NORCROSS — Instead of a gambling mecca, new plans at a Gwinnett site ripe for revitalization could create an “epicenter” for young professionals.
A month after developer Dan O’Leary dropped his option to redevelop much of the 168-acre OFS site along Interstate 85 at Jimmy Carter Boulevard, a wealthy entrepreneur announced plans this week to build a multi-use project featuring a premiere business school.
Cliff Oxford, a hailed entrepreneur millionaire, said he hopes to create the first traditional campus for his Oxford Center University on the site, as part of a development that includes housing, offices, shops and more.
“This is a revolution in business education,” said Oxford, who began teaching the MBA level courses nearly five years ago.
The course work, he said, is one-third apprenticeship, one-third online and one-third workshops, which could be held at the Norcross-area campus in a year’s time.
“It’s an ecosystem of business, academia, laboratory,” Oxford said of the proposal, which is in its early stages. “This is going to attract the most creative, agile students in the country. ... It’s big, a transformational project.”
While details of the development were not available from partners at Jacoby Development, which built Atlantic Station, Chuck Warbington of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District said area leaders are excited about the venture.
The location was once one of Gwinnett’s largest employers, but has shrunk over the years with a fraction of the acreage being used by fiber-optics manufacturer OFS. Warbington said the proposal would allow those operations to continue.
The university operations, Warbington said, would be surrounded by student housing, as well as multi-family units for young professionals, restaurants, offices, shops and other attractions.
“We’re very excited about it being the epicenter of young professionals for Gwinnett County,” Warbington said, adding that he has met with the developers several times.
The university campus is the latest proposal to revitalize the site.
Just last month, developer O’Leary dropped an option to build a mixed-use project there, anchored by a video gaming center and hotel. O’Leary spent months lobbying state officials for the approval of video lottery terminals, with proceeds going to bolster the state’s HOPE Scholarship, but the developer said he had not made enough political headway to build the center in the next few years.
On Wednesday, he said the university proposal will not deter his plans.
“We’ve been working on this for eight years. We definitely aren’t giving up,” he said. “Gaming will come to Georgia, and I think it’s coming in the very near future. ... We’re just kind of giving it a rest for a little while.”
O’Leary had praise for Gwinnett leaders and said he hopes to locate his venture in the suburban county, even if the university project means the OFS site is no longer available.
“It’s no wonder Gwinnett is on the move again because they have great leaders in place,” he said, adding that he knows Oxford and Jacoby and believes their venture could be successful.
“Definitely they are very capable at making big things happen,” O’Leary said. “Although selfishly I hope the deal with fall through so I could (develop the site), if that deal were to happen on that site, I think it would be good for OFS, and I think it will be good for Gwinnett County.”