With warm sunshine splashing down on a glorious springtime Friday night, the easy rhythms of Lilac Wine reverberated through an impromptu stage.
The acoustic trio from Atlanta covered popular tunes from the 1970s and later for a few dozen concertgoers at East Cobb Avenue as part of the mall’s Electric Avenue concert series.
Among them was a bluesy rendition of U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” which featured a bass solo.
Every Friday through October, local bands will perform on what’s called The Avenue’s central boulevard, in the middle of the parking lot between the Kale Me Crazy restaurant and the Banana Republic store.
It is envisioned as a permanent greenspace-style plaza surrounded by new restaurants with patios and retail outlets, the heart of The Avenue’s reimagining that includes shopping, dining and a growing range of entertainment activities.
Last summer, North American Properties – which developed the Avalon complex in Alpharetta and renovated Colony Square and Atlantic Station in Midtown –entered into a joint partnership with current owners PGIM to manage the 23,000 square foot avenue, which opened on Roswell Road just east of Johnson Ferry Road in 1999 on the site of a former golf driving range.
Changes in the retail landscape and the desire to create a more vibrant lifestyle destination space prompted a drastic design overhaul.
In a recent interview with East Cobb NewsNAP officials said they will soon introduce changes to the site plan that require approval from the Cobb Board of Commissioners and will make other details public.
Four or five new restaurants are in the works and new tenants are expected to be signed soon, according to Brittni Johnson’s public relations manager at NAP.
In addition to Electric Avenue, the stage hosts a Comedy Live series featuring performers from the Punchline Comedy Club. A number of regular events for children have been added, and there are outdoor fitness and yoga classes at barre3, cooking workshops at the Olea Oliva store, and cornhole leagues.
“Everyone thinks it has all this potential to tap into,” said Sara Hemmer, NAP’s chief marketing officer.
PGIM stepped up beyond some of its long-running holiday-themed events when NAP signed on. In Avalon, NAP programs more than 200 events per year.
But it’s a much larger facility than The Avenue, and the NAP team started with a fall festival and Halloween events and built from there.
The first-ever Menorah lighting was a success, attracting several hundred participants, and there are plans to make it an annual event, along with Christmas-themed activities.
Initially, the plaza area was planned for the front of the mall. But Hemmer said there have been noise complaints from nearby residents after some concerts.
“That was another reason to move him to the middle,” Hemmer said.
The reconfigured location is close to nearby restaurants, and as Lilac Wine continued to play, a couple emerged from Stockyard Burgers & Bones, beers in hand (guests can bring their own food to host events but no drinks).
New Coffee Vanilla Coffee and Gelato is also within earshot.
As planning for the overhaul continued, NAP met with residents of the nearby Easthampton subdivision, as well as the East Cobb Civic Association.
Michael Saadaala, director of property operations at The Avenue, said they didn’t want the community to have any unexpected surprises when presenting the final plans.
NAP officials are scheduled to visit the mall this week before those plans are officially submitted to the county. Hemmer said that unless there are delays, construction could begin in August and be completed in the first quarter of 2023.
Another strong point, a valet and concierge service for those who wish. But it will be optional and self-parking will still be available.
“For those who want to spend the money, they’re going to get the service,” said Saadaala, who spent 18 years in hospitality operations with the Four Seasons hotel and resort chain.
He is part of a current NAP team on site that numbers four, but could grow to around 15 once valet and concierge services begin.
“They will be the face and voice of our property,” Hemmer said of the concierge staff. “They will put the hospitality component into our events.”
Another part of the redesign that goes beyond bricks and mortar is a rebranding of The Avenue, including a new logo.
A brand design guide includes messages such as “The Avenue is the mall known for being East Cobb’s everyday adventure” and “East Cobb’s gathering place to shop, eat and say hello” .
While part of the new concept is aimed at appealing to families with young children, the comedy shows are aimed at ages 13 and up.
The general idea, Hemmer said, is to appeal to “everyone who comes here,” noting that some of the most avid cornhole attendees are empty nests.
“We want everyone to feel like there’s something here for them.”
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