The future of Suwanee
Students, officials celebrate City Hall groundbreaking

SUWANEE - In a ceremony that has been about seven years in the making, Suwanee officials, residents and county and state dignitaries celebrated the official groundbreaking for the new City Hall building on Tuesday.

Outgoing mayor Nick Masino presided over the hourlong festivities, opening the event with a nod to past and present city officials, including state Sen. Renee Unterman, former Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Wayne Hill and Suwanee mayor-elect Dave Williams, among other local movers and shakers. Restaurants from Suwanee Town Center provided refreshments for the crowd.

"There was a vision that came out in 1999 from the city council," Masino said. "Suwanee citizens spoke, and two things became clear. One, you wanted more greenspace and two, you wanted a community gathering place."

In 1999, Suwanee had only 15 acres of greenspace. Today, there are more than 340 acres, not including George Pierce Park.

The Tuesday groundbreaking for the construction of Suwanee's new city hall building takes care of the second matter. The new LEED-certified building will be situated in the center of the city's Town Square.

"It's designed as an open building, representing an open government," Masino said, adding that the new structure will be reminiscent of an old Union Station.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of "green" buildings. The architectural firm that designed the new building is BRPH, a Marietta firm who won the project largely because of its innovative design ideas.

The two-story City Hall will have a large, arched glass wall at the front of the building, a clock tower, and a second-floor city council chamber that overlooks Town Center Park. Architecturally, it will bring to mind a train station or other transportation centerpiece, since Suwanee has traditionally been known as a transportation crossroads. Construction will cost approximately $7.15 million.

To mark the historic event, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from Riverside, Suwanee and Level Creek elementary schools wrote essays about their city. Six contest winners read their winning essays to the crowd Tuesday. The North Gwinnett High School Color Guard presented the colors, and the high school's Ensemble performed two songs.

Collins Hill High school art teacher Vickie Johnson designed a community art project that was unveiled Tuesday.

"I wanted something that would have a lot of meaning for years to come," said Johnson, who unveiled a metal work of art made up of many small tiles, each with a rubbing of an item that meant something to the person creating their small tile. Young children, visitors to the city and even a police officer created tiles for the project. "You could spend hours looking at it. There are so many stories," Johnson said.

The ceremony concluded with each essay contest winner and city council members posing for photos, shovels in the ground on the spot where the new building will stand.