Ed Noble, a quiet but powerful force who launched Buckhead toward its current status as a shopping destination, has passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Noble was known for developing and founding Lenox Square Mall- a shopping experience that put Atlanta on the map in 1959.
Noble was born to Lloyd and Vivian Noble in 1928 in Ardmore, Oklahoma. As a young man, Noble was known for his work ethic as a lawn servicer, grocery bagger and eventually an oilman like his father. He studied geology at the University of Oklahoma.
Noble, then 28, packed up and moved with his wife from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Atlanta. During this time, the concept of shopping malls was not widely heard of, and the development landscape for retail destinations was ripe. With a keen eye for entrepreneurial opportunities, Noble purchased the plot of land that would become Lenox Square Mall in 1956.
Noble wasn’t from Atlanta, a detail Sam Massell, the Buckhead Coalition President who worked with Noble in the 1950s, says was unusual for the time given a heavily regional development field.
“He wasn’t known here. He wasn’t from Atlanta. Back in the 1950s, it was unusual to have anybody in Atlanta dealing in real estate who wasn’t from Atlanta. I remember the first office building downtown developed on Marietta Street by someone from out of town. Today it’s unusual for people from Atlanta to be developing something here. Many developers are from all over the country and all over the world.”
Noble dug into the project with a team of local architects, developers and construction companies to create what is now the most successful mall in Atlanta, maybe even the entire Southeast. Lenox Square opened with 52 retailers in an open-air concept retail environment in August of 1959 and solidified Buckhead as a destination neighborhood in Atlanta.
Over 50 years later, Lenox Square is the heart of Buckhead and still a thriving center of economy in the city. Bloomberg reported last year that, “Lenox Square’s success is a market-defying triumph given the trend toward online shopping.” At over 1.5 million square feet, Lenox brings in more than $1000 in sales per square foot, citing the mall’s layout as a key factor in attracting key anchor stores like Apple, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s and Microsoft.
Noble’s lifetime accomplishments go beyond retail development, making him somewhat of a Renaissance Man. After completing Lenox Square, Noble’s attention shifted to the retail industry and eventually politics. Noble’s business success caught the attention of then President Ronald Reagan for the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation, and Noble lead the corporation as chairman from 1981-1986.
Noble’s contribution to Buckhead was felt beyond retail and commercial property investments. He served on the Buckhead Coalition, the Church of the Apostles and was a board member of Pace Academy, the George West Mental Health Foundation, Piedmont Hospital Foundation and Oglethorpe University.
Massell praised Noble for his contribution to industries and endeavors outside of Buckhead’s retail scene.
“He affected not just building a center but also building the financial security of our community because his center generated not only job opportunities and new population growth, but it dictated roadway routing like Lenox Road itself, which was a dirt path pretty much before that,” he said. “He played a role in Georgia 400, though it was added many decades later. Ed had a role in the growth of Atlanta because he so dramatically affected Buckhead, especially with retail.”
Noble was laid to rest in Ardmore, Oklahoma and was remembered in a private service at Church of the Apostles here in Buckhead. His legacy left in Buckhead will not be forgotten. See more facts and real estate about the Lenox neighborhood!