BUFORD -- Take a little of Suwanee, add a dash of Lawrenceville and a bit of Duluth and Norcross and add them all together to get the latest downtown venture in Gwinnett.
Just a few blocks over from Buford's quaint historic Main Street, the city is building a new gateway, complete with a park, interactive fountain and community center.
Buford Town Park Community Center and Playhouse Theater is in the very beginning stage of construction, with bulldozers grading the site of the city's old middle school, just across Hill Street from City Hall.
In July, residents will vote on whether the government can sell general obligation bonds to cover the $10 million cost. City Manager Bryan Kerlin said officials would be able to pay the bonds back through the government's general fund, and the city's tradition of using property taxes only for education will continue.
The new park and community center, he said, would complement the recent downtown renovations and the streetscapes coming soon to Hill Street through a grant.
"I can't think of another one like this," Kerlin said, pointing to the Arena at Gwinnett Center as a much larger scale. "This is something to serve smaller communities such as ours."
The 38,000-square-foot community center, which will be two stories and match the colonial architecture of the nearby City Hall, will have a veranda overlooking the seven-acre park.
It will be available for rent for weddings, birthdays, family reunions and other events and will include a ballroom that seats 300 and a theater with 250 to 270 seats, Kerlin said, adding that the features are still in the planning stages.
The theater, which is similar in size to Lawrenceville's Aurora Theatre, does not have a professional company at this time, but Kerlin said the city has hopes for one in the future.
The park and center, he hopes, could be a good complement to the mixed-use development on the other side of Buford Highway and give recreational opportunities for families in the city's historic area.
"It's a different offering for people in the core services for Buford," he said.
Since City Hall opened in its new location five years ago, Kerlin said the plans for the community center have taken shape, with the location and design eventually changing to match the government building. While the city's historic Main Street continues to thrive, he said the Buford Highway buildings create a kind of gateway into the city.
"Hopefully, what we are doing is creating activity centers," Kerlin said.
The project, which also includes a half-mile walking trail, is expected to take about 16 months to build and could be completed by the beginning of 2012.