For Atlantans, it’s practically impossible to imagine the Buckhead landscape without Lenox Square, with its 1,576,743-square-feet of gross leasable area at the corner of Lenox and Peachtree roads. It was one of the nation’s first major shopping complexes. One constant in the mall’s history, though, is change. “People visiting the property are quite taken aback that it is 60 years old because we’ve made substantial capital investments and improvement over the years,” says Lenox Square General Manager Robin Suggs, who has worked on-site from 1994 to 1998, and then again in 2007 to present day. With an ever-evolving roster of events, plus new retailers, amenities and restaurants, the sexagenarian center looks better than ever.
“This was considered fairly far outside of the city limits,” Suggs says of the time preceding the mall’s construction on what was once the Ottley Estate, comprised of riding trails and pastures. In 1956, forward-thinking 27-year-old developer Ed Noble purchased the land for $10,000 per acre.
Designed by Atlanta-based firm Toombs, Amisano and Wells, Lenox Square opened with a symbolic “ribbon tying” ceremony Aug. 3, 1959.
Noble’s 5-year-old daughter, Vivian DuBose, was part of the ceremony. She went on to become Noble Properties’ president and CEO, and attended Lenox Square’s 60th anniversary celebration in 2019. More than 600,000 people came to see the South’s first regional shopping center—with 60 stores—in its first week of business.
The Gulf Service station, which sat where the JW Marriott is today, made it easy for shoppers to fill up while they visited the mall. “It was full-service,” Suggs says. “An attendant came out to pump your gas, check under your hood and top off your fluids.” The station stayed until the hotel was built in the mid-1980s.
Breezeways and lattice-topped corridors are signatures of the original Lenox Square architecture. One innovative feature was outdoor escalators to take shoppers from the lower plaza level to the top. “This design was fairly forward-thinking and cutting-edge,” says Suggs.
“Most people remember the Lenox of old’s open-air corridors,” says Suggs. The first-floor common area featured all-weather concrete furniture and planters to withstand the elements. “We were fortunate enough to have had the forethought to save one of the benches through all the different renovations,” Suggs says. Present-day guests can see this photo and the historic bench in front of the mall management office.
In the 1970s, mall visitors could take in a film at the Lenox Square Theatre, located in the rear of the property, close to the current food court. “The theater remained through the mid-1990s and closed in the 2000s,” Suggs says. “Then we leased the space to Herzing University.” Now, the same space is the new Elaine Sterling Institute, a cosmetology school and spa.
The Pink Pig began delighting fans of all ages at Rich’s downtown in 1953 before it was moved to the Lenox Square location. “Parents and grandparents remember riding it when they were children, so it remains a nice memory to share,” Suggs says of the annual activity that continues outside of Macy’s today.
The Peachtree Road Race—now the world’s largest 10K—celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019, with a starting line right in front of the mall. “We partner with the Atlanta Track Club,” Suggs says, adding that Lenox Square provides a station for water and iced coffee and other amenities (think hair ties and sunscreen) for the thousands of runners from around the world.
In 2012, the mall announced plans for an interior and exterior renovation project, which was full complete in 2014. “When we redesigned it, we created more outward-facing merchant brands,” Suggs explains. “Plus, with the big glass facade, you can see inside the building from Peachtree.” Other changes included more pedestrian-friendly pathways, enhanced lighting and a roundabout drive to improve traffic flow.