Study starts
for stadium mixed-use development

LAWRENCEVILLE - Despite an expected March groundbreaking date for a new stadium for the Gwinnett Braves, a development review process that could take several months has just gotten under way.

Brand Properties and the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau filed a Development of Regional Impact application Tuesday for the proposed mixed-use project that will include 250 hotel rooms, 1,600 townhomes or condominiums, 280,000 square feet of retail space and 910,000 square feet of office space, in addition to the 10,000-seat stadium.

Haley Fleming, a principal planner for the Atlanta Regional Commission, said representatives from the ARC will meet Monday with the applicant and officials from Gwinnett County, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in a preapplication hearing to discuss the project.

Before review of the mixed-use development begins, though, Brand Properties and the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau must submit a second form, with more complete project details such as a master plan and a traffic study, to the state Department of Community Affairs.

Fleming said the traffic study alone usually takes about six weeks to complete. After it is done, she said, the organizations determining the development's impact begin a review process that takes a month or more.

Fleming said the whole process can take up to five months. No one has asked that the review be expedited.

"We know they're under a tight schedule," Fleming said.

Preston Williams, the general manager of the Arena at Gwinnett Center who is leading the AAA baseball project, said he is not worried about the review process, which he said is standard.

"I don't see any big red flags," he said. "It's more informational than anything else, just making sure we consider all the thoughts and the implications."

Brand Morgan, who will be developing the mixed-use center on 105 acres of land on Buford Drive south of the Mall of Georgia, said it should be two weeks before the stadium's plans are solidified and four weeks before the other components come together. But land is already being cleared on the site.

"We have a vision, but we have nothing concrete," Morgan said.

Kathy Holland, the county's development director, said no plans had yet been submitted to the county and she had no idea when she might see them.

The first phase of the project, which includes the AAA stadium and some retail space, can begin construction for an April 2009 opening date as soon as the review process is completed, Morgan said. The second phase, which will include the office and retail components, will need to be rezoned by the county for a mixed-use development.

The whole project should be finished in 2020, Morgan said.

Morgan said he has gotten calls from several hotels and retailers who are interested in locating on the property.

"There's no rush," he said. "There's plenty to work on in the meantime."

Earlier this week, Williams named HKS Architects and Barton Malow Company as the design and building teams for the $45 million stadium. Barton Malow Company also worked on Turner Field, Baltimore's Camden Yards and Coors Stadium in Denver, while HKS Architects played a key role in the construction of Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas.

Richard Tucker, chairman of the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Center Board, said it will be several weeks before design choices for the stadium are available.

Morgan, who grew up on the property, said he has already begun to develop it with industrial parks and some residences. He will also break ground on an apartment complex in the next six months.

The addition of the stadium to the development will provide an economic generator and a high-end live-work-play community to the area, Morgan said.

"We're very excited, we're moving very quickly," he said. "In the short term, it's going to be a Forum or an Avenue. In the long term, it's going to be Atlantic Station."

Senior Writer Camie Young contributed to this story.