Suwanee picks developer to round out Town Center

LAWRENCEVILLE - The final piece of Suwanee's new Town Center has fallen into place.

The city announced Monday that it has chosen developers to buy the last available tract in its made-from-scratch downtown at the corner of Buford Highway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.

Madison Retail LLC will pay $600,000 for the 0.93-acre parcel, which it will use to build either a restaurant or shops. The partnership already has secured two other parcels at the city's smart-growth project.

"It's exceeded all my expectations," Mayor Nick Masino said of Suwanee Town Center.

The only other bidder was the commercial division of Bowen Family Homes, Masino said. It's offer was about $100,000 less than Madison Retail's he said.

Work on Suwanee Town Center began in 2004 when the city bought 13 acres for $1.4 million. Its intent was to create a brand-new, yet historic-looking town square to serve as a focal point for the fast-growing city of roughly 11,000 residents.

After drawing up plans for how it wants the site developed, the city sliced the land into five tracts and put one on the market.

The first tract sold in 2004 for almost $1 million. The buyer, Main Corners LLC, is wrapping up work on a 42,000-square-foot, three-story building that will house offices and shops, including a bank, a cafe and an executive men's barbershop.

The businesses should open their doors within the next 45 days, Masino said.

Madison Retail, whose principals are G.K. Johnson, Steve Whisnant and Post Properties founder John Williams, closed on the second tract almost one year ago, and it has an option to buy a third, 1.7-acre tract for around $900,000.

On the 2.2-acre tract that it bought last year for $1.15 million, Madison Retail is building two structures totaling 84,000 square feet. Those buildings will have condos located over shops and offices. Tenants include Olde Towne Tavern & Grille, a home interior store, and a high-end hair salon.

"We've really been pleased with how things have gone with the first phase and want to keep it going," said Madison Retail principal G.K. Johnson.

The city will keep the fifth and final slice of land to build a new City Hall on. That piece sits in the middle of Town Center - similar to a courthouse positioned in the middle of a town square.

The sizable profit the city made from selling the land will go toward building the new city hall, Masino said.

"I can see now why people get in the development business," Masino said.