City OKs mixed-use community

SUWANEE - The former training facility for the Atlanta Falcons will be transformed into a giant mixed-use community, Suwanee's council decided.

The 148 acres at the intersection of Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and Interstate 85 is the largest undeveloped tract of land in the city, Planning Director Marty Allen said. It will be transformed into a mixed-use development with townhomes, apartments, class-A office space, a hotel and retail space.

Opus South, the group that will develop the $300 million Suwanee Gateway project, has owned parts of the property for 15 months and has been working on the project for three years, said Duane Wood, the company's Atlanta-based vice president.

Part of the property had been home to the Falcons' practice and training facility from 1978 until 1999. The majority of the property, 111 acres, was formerly owned by Motorola Inc.

Lynne DeWilde, a spokeswoman for the city, said Motorola had purchased the property in 2001 before deciding not to build on it. She said the mixed-use project would be a huge benefit to the community.

"We're working to improve the I-85 gateway area," DeWilde said. "We want to create a signature project in the area. This fits that bill."

The Suwanee Gateway will include 138 townhomes, 340 apartments surrounding a parking deck, 580,000 square feet of office space, 360,000 square feet of retail space including a big-box retailer, a full-service hotel with a conference center and a town center.

Wood said Opus South has long developed office, retail and industrial developments and has recently entered the housing market. The company is looking for opportunities to combine all of the uses, he said.

Ground should be broken on the project this summer, and Wood said he expects much of the construction to be complete by fall 2008.

"I think it's truly going to be a live, work and play community, once it's fully developed," he said. "I think we'll capture a lot of residents who live on the other side of the interstate. We hope to have those people work closer to their house."

This project differs from other mixed-use developments in the city because of its size and scope, Wood said. He hopes people who work in Suwanee Gateway's office buildings may also live there and avoid getting in their cars when they go to lunch. The company is negotiating with a number of retail tenants to determine who will come to the area, he said.

DeWilde said the city wanted a mixed-use project on that land and that citizens were looking forward to the possibilities. Opus South will also construct a road to connect Lawrenceville-Suwanee and Burnette roads.

"Citizens are going to be excited to see something happen on that property," DeWilde said. "It's been a long time since the Falcons were there."