This article appeared in the April 2019 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
The Bowl is Sugar Hill’s award-winning 1,800 seat outdoor amphitheater.
ife just got a little sweeter in the city of Sugar Hill. The community’s E Center, an 180,000 square foot mixed use development owned and operated by the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA), features entertainment, dining and commercial space as well as a community gym and the Art Deco-style Eagle Theatre. The $46 million mixed-use development connects these diverse commercial and event spaces via a public promenade with outdoor seating, sculptures, gas fire pits and cascading waterfalls.
The E Center has attracted several businesses including Blue Landworks, a civil engineering firm, which opened its doors in fall 2018. When asked about the choice to locate in the E Center, Taylor Anderson, president of Blue Landworks credited the center for “instantly creating a true community feeling.”
Sugar Hill’s Art Deco-style Eagle Theatre
But, according to Sugar Hill Economic Development Director Mercy Montgomery, the city wasn’t always home to a downtown with experiences and entertainment to meet the needs of everyone. The vision for growth in Sugar Hill was cast over 10 years ago after a citizen survey clearly identified the community’s desire for places to build community, gather for shared experiences and spend time with friends, family and neighbors. In response, the Sugar Hill City Council, DDA and city staff have remained laser-focused on one clear goal: becoming a destination downtown.
“Everything we’ve done as city designers is based on the fact that we know people want to have a strong connection with their community,” said Sugar Hill Councilmember Brandon Hembree. “Everything we have worked to create and everything we continue to plan for is focused on not only building a sense of place, but also building a truly strong community that reflects the diverse people that make up Sugar Hill.”
City leadership has centered their creative approach to downtown and community development with the recently updated Comprehensive Plan. This plan is geared toward being more responsive to public needs and capitalize on unique ideas and opportunities afforded by an engaged community with a small-town feel and big-city ideas. “Creating the downtown experiences residents want hinges on creating unique spaces and places,” said Sugar Hill City Manager Paul Radford. “Every decision we make involves three simple principles: to consider our past, engage in the present, and plan for an uncertain future while always looking to unify the diverse elements that make Sugar Hill such a desirable place to live, do business, and connect with friends, family and colleagues.”
As the final spaces in the E Center are filled with diverse and dynamic tenants, Sugar Hill is one step closer to creating a 16-hour destination downtown.
“Investment in the E Center, infrastructure improvements, and other amenities downtown has spurred over $235 million in private sector investment downtown,” said Montgomery.
Various development projects set to bring multiple options for housing as well as restaurants, streetscape retail, and community space to the walkable downtown are under construction or will break ground by June.