A year after the general concept was first announced, an outdoor mall redevelopment is making strides toward breaking ground in hopes of creating the “downtown” experience that affluent East Cobb has always lacked, according to developers.

North American Properties, the developer behind Atlantic Station’s transformation and Colony Square’s $400-million redo, has partnered with PGIM Real Estate to remake The Avenue East Cobb, or what’s now being called, more trendily, “AEC.”

The 230,000-square-foot retail district, located off Roswell Road in Marietta near the Fulton County line, was developed by Cousins Properties in 1999 as the first in a series of similar projects around the metro that offered an open-air alternative to traditional malls. Heavy on parking lots, that experience has since grown to feel, well, a bit 1990s.

NAP’s goal in partnering with PGIM, the property’s owner, is to craft a curated, Avalon-style experience that engages and impresses guests “through an infusion of five-star hospitality and experiential programming,” as the company says. It cleared a hurdle in late June when the Cobb County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to allow NAP to move forward with its plans, as designed by Phillips Partnership and Site Solutions.

The changes should certainly make the outdoor lifestyle center more inviting, but a full-blown, mini-city overhaul like what’s planned at North Point Mall in Alpharetta (a much larger property) this is not.

A sample of outdoor spaces at AEC designed to draw shoppers and diners outdoors. Phillips Partnership; Site Solutions

The first slate of new tenants was also recently announced.

They include an 1,800-square-foot Warby Parker eyeglasses location, scheduled to open in November; a 2,500-square-foot New York Butcher Shoppe, also due in November; and a 2,800-square-foot Tempur-Pedic sleep products showroom on tap for next spring.

Those will join a new family-owned coffee and sweets shop, Vanilla Café, and pop-up Kendra Scott.

Pre-development changes at AEC might sound familiar to anyone who’s visited Atlantic Station in recent years. NAP installed property-wide music, increased security, instituted a uniform staff dress code, regulated tenant hours to be consistent with each other, and made daily street-sweeping and pressure-washing mandatory, among other changes. 

More permanent plans call for demolishing a portion of a central building to create an 8,000-square-foot plaza surrounded by restaurants, patios, and a raised stage, where more than 100 events are expected to be held annually. Connected to the plaza space, a 500-square-foot Concierge building offering “access to resort-level services” will be built, which should recall NAP-developed Avalon.

Nearby, two jewel boxes—standalone restaurant or retail spaces with 2,500 square feet each—will be constructed on what’s currently surface parking.

How the late-1990s mall property will be made more inviting with outdoor communal areas and a revised roster of tenants, developers say. Phillips Partnership; Site Solutions

AEC remains a “high-performing asset” with several national brands, including Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Lululemon, and Sephora, NAP officials have said.

Beyond Colony Square, other NAP revival projects include Newport on the Levee in Newport, Kentucky and the Birkdale Village in Huntersville, North Carolina.   

NAP officials say they’ve begun the permitting process in hopes of hosting groundbreaking celebrations sometime this fall. In the meantime, have a gander at the Avenue’s—sorry, AEC's—current conditions and approved future plans in the gallery.

[NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect that the project's designers are now Phillips Partnership and Site Solutions.]

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