NORCROSS -- After years of working to bring a gambling venture to Underground Atlanta, Dan O'Leary turned his sights north along Interstate 85.
Instead of finding another downtown location, it was an under-utilized plant in the suburbs that struck his fancy as the first gambling mecca in Georgia, a proposal that O'Leary launched publicly Tuesday in hopes of making inroads with state lottery officials, who must approve the project.
Why the Gwinnett location? Was it the revitalization tools officials spent years putting together to market the Jimmy Carter Boulevard facility, which houses a small fiber-optic manufacturing operation?
No, O'Leary said. Those may help, but it was really the visibility from the interstate that made the location ideal for the entertainment venue he envisions.
"On paper, it works quite well," he said of the 165 acres that will allow the OFS operations to continue while adding a hotel, parking garage, theater and gaming room -- a total of a $1 billion investment.
Just a 15- to 20-minute ride from Atlanta, a few miles from Interstate 285, the location is ideal. Plus, a proposed light-rail connection that would come straight to the property gives tremendous access, he said.
The buildings, which once house Lucent operations, could be converted, instead of constructing from scratch. O'Leary said that aspect cuts the construction time in half, allowing the developer to have the venue operational in 18 months. Well, 18 months after the venture makes its way through a slew of needed approvals.
"On that site, we can generate $500 million in revenue over a green-field site," he said of the expected $350 million in lottery revenues which could be generated for the HOPE scholarship each year.
"It's a very unique situation," he said, adding that project could benefit from the tax allocation district and opportunity zone tax credits, which Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District officials added to entice developers to the property in the past several years. "But that isn't why we landed here."
Chuck Warbington, the Gwinnett Village director who worked to add the incentives, said they would benefit, especially in terms of financing transportation improvements to the area.
"In this case, their No. 1 issue was having the building," he said. "That is a different project because of how massive it is. I do think opportunity zone and TADs will be a part of their project."