As Tom Miller weaves his black Suburban through half-built structures on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, the frenetic construction of Halcyon Forsyth unfolds around him.
He passes a long, green rectangular building that will be a food hall. He passes a silver, box-shaped building where Cherry Street Brewing will open its second location. Over there will be a restaurant, Miller points, and over there too. Oh, and there will be another one.
“My wife keeps saying, ‘I can’t wait until that place opens,’” Miller said.
Halcyon Forsyth is next in a recent line of mixed-use developments around metro Atlanta that aim to bring urban-style living to the suburbs, and its array of restaurant and retail options is expected to be one of the project’s main draws.
But filling the development’s more than 350,000 square feet of office space will be just as crucial to its success.
For that task, Halcyon’s developers, RocaPoint Partners, turned to Miller.
An executive managing director at Newmark Knight Frank, a commercial real estate firm in Atlanta, Miller specializes in office agency leasing. He’s filled some of the metro area’s biggest commercial properties: Monarch Tower and Plaza in Buckhead, Glenridge Highlands in Central Perimeter, Parkview One in Alpharetta.
Halcyon Forsyth, though, is new for Miller. He’s never leased office space in a mixed-use development.
“It’s a little different,” Miller said.
But Miller is motivated to deliver. A Florida native, Miller has lived with his family in Forsyth County since 2003. The county was then in its early stages of rapid growth and development, but Miller knew of its reputation for good schools, so he and his family moved from Brookhaven.
“I love the area,” Miller said.
Right now, Miller is focused on the first phase: 20,000 square feet of office space that will be above retail shops and a two-story, 90,000-square-foot office building, the first of three to be constructed on the development’s perimeter.
While several of Halcyon Forsyth’s retail tenants have been secured, Miller is still in what he calls the “proposal phase” for the development’s office tenants. He’s sending out floor plans to prospective companies and sifting through proposal requests. Earlier that Wednesday, Miller said he met with one of the country’s biggest shared office space firms. Fortune 100 companies have expressed interest, he said.
The appeal of Halcyon Forsyth for these companies, Miller said, is the ability to market the development’s amenities to their workforce. Walk to a hip restaurant for lunch, or stay after work to catch a dinner and a movie, companies can say to prospective employees. The relationship, though, is symbiotic: those restaurants and retail shops need the “corporate” tenants to help sustain their businesses too.
Miller thinks Halycon Forsyth won’t have much trouble attracting businesses to its office space. He points to the success of Avalon, the pioneering mixed-use development that opened in Alpharetta in 2014.
“What companies have to provide now is more or less the experience,” Miller said. “... That’s precisely why Avalon has knocked it out of the park.”
Like Avalon, though, Miller expects that leasing commitments for office space will lag a bit as companies take a wait-and-see approach to the development.
“When this thing all gets up and running, it’s going to really do pretty well,” Miller said. “There’s just nothing like it out there.”
When this thing all gets up and running, it’s going to really do pretty well. There’s just nothing like it out there.Tom Miller
Miller grew up near Jacksonville, Fla. His father was in the Navy. His mother worked for the local phone company.
Miller became enamored by real estate in high school in the 1980s. He saw the opulent lifestyle of a friend’s father — 52-foot yacht, private airplane, Porsche 911, home in Ponte Vedra Beach, a seaside community 20 miles south of Jacksonville — and asked what he did for a living. The answer: Commercial real estate.
Miller enrolled in Florida State University’s real estate program, and he was ambitious. Miller got a real estate broker’s license and sold houses during his time at Florida State, “for the experience,” he said.
Miller’s friend’s father offered him a job out of college, but Miller instead saw a chance to strike out on his own and decided to move to Atlanta. He’s been in the area ever since.
Miller said that RocaPoint Partners approached him three years ago about handling the office leasing for Halcyon Forsyth, but Miller was uncertain about marketing a project that had no physical space for him to show prospective clients.
“You can waste a lot of time trying to market an office building that’s never going to get built,” Miller said.
Halcyon Forsyth moved forward, and RocaPoint Partners called Miller back last May. Construction had begun and renderings were available. There was something for Miller to sell, and he jumped at the chance to be a part of a major project in his own backyard.
“I’m excited that all this stuff is coming here,” Miller said. “Who better to lease it than me?”