Gwinnett County has cleared the final step before closing on its plans to buy the majority of Gwinnett Place Mall for redevelopment.
County commissioners voted Tuesday to issue $23.5 million in 20-year revenue bonds to buy 39 acres of property at the 36-year-old mall. The purchase does not include the Macy’s, Mega Mart, Beauty Master or old Sears anchors since those properties were owned separately from the main part of the mall.
The part of the mall that Gwinnett County is buying includes the interior retail storefronts, the former Belk anchor and the old food court.
“Redevelopment of the Gwinnett Place Mall area has the potential to reap tremendous benefits for the entire county by generating new businesses and jobs and increasing the county tax base,” commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said. “I want to thank the previous Board of Commissioners for leaving us in such a great financial position that we can take on this project.”
Commissioners previously voted in December to buy the mall, although bonds had to be issued to fund the purchase. The county is officially buying the central part of the mall property through the Urban Redevelopment Agency of Gwinnett County — which is a body made up of the county’s commission chairwoman and four district commissioners.
County officials expect the annual debt service on the bonds will be about $1.45 million. The county is expected to close on the purchase by the end of this month.
The county’s purchase of the mall is seen as a major step in redeveloping the heart of the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District. Local leaders have lamented the mall’s declining state and criticized its soon-to-be-former owners, Moonbeam, for not following through with promises to turn the mall around.
Access to much of the mall is now blocked off due to the fact that those areas are vacant. A woman’s deceased body was also found in the mall’s empty food court in 2017 and police estimated at the time that they body had been there for about two weeks before it was discovered.
Officials at the Gwinnett Place CID have long said the mall is considered the public face of the area and, whenever developers were brought in to look at redeveloping nearby areas in the CID, they often asked about what was happening with the mall.
The CID members are very excited,” Gwinnett Place CID Executive Director Joe Allen said. “We think now we’ll see real progress in redeveloping the mall. We’re grateful to the Board of Commissioners for their leadership.”
The next step for county officials is to launch a planning effort to map out how the mall will be redeveloped. County officials are looking at the mall’s location in a central part of Gwinnett, as well as the fact that it is located right off Interstate 85 in unincorporated Duluth, as reasons why efforts to redevelop the site is important.
“The potential is unlimited,” said Commissioner Kirkland Carden, whose district includes the area. “We’re starting with a blank slate. We can remake this area that is so central to our county into just about whatever we want, and we will involve residents and businesses in the process.”