Panel checks into city center study

LAWRENCEVILLE - An Atlanta consulting firm wants $30,000 to draw up plans for turning eight blocks near the Historic Courthouse Square into an amphitheater and park surrounded by mixed-use development.

The Lawrenceville Downtown Development Authority got the price tag Monday night from Tunnel-Spangler-Walsh & Associates.

The panel postponed discussion about the possible study until June, though, partly because not enough members were present to take official action.

Both the DDA and the City Council want to convert industrial and commercial land bounded by Jackson, Luckie and Clayton streets into a city center that would complement downtown revitalization efforts.

Much of the land is owned by the city and holds the Police Department and several utility departments, but they would be moved elsewhere.

The study the DDA is considering would look at what size amphitheater could go on the site and where it would sit, and what the mixed-use development might consist of.

DDA members want it to lean more toward condos and away from shops and restaurants, so as not to compete with existing businesses on the square.

Following the lead of other cities, Lawrenceville would sell some of the land to private developers and use the revenue to help fund the city center. The developers would have to build what the city says can go on the property.

DDA members were told Monday the City Council is supportive of their efforts, even though both started on separate but parallel paths.

"I think that was cleared up tonight," said DDA Chairman Mike Reedy.

The DDA also requested price estimates from Merchants Capital, a firm that would help it devise ways to finance the city center project.

Proponents say the project would benefit business owners by bringing people downtown, including ready-made customers in the form of residents who would live there.

At the DDA's request, the city installed lights Monday on a county-owned parking lot just off the square on Pike Street.