza that is also going up right beside the mall in conjunction with its renovation. The whole idea is to allow for people to have their work, home and shopping all in one place — and in walking distance from one another, which is key considering the infamous bottleneck traffic around that area. “Commuters often have a difficult time accessing Phipps because of the terrible jams on this section of Peachtree. The mixed-use lifestyle we are creating here at Phipps is attractive to newcomers and young professionals in the city, and will hopefully promote a more active lifestyle that reduces the number of cars on the road,” he adds.
These two additions are not only going to bring in revenue and exposure to the mall, but also make the Plaza a trendy hangout: “Phipps isn’t only a shopping destination but a place to gather in the community.” And what’s a gathering without food? Multiple new restaurants will be popping up in addition to long-time favorites Davio’s and The Tavern.
Some will feature James-Beard nominated chefs and menus (the official partners should be announced before summer). “It’s fine dining with a Southern flare,” Howard says to illustrate the new eateries offering refined gastronomy while maintaining a strong tether to local roots. The development of additional outdoor patio seating will be appropriate for the pleasant spring and summer days to come.
But in the end, it all boils down to one thing: There’s no other high-end shopping center like it in the city, and that’s why it’s so special. “It’s the luxury that sets us apart,” Howard affirmed at the end of the visit. It’s the only place where your summer collection Louis Vuitton tote, Guiseppe Zanotti killer stilletos and Tiffany and Co. double-strand pearls can be found within steps of each other. Designer junkies rejoice!
3500 Peachtree Rd NE