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Leaders discuss redevelopment at Chamber forum

Panelists speak during the Partnership Gwinnett Redevelopment Forum Thursday, held at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

Panelists speak during the Partnership Gwinnett Redevelopment Forum Thursday, held at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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Panelists speak about housing redevelopment trends during Thursday’s Partnership Gwinnett Redevelopment Forum Thursday. From left to right, the speakers include moderator Eric Van Otteren from the city of Snellville, Mike Alexander, of the Atlanta Regional Commission, Vaughn Irons of APD Solutions, Vicki Lundy Wilbon of The Integral Group, David Ellis of Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association, and Rick Porter of Richport Properties.

LAWRENCEVILLE — Mike Alexander had good news to share Thursday.

At the Partnership Gwinnett economic development effort’s Redevelopment Forum, the Atlanta Regional Commission’s research division chief shared recently released statistics that showed the number of foreclosure filings in Gwinnett have been cut by more than half.

“Clearly things are improving,” Alexander said of the housing statistics that show the end of the Great Recession. “Everyone needs to smile back at me.”

While Gwinnett still leads the region in foreclosure filings, Alexander said the number has dropped from 19,000 to 7,000, a good sign that the market is beginning to return.

With building permits doubling this year, Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Vice President Nick Masino said the annual forum is poised to help people in the industry and elected officials learn the best practices for new growth.

“We’ve been sowing the seed that our area is the place for redevelopment for five to six years,” Masino said. “We have to make sure we have the eye on the ball (for the return of the market).”

About 250 people, including elected officials, government staffers, engineers, builders, architects, bankers and others involved in the development industry, attended Thursday’s forum, believed to be the largest one dedicated to redevelopment in the Southeast.

During a morning session, when Alexander talked about the changing demographics in Gwinnett, leaders discussed how housing options should change to match the diverse groups, in terms not just of ethnicity but age and other factors.

“We built this mindset and structure to our codes that created a suburban environment,” David Ellis of the Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association said. “I would never say that the suburban housing patterns are bad. Not everyone is a millenial … But that is something we’ll have to keep in perspective as we move forward.”

Rick Porter, who has built homes in Gwinnett for nearly 30 years, said county officials have to be more flexible to allow developers to meet a changing demand.

“I made a lot of money on half-acre lots … but it’s not going to happen (anymore),” Porter said. “We’re going to be taking some risks that the eastern side of the county will not be comfortable with. We’ve got to do the western side of the county different than the eastern side of the county.”