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Outdoor mall opens for business

LAWRENCEVILLE - Many first-time shoppers amid the sandstone-colored storefronts, sparkling fountains and soft pop music of the new Avenue Webb Gin mall appeared to have two things in common Wednesday: They were women, and they lived nearby.

"It took me less than 10 minutes to get here," said Andrea McNeish of Snellville. "This is awesome. I'm going to be so happy."

Gwinnett's retail landscape took on a more aesthetic and crowded look on the first official day of business at The Avenue Webb Gin, a 380,000-square-foot upscale outdoor mall at Ga. Highway 124 and Webb Gin House Road.

While traditional Gwinnett malls have either opened new attractions or expanded their most successful stores in recent months, they will face a tough competitor in the Avenue.

Its concept and location will draw shoppers from rapidly growing residential areas in Lawrenceville, Snellville and Grayson. Many said an upscale outdoor shopping mall was long overdue in east Gwinnett.

Maleikka Williams, who usually shops at Discover Mills mall in Lawrenceville or the Mall of Georgia in Buford, said "this is a lot more convenient for me than those places."

Twins Stephanie and Bethany Leggett, back-to-school shopping before heading to Furman University, said they usually have to take the 40-minute drive from their Centerville home to the Mall of Georgia.

"I think I'd rather come here right now," Stephanie said.

Developed by Cousins Properties Inc., The Avenue Webb Gin is the company's fourth Avenue project in metro Atlanta. It will be house more than 70 retailers, businesses and restaurants.

Phase I, on the south side of Webb Gin House Road, contains 216,000 square feet of retail space. Phase II, opening in October 2006 on the north side of Webb Gin House, will house 150,000 square feet of retail space.

The Avenue Webb Gin will also offer more than 19,000 square feet of office space.

Phase I of The Avenue Webb Gin opened Wednesday. A look at the retailers (open, unless otherwise noted):

•American Eagle Outfitters

•Ann Taylor Loft

•Forth & Towne - interior construction work ongoing

•Claire's - opens Friday

•Victoria's Secret

•White House Black Market

•Baby Gap - opens Friday

•Gap Kids - opens Friday

•Gap Body - opens Friday

•Gap - opens Friday

•Limited Too

•Banana Republic

•Kay Jeweler

•New York & Co.

•Natural Body Spa and Shoppe

•10 TEN boutique

•Barnes & Noble

•Chili's

•Romano's Macaroni Grill

•Cold Stone Creamery

•Osh Kosh

•Carter's

•Portrait Innovations - opens soon

•After Hours Formalwear

•A&J Jewelers - opens soon

•Sunglass Hut - opens soon

•Yankee Candle

•Gymboree - opens soon

•Stride Rite

•Pacific Sunwear - opens soon

•Helzberg Diamonds