Hotels that are up to seven stories tall, green spaces placed between multistory buildings, arches over entrances and buildings that contain mixes of office, retail or residential spaces.

That’s the kind of concept Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District officials see as the potential future of the Mall Corners shopping center site at Pleasant Hill Road and Interstate 85. Another conceptual illustration for the Santa Fe Mall site show multi-story buildings and a parking deck built around the mall.

These conceptual plans are products of meetings with property owners and representative of what CID officials are doing with property owners around the district.

“We listened to what they wanted and that’s part of this effort, to work with property owners, and kind of develop some concept plans and renderings that we can then take and say, ‘OK, if you’re interested in Gwinnett Place, here’s some properties that want to joint venture with you, potentially sell to you, whatever,” CID Executive Director Joe Allen said.

As part of efforts to spur redevelopment, Gwinnett Place CID officials are approaching developers to make them aware of what was going on as far as new redevelopment tools that have been put in place in the area. The conceptual plans, although not set in stone, are part of the pitch.

The CID has been hit by shifts in retail market. Big name retailers have closed locations in the mall area in recent years. At the same time, Gwinnett Place Mall has seen its own struggles with several of its retailers closing and leaving vacant spaces behind.

Despite the closings, the CID remains an economic engine that County Commissioner Jace Brooks said is vital to Gwinnett as a whole. It is home to the county’s transit transfer center that is set to get an overhaul, as well as a lot of Class A office spaces.

“We have so much infrastructure over there, so much investment over there already and it’s so centrally-located right there are I-85 and (state Highway) 316,” Brooks said. “We agree with Joe calling it the ‘Central Business District’ because it is that critical …

“The mall itself is probably the biggest weakness in that area right now because there are a lot of positive things taking place around the mall and in the greater Gwinnett Place area.”

Allen and other officials from the district announced this past week that the CID has a $9.5 billion economic impact on the county.

That is the story the CID wants to take to developers.

“That’s what we’re in the middle of doing right now, talking to developers and saying ‘Hey, No. 1, did you know?’ — which most of them don’t — ‘Here are the robust demographics for the area, the economic numbers for the area and there’s opportunity to redevelop and here’s why you should do it at Gwinnett Place,’ ” Allen said.

The common denominator between the Mall Corners and Santa Fe Mall sites is that they are located in Venture Drive Redevelopment Overlay District that county commissioners approved in 2016.

The conceptual illustrations show how the CID’s leaders see Venture Drive Redevelopment Overlay District impacting the area. The district opened the doors for mixed-use developments with no limits on how tall buildings can be. Developers would have to devote 20 percent of their property to open spaces though.

“We need that mix of uses that’s highly walkable that has a feeling that’s similar to Avalon (in Alpharetta) and is similar to what North American Properties is looking to do around the Infinite Energy Center where it’s class A office, different types of retail, probably an entertainment type of retail and then residential,” Brooks said.

“I guess the two biggest opportunities at Gwinnett Place is there’s an overabundance of retail that needs to be repurposed and then we actually need more residential there.”

Another site in the overlay district that is poised for redevelopment is the Gwinnett Prado site. Allen said developers of that site have been working on redevelopment plans, but they are not yet ready to talk publicly about their plans.

The CID has other plans — such as its ACTivate Gwinnett Place plan — that are designed to promote walkability. Examples from the ACTivate Gwinnett Place plan include green spaces and walking connections between the mall and McDaniel Farm Park.

“Our vision is that internationally diverse, walkable, dense green mixed-use type of development,” Allen said. “That area was very successful. What Scott Hudgens saw years ago back in the early 80’s or later 70’s, that hasn’t changed. It’s still a strong strategic location, but now we’ve got great infrastructure and we’ve got all of these great numbers.

“It’s time to come in and scrape some things off and do something different, just as he did something different 30-plus years ago.”

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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