LAWRENCEVILLE - The gateways for Gwinnett's three community improvement districts have changed significantly since the districts were formed earlier this decade.
For starters, there are new roads, new landscaping and new signage to help make the areas more navigable and better looking.
And now with the holiday season quickly approaching, some of the changes being implemented are beginning to get some rave reviews.
One change people might notice comes courtesy of a new billboard visible while traveling southbound on Interstate 85 into Gwinnett County. As passengers near the Sugarloaf Parkway exit and the Gwinnett Place CID area, they'll notice a new sign advertising the locales in and around Gwinnett Place Mall and the Pleasant Hill Road area. And the billboard speaks of a new Web site passers-by will be asked to check out - VisitGwinnettPlace.com. The Internet address is a new, first-of-its-kind, one-stop location that lists details and services offered by every business in the CID.
And perhaps best of all in a down economy, the site is completely free for businesses and shoppers to use. Businesses can advertise and shoppers might just discover an online deal they'd like to take advantage of.
"We've always tried to do something that promotes retailers in the area around the holidays," Gwinnett Place CID Director Joe Allen said. "This was just one idea our board had as a way to remind people of all the positive amenities in the central Gwinnett location. It's also a place where the diversity at Gwinnett Place is highlighted."
Allen said during the last few weeks his group has been contacting every business in the district to assist with the process of getting each company's information listed on the Web site. He said 60 to 70 percent of the businesses are listed so far, and that the goal is to reach 100 percent by Thanksgiving. Once businesses are listed online, managers and owners are able to control and manage their own company content through a unique login and password provided by the CID. This gives businesses the ability to post coupons and promotions at the Web site in a matter of a few clicks of the mouse.
Ben Anderson, an information technology professional with Gwinnett Place Ford Lincoln Mercury, was in the process of getting the car dealership up and running on the new Web site.
"I think it looks good and is a good idea and it seems to work very well," Anderson said. "We're hoping to start utilizing it more with service coupons and the sales department will figure something out eventually as to how they want to use it."
Allen said so far the reactions he's had from the business community about the Web site have been positive. He also wants to reassure them that his group is out there working for them and the betterment of the area.
"In challenging times we're just trying to drive attention to the great stores and to remind people that Gwinnett Place is still the central Gwinnett location with a lot of the store people grew up with," he said. "We know a lot of tension is on the malls and centers and businesses and we just wanted to stand shoulder to shoulder with them."
Another change passengers driving south on I-85 may notice comes when they reach the Gwinnett Village CID, in and around the Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Beaver Ruin Road and Indian Trail Road exits. There people will notice the change in landscaping and scenery that's arrived since the CID announced in March 2007 its $825,000 Village Green landscaping initiative to beautify the medians and streetscapes. Those upgrades have now paid off in the form of a "Grand Award for Outstanding Streetscape Revitalization" presented to the CID by the Georgia Urban Forest Council.
According to GUFC spokeswoman Mary Lynne Beckley, the group awarded the Gwinnett Village CID the prize for creating sustainable landscapes that provide environmental benefits for the entire community.
Gwinnett Village CID Director Chuck Warbington said the recognition reaffirms the fact that the CID's work is making Gwinnett Village a great place to live, work and play now and in the years ahead.
"Each of these interchanges is a gateway to our community and we've always been and will continue to be committed to providing an environment that is appealing to businesses and residents," Warbington said. "This project is an opportunity to roll out an impressive welcome mat for our businesses, their employees, residents and visitors on a daily basis."