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Company can move ahead with OFS plan

Preferred Real Estate Investments can move forward with its plans to reshape 75 acres of weedy parking lots, empty industrial buildings and idle railroad tracks into seven-story condos, shopping centers and a hotel as large as any in Gwinnett County.

It may not be the next Atlantic Station, but if the Pennsylvania company is allowed to redevelop the mostly abandoned part of a Norcross fiber optic plant the project may spur new real estate investment in the area.

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners gave unanimous approval Tuesday to treat the plans as a "mixed-use redevelopment." The move doesn't mean Preferred can crank up bulldozers yet, but it at least opens the door for public hearings on the plans later this year.

"The Board essentially said this has merit, and it's telling (Preferred) to 'proceed and let us know exactly what you plan to do,'" County Planning Director Mike Williams said.

The project gets the "redevelopment" tag because it's a makeover for part of the OFS plan, which makes optical fiber on a giant manufacturing campus at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85.

Preferred has a contract to buy a little more than one-third of the campus, which once housed the space and resources to make copper wire for telephone communication. Today, in the era of fiber optics, this part of the plant is no longer needed.

More Norcross

redevelopment

That's not the only improvements slated for greater Norcross.

Board members with the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District voted 5-0 to raise the tax rate in their district. The 5-mill increase will generate an extra $1.3 million in tax revenues this year from property owners. The money will pay for extra security, including off-duty policemen, landscaping and studies into transportation upgrades.

CID Chuck Warbington told business leaders at a Chamber of Commerce meeting Friday that security was the No. 1 priority in Gwinnett Village. Fears of crime have driven some business from the once-thriving business district between Indian Trail Road and Jimmy Carter Boulevard.

Warbington did say the crime rate has dropped in recent months and thinks forming the CID played a role.

Local company fined by feds

Federal officials have their eye on a local company accused of unsafe working conditions.

Bengal Enterprises was fined $41,300 for exposing employees to several trenching hazards at an Atlanta construction site, including allowing workers to install sewer lines in a 10-foot deep trench that was not protected from a cave-in.

Bengal Enterprises has 15 working days to contest the citations and penalties.

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