Park Place study: Vacant retail centers key to new identity
Redeveloping empty stores could improve sense of community

SNELLVILLE - Mixed-use improvements at two vacant shopping centers could be the catalysts needed to spark changes in an area of Gwinnett near the DeKalb County line.

"They become the family jewels," Gary Cornell said. "We really want to use them wisely. If they're done right, they will set a new tone."

The suggestions by Cornell, of the engineering firm Jordan, Jones and Goulding, to put offices, shops and homes on the sites of empty Kroger and Cub Foods stores come at the completion of a months-long study designed to foster a sense of place for the Park Place area.

Park Place, off U.S. Highway 78, lacks a solid identity, Cornell said.

But changes in those sites, as well as other improvements to the area, could create a community that would continue to work on the area in the future.

Residents and business owners would like to create a Park Place Association, Evermore Community Improvement Director Brett Harrell said, to spearhead the changes.

"If that alone is the legacy of this study, then it will be worthwhile," Harrell said.

The CID will help with some quick-fix projects, such as synchronizing traffic lights to improve local traffic and adding sidewalks to enhance pedestrian access while more extensive improvements are considered.

Harrell said the activity center study could be considered for grants through the Atlanta Regional Commission's Livable Centers Initiative, and that he would do what is necessary to ensure the study is considered for that program.

Other recommendations from the study include a partnership with Stone Mountain park to increase restaurants and entertainment in Park Place and efforts to bring high-end housing and public transportation to the center.

"Events here could attract crowds of newcomers," Cornell said. "We want charm. This could be a charming or interesting place to come."