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Transformational Projects are on the Horizon

October 14, 2018
This article appeared in the October 2018 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
Leaders in Jonesboro are proposing an Arts and Entertainment Overlay District, which will complement the already existing public art murals in downtown.

C ities statewide are uncovering innovative ways to not only transform underutilized areas of their downtowns, but also transform historic buildings to drive business and create a sense of “place.” Lawrenceville’s SouthLawn project, a $200 million mixed-use, urban-style development across 32-acres of property in the city’s immediate Downtown district, serves as a recent example. Slated to be the largest redevelopment project in Gwinnett according to Partnership Gwinnett, the SouthLawn will blend the city’s historic downtown with over 600 residential living units and more than 15,000 square feet of retail space. SouthLawn will also connect city hall and the Lawrenceville Police Station with the Lawrenceville Lawn—creating a walkable environment leading to the Lawrenceville Square.
 
“True leadership understands the art of listening, learning and realizing the vision of those who elected, and that is exactly what has happened in Lawrenceville,” said Lawrenceville City Manager Chuck Warbington, when detailing the preparation and planning process for this historic development.

Approximately eight years ago, the community came together through a series of public meetings and work sessions to develop a vision for the city that included the need for new residential offerings and a focus on strengthening its downtown core.
 
As Gwinnett’s county seat; home to Georgia Gwinnett College; a regional professional theatre, the Aurora Theatre; and a level 2 trauma hospital, Gwinnett Medical Center, SouthLawn only further supports Lawrenceville’s brand and gives city leaders and residents an opportunity to showcase a true destination to live, work, and play, said Warbington. Construction at the development is expected to continue through 2021, while some SouthLawn features are slated to open in either late 2019 or early including the multi-family residential portion.
 
In the city of Jonesboro, planning is still underway for the Broad Street Project. The project, which began in January with a major demolition, anticipates an adaptive reuse of the Jonesboro Firehouse Museum by converting it into a Micro Brew Pub and food terminal. Adjoining the Firehouse will be “The Lawn,” a destination zone for gathering and entertainment, said Jonesboro City Manager Ricky Clark.

The city dubbed the community planning process for this project, “Blueprint Jonesboro: A Community Reimagined.” This major plan update was funded by an $80,000 Livable Centers Initiative grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission.
 
Now that planning and concepts for the Broad Street Project are approved, Clark is spearheading efforts to draw businesses to Broad Street. He shared that in addition to being designated as one of the nine Rural Zones by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for tax credits, the city is also incentivizing businesses with job tax credits and an enterprise zone. Jonesboro city leaders are also engaging the community to create an Arts & Entertainment District Overlay.
 
“This district will integrate arts and entertainment into the fabric of downtown Jonesboro by facilitating the creation of an arts destination, sustaining established arts and promoting new uses,” said Clark.

The city is currently accepting requests for quotes for the Broad Street Project.
 
Development Fills an Empty Lot in East Point
City officials and partners in the city of East Point are bringing new possibilities to a former, used carLot with the Mallalieu Pointe project. Last January, officials helped developers Woda Cooper Companies Inc. and Parallel Housing Inc. break ground for the four-story, $13.5 million mixed-income, mixed-use apartment community, which features four retail shops on its first floor.
 
The residential portion is now 100 percent occupied with a waiting list to follow. East Point Economic Development Director Maceo Rogers remembers the city’s initial real estate investment and development forum used to highlight and market the available businesses to would-be developers. Here is where Dennis Blackburn of Savannah-based Woda Development sparked an interest in the used car lot. Rogers shared that the prime location near the East Point MARTA station was also a selling point for the developer, and the Mallalieu Pointe project has served as a catalyst for the East Point Main Street Corridor Transit-Oriented Development plan commissioned by the Atlanta Regional Commission.
 
Rogers also reports an already visible increase in property values surrounding Mallalieu Pointe and ways the city is benefiting. “Now that you’ve got development, that property is paying taxes and so it promotes and helps the city do the things that it should be doing, which is maintaining services for business and citizens,” he said.
 
When it comes to transformational development across Georgia, those who’ve led these projects share the same sentiment, that partnerships and trust are two of the essential components to success. In East Point’s case, the city joined with several public, private and nonprofit entities to complete Mallalieu Pointe including DCA, Bank of America and the East Point development entity, Roger said.
 
As for the importance of trust, Warbington shares that it’s “everything and it has been the key in Lawrenceville’s case to taking plans from concept and design to action and reality,” he said. “Elected leaders are there to provide strategic direction on behalf of the people in the community they serve. Listen to them, work with them, understand their perspective, gain their trust and be trustworthy with every step.”