Landscaping first step to changing perceptions in Gwinnett Village

LILBURN - Southern Gwinnett is ready to roll out its welcome mat.

Bright colors and flowering trees are the hallmarks of a plan to landscape three interchanges in the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District.

The $750,000 landscaping project, which was unveiled Tuesday, will bring oak, cypress and crape myrtle trees and holly, roses and Bermuda grass to Interstate 85's interchanges at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Indian Trail-Lilburn and Beaver Ruin roads.

"Today is the turning point for the southern end of the county," CID Director Chuck Warbington said. "We're rolling out the welcome mat as people come into the county. This is the day things are going to be turning around in this area."

County leaders said beautifying the interchanges is a way to show residents and businesses that the CID is serious about changing the character of an area that has high crime rates and poor perceptions.

"From Snellville to Lilburn to Norcross and north, we're doing something for this end of the county," Commission Chairman Charles Bannister said. "This is the best step I've seen so far."

Planting at the interchanges should begin in four weeks, and Warbington said the visual improvements will only be the beginning of changes in the district.

The county's Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to expand the CID, which is already the largest in the state, to include more than 70 new property owners, bringing the district's tax digest to nearly $1 billion. The addition increases the CID's value by 30 percent and adds industrial areas on Buford Highway and at the DeKalb County line.

Other changes include the county police department's Quality of Life Unit's move into the area, which will take place over the summer, the creation of a Village Blue off-duty police force, plans to replace the bridge at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85 and right of way maintenance to keep grass mowed and trash off the streets.

County Commissioner Lorraine Green, whose district includes the CID, said the plantings will create a gateway to let people know they have entered Gwinnett.

"It's going to create a boom," she said. "It's going to put some wow into the area."

Shiv Aggarwal, the district's chairman, said he hopes the landscaping will be a catalyst to bring more development to the CID. He wants to see rundown areas revitalized and said planting trees and flowers will show people who come through the district that those who live and work there care.

"We are looking forward," he said. "We are building a home."