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Suwanee OKs plan for I-85 corridor

SUWANEE - Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road around Interstate 85 is about to get a makeover. City Council members approved Wednesday a master plan to improve the area that will be known as the gateway to the city.

"You have competition from surrounding exits - The Mall of Georgia and Sugarloaf, with the arena," said Ken Bleakley, president of Bleakley Advisory Group. "A strong identity will create value for all businesses in the area."

Bleakley presented a plan that visualizes a mixed-use, walkable suburban commercial district, similar to Vinings and Midtown. The area, combining retail, office, hotels, medical center and residences, should be useful to residents and attractive to tourists and business travelers.

The plan shows a five-part strategy for improvement.

n Brand the area, giving it a theme. Bleakley suggested "Suwanee Gateway." Ideally, the I-85 overpass will have the word "Suwanee" spelled out in lights over the interstate, giving the town a defined entrance.

n Create a transportation grid of four roads that will lower traffic congestion by giving drivers several routes by which to cross I-85. The proposed grid includes Satellite Boulevard, Smithtown Road and McGinnis Ferry Road forming a box-shaped grid.

n Create catalyst projects that will attract desirable businesses and help grow the area, such as creating a mixed-use project and redeveloping the area around the exit. A closed gas station, a motel for sale, a Waffle House and a Starship store now occupy the area.

n Streetscape and pedestrian improvements will make the area more appealing, establish its character and allow residents and hotel guests to walk to local shopping and restaurants.

n Develop regulatory and incentive programs to attract private investment.

The plan was created by Bleakley Advisory Group, PBS&J and Key Advisors Inc. at a cost of $68,500.

Today designated Minnie Rogers Day

Every Thursday for the past 40 years, Minnie Rogers has dusted and swept Suwanee's City Hall. Today will be a special workday for her. Today has been proclaimed Minnie Rogers Day in Suwanee, in honor of Rogers' 95th birthday on Sunday.

Rogers has served the city longer than any other employee, said Mayor Nick Masino. She was born in Gainesville and moved to Suwanee when she was 12. She married Knox Rogers, a railroad worker seven years her senior, when she was 14. Rogers had 11 children, seven of them still living, and has more than 100 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.