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Real Estate Developers Become the Entertainers

As cities fall in love with mixed-use developments that function as public spaces, the builders are taking on a bigger role as curators of cultural events.
Fireworks and a Christmas tree lighting event at Avalon in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Fireworks and a Christmas tree lighting event at Avalon in Alpharetta, Georgia.Courtesy of Avalon

This holiday season in Alpharetta, Georgia, there’s a Santa Claus coming to town who’s so popular that meetings to visit him were sold out by October.

That’s essentially by design: The high-budget, tech-savvy Santa display is a crowd-pleasing attraction for a multi-million dollar, mixed-used real estate development called Avalon, about 25 miles north of Atlanta. Developed by Cincinnati-based North American Properties and opened in 2014, Avalon spans 86 acres that includes 500,000 square feet of retail, a 12-screen movie theater, a hotel, single-family residences, luxury rental homes, shopping, dining, and just about everything else. It’s walkable, there’s a dog park, a charging station for electric vehicles, free wifi, and a community fire pit. Throughout the year, events in Avalon’s public spaces are optimized to draw crowds.