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Norcross puts hold on center

Give Norcross credit for considering the possibility of a new cultural arts center - an ambitious plan to improve downtown.

But the city can't agree on exactly how it wants the project to proceed.

City Council members recently decided that for now no more design work will be done on a cultural arts center including a theater. Instead, the city is seeking an estimate of how much a comprehensive study of downtown would cost.

The city hopes to have an estimate in about a month.

This study would analyze the potential to expand retail development from basically Cemetery Street to just beyond City Hall.

Norcross already has about 300 new residential units authorized for construction, prompting the need to look at more retail options.

A cultural arts center is still a consideration. However, whether it includes a theater, where it is located, how large it would be and exactly how much it should cost all remain up for debate.

Heating up the arena

Atlanta's tennis hotbed is about to get a little hotter.

Tennis star and pop icon Anna Kournikova will play in the Mercedes-Benz Gwinnett Classic, along with Wimbledon legend John McEnroe, former world No. 1 Jim Courier and doubles champion Jana Novotna. The exhibition is scheduled for May 6.

It's the first time the Arena has hosted a tennis event.

"Atlanta is a hotbed for tennis," said Arena Marketing Director Chris Hendley. "One reason we wanted this tournament is that it had several big names that we thought everyone would be interested in."

Tickets are expected to go on sale in early March.

Bigger is better

The grandiose is back in style.

Just ask Paul Alliston, president of Dunhill Homes in Sugar Hill.

The builder of high-end houses for empty-nesters saw demand increase for unique design features - a reaction he thinks to the uniform "big-box warehouse" look so pervasive on Gwinnett's retail landscape.

So Alliston started a company that builds Spanish Cedar and Mahogany doors in Argentina, then ships them to the United States.

New orders keep rolling in.

"Homeowners have been splurging in the past couple of years, and it's hard to find unique suppliers," Alliston said. "I had 28 calls over (last) weekend."

Doug Sams can be reached via e-mail at doug.sams@gwinnettdailypost.com.