January 8, 2013

Moving to Oconee?

UPDATED: At least four big box retailers appear to be leaving Atlanta Highway for a new Oconee County development.


A dozen new chain stores—including three with locations in Athens—are coming to an outdoor mall under construction in Oconee County, Coldwell Banker Upchurch Realty announced on its Facebook page today.

Epps Bridge Centre off the Oconee Connector will include Toys 'R' Us, Ross, Marshall's, Off Broadway, Pier 1 Imports, Petsmart, Dick's Sporting Goods, Best Buy, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Life Way, Charming Charlie's and Visions, as well as three restaurants, two banks and a previously announced 16-screen movie theater.

Clarke County's loss is Oconee's gain. At least four of those stores—Pier 1, Best Buy, Old Navy and Toys 'R' Us–are now located on Atlanta Highway. They're likely to be leaving, although real estate agent Charles Upchurch said he doesn't know for sure, and developer Frank Bishop was not immediately available for comment.

Athens-Clarke commissioners have been grappling for months about how to keep retailers on Atlanta Highway or fill the empty big boxes if they leave. A group of UGA College of Environment and Design students is gathering data about the corridor, and a study committee Mayor Nancy Denson appointed is working with the Urban Land Institute, a smart-growth group with offices in Atlanta.