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SANDY SPRINGS, GA -- One of Sandy Springs' best-known shopping centers since 1950s has been sold.

Regency Centers Corp. bought the 115,794-square-foot Sandy Springs Plazafor $35.3 million, or about $304 a square foot. The center includes grocer Trader Joe's, Pier 1 Imports and Party City. It also sits within the planned Sandy Springs city center project on Roswell Road.

More than 50 years ago, local residentMaurice Womack tore down his parents' home to make way for Sandy Springs Plaza. It was a forerunner to decades of development that culminated in Sandy Springs becoming a city in 2006.

The first phase of Sandy Springs Plazaincluded the Jacobs Drug Store chain, the first to sell fountain Coca-Cola throughout the country. Since then, the shopping center has remained one of Sandy Springs' most successful.

Its occupancy stands at 96 percent.

While the 1950s marked the beginning of Atlanta's expansion northward over the next several decades, the story is much different today - and the shopping center's location closer to Atlanta's intown markets was a reason Regency Corp. wanted to buy Sandy Springs Plaza.

"You look at Atlanta now and you see a population shift to the city's core," said Andre Koleszar, a Regency Centers vice president and regional officer. "Sandy Springs, with its close proximity to the city of Atlanta and Buckhead, is capitalizing on that shift."

Sandy Springs Plaza, because of its central location along the Perimeter, is also going to draw business from Dunwoody, said Scott Porter, a senior manager of acquisitions and dispositions.

Since the late 90s, Sandy Springs Plaza was owned by a partnership managed by Jan Saperstein. The sale to Regency Centers Corp. was completed Dec. 21, according to Fulton County records.

Regency plans to pour at least $1.5 million into upgrading Sandy Springs Plaza. It's going to become one of the top assets in Regency's Atlanta portfolio, Porter said.

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