Gwinnett County is putting equity plans in place for its redevelopment of Gwinnett Place Mall as well as addressing disparities in how different members of the county’s diverse community are served, according to county commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson.
Hendrickson announced two new equity plans on Wednesday as she addressed attendees at the Gwinnett Chamber’s inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit. One is the Gwinnett Place Mall Redevelopment Equity Plan and the other is the Gwinnett County Equity Action Plan.
“Diversity defines Gwinnett. The County is committed to putting policies and practices in place that not only embrace our diversity, but also harness its energy, creativity and innovative spirit through equity and inclusion,” Hendrickson said. “Today, I call on all Gwinnett business leaders to think about diversity in their own organizations, and I challenge them to use an equity lens as they move their businesses forward.
“Gwinnett County Government will rise up to meet this challenge, and I hope that our community and business partners will do the same, because if no one is left behind, then we can truly say that Gwinnett is the preferred community where everyone thrives.”
The plans are the latest announcements in Gwinnett County government’s ongoing efforts to address equity. In late March, Hendrickson confirmed to the Daily Post during the county commission’s retreat in Athens that the county was looking to create a chief equity officer position to ensure county services were distributed equitably.
The county’s equity action plan will be designed to make the county an equitable and inclusive governance model by serving as a living document with action steps the county can follow to be a more welcoming and inclusive place. It would review the county’s current policies, programs, initiatives, systems and processes for operations to make sure they do no impact Gwinnettians, businesses or other stakeholders in disparate ways, and outline an organizational structure to handle equity issues.
There will also be a training plan put in place so county employees can continually learn “with a focus on building a common language and shared knowledge about diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Gwinnett has issued a request for proposals to look for a consultant who will work with the county on the plan, and RFPs will be accepted through June 8. The RFP is available for review at GCGA.us/EquityRFP.
“The County has taken strides to address inequities in our community with programs like Project RESET 2.0, the mass vaccination center at Gwinnett Place Mall and the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center, but we also know that there is still much work to be done,” Commission Vice-Chairwoman Marlene Fosque said. “The equity action plan will provide recommendations that will assist us in identifying quantifiable steps we can take that will cultivate inclusion, equity, diversity and fairness for everyone who lives, works or plays here.”
Meanwhile, the Gwinnett Place Mall Redevelopment Equity Plan will be developed with HR&A Advisors to make sure the redevelopment of the mall property offers multi-cultural communities around the mall — an area that is home to several businesses that serve various Asian groups, such as Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese communities — have a chance to thrive because of the redevelopment and are not displaced as a result of it.
“Our Inclusive Cities practice is always looking to partner with communities willing to tackle the tough questions around equitable development,” said Andrea Batista Schlesinger, who leads the HR&A Inclusive Cities practice. “We applaud Gwinnett County on their plan to ensure equity and inclusion are at the core of their work by offering diverse communities power and voice not just in planning, but also in the development process. The County’s proactive leadership and meaningful community engagement around redevelopment and economic opportunity is more than just the usual lip service. It will truly allow a more open, inclusive process and set Gwinnett up to be a leader in metro Atlanta’s post-COVID economic recovery.”
The Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District will also work with the county and HR&A Advisors — who will convene a Community Partner Advisory Board to help develop the plan — on the effort.
“We look forward to collaborating with the County and HR&A Advisors on this effort,” Gwinnett Place CID Executive Director Joe Allen said. “An opportunity as unique and impactful as this requires an equally unique and impactful plan. We’re ready to engage our area’s rich diversity of community organizations and Gwinnett residents to understand their needs and ensure that everyone thrives through this transformational redevelopment of the Gwinnett Place Mall site.”
Hendrickson’s announcement of the plans was heralded by other commissioners after the summit. Equity was a topic that came up often during the commission’s planning retreat in Athens earlier this year and helped shape the county’s new vision of being a preferred destination where all people can thrive, regardless of their ethnicity, race, gender, identity, religion or sexual orientation.
“These plans will align with two of our core values, equity and inclusivity,” said Commissioner Kirkland Carden, whose district includes the Gwinnett Place Mall area. “The Gwinnett Place Mall area has long been considered the heart of Gwinnett County, and it is imperative that we listen to every voice to ensure that the redevelopment of the mall – this most valuable asset – involves the entire community and gives everyone an opportunity to thrive.”
Commissioner Ben Ku said, “Our county is known for innovation, and I believe that’s only possible because of the diversity of life experiences our residents bring to the table. Giving all residents, no matter their background, an equitable opportunity to succeed in this county has the potential to lead to more world-class achievements — and it’s also just the right thing to do.”
And, Commissioner Jasper Watkins said, “Every day, we work to uphold the Gwinnett Standard of excellence in our policies and practices. The Gwinnett Standard means going above and beyond what’s expected, setting the bar high and always pushing to raise it higher. Our county is already exemplary in terms of diversity; now is the time to set the Gwinnett Standard for equity and inclusion.”