Getting on board
Woman tries to convince city to help open eatery

LAWRENCEVILLE - Linda Nash hasn't been afraid to dream big while looking at the possibility of bringing a restaurant to Lawrenceville's train depot. The Lilburn resident also hasn't been afraid to ask for a lot of help.

Nash envisions the Clayton Street area near the depot turning into a thriving commercial connection between downtown Lawrenceville and Georgia Gwinnett College. And she can see the transformation of the train depot into a sandwich, soup, salad and dessert eatery as the first step in doing that.

But the biggest flaw in her vision is a lack of parking.

On Wednesday, Nash asked the city to buy property across from the depot to help create the necessary parking for a potential restaurant. That block of land - which is enclosed by Clayton Street, Depot Street, Perry Street and Born Street - is currently private property with several businesses located on it. Nash was unsure of the current value of the land.

The restaurant would seat about 100, Nash said, and would therefore need 40 parking spaces, according to city recommendations for eating establishments.

"Parking in Lawrenceville is just a precious commodity," Nash said.

Another option for parking at the restaurant, suggested by Chairman of Lawrenceville's Downtown Development Authority Mike Reedy, is to close Depot Street, which runs in front of the depot, and reroute traffic in the area so the street could be used for parking.

Nash said the idea is a positive start, but doesn't think it would provide enough spaces for her restaurant.

Most of the Lawrenceville City Council members at Wednesday's work session seemed to like the idea of leasing the depot, which is owned by the city and is currently vacant, to Nash for her restaurant. Finding a way to create parking presented a bit more of a problem.

"It looks like a good idea," City Councilman Mike Martin said of Nash's parking proposal. "It's just a matter of making the money work."

An added incentive for purchasing the land across from the depot is the possibility of a commuter rail coming to the Atlanta region. The State Board of Transportation is looking into a commuter rail and there is a chance a stop could be located in Lawrenceville in the same area as the train depot.

Don Alford, the architect helping Nash on her project, said the land across from the depot could eventually be used for a parking deck for passengers on the commuter rail.

While the city council did not vote on the issue Wednesday, it is going to look into parking options for the area.

It's an area Nash is heavily invested in. She's purchased a warehouse on the other side of the railroad tracks from the depot. Nash said she has thoughts of turning that warehouse into an event center.

Nash also has contracts on two houses just up the street from the depot. She has visions of putting a tea room in one house and a ladies' boutique in the other.

Adding a restaurant in the depot would help both of those ventures and Nash said she plans to keep pushing for it to happen.

"I keep asking for the same thing and I think eventually it's going to work out," she said.

The old Southern Railway depot in Norcross is one example of a depot turned into a restaurant. An employee at the Norcross Station Cafe said the depot has been a restaurant for 14 years.