Sears announced it was closing its Gwinnett Place Mall only two weeks ago, but plans are already starting to form for the luxury apartments that may go in its place.
Northwood Ravin purchased the Sears space about two weeks ago, Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District Executive Director Joe Allen said. Allen said he’s excited about the purchase, but he said Northwood Ravin is being tight lipped for now about what will happen with the site.
He said the group isn’t talking to the media about the purchase and even he doesn’t know what Northwood Ravin paid for the property.
“They did ask me to pass on that they are currently very active, very busy researching all of their options for that piece of property,” Allen said.
The CID has reason to be excited about a luxury apartment developer buying the Sears site. County and CID leaders have long viewed the aging mall as a top catalyst site that could, if redeveloped, help further redevelopment in the surrounding shopping district.
Now the stars may be lining up for a key part of that goal — residential development — to happen in multiple spots at or within walking distance of Gwinnett Place Mall.
Northwood Ravin is a North Carolina-based development, construction and property management firm that owns or has built properties in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
In addition to the Northwood Ravin purchase, however, plans for mixed-use redevelopment of the nearby Gwinnett Prado site continue to include some space set aside for residential uses.
“That’s been one of the goals of the CID since early on — to have people here that call the area home, that call Gwinnett Place home, and take ownership of Gwinnett Place,” Allen said. “Right now there’s really no one that lives here, you know, in the central core. You come to visit, to eat, to shop and to entertain, but there’s no one that calls Gwinnett Place home.
“That’s why we’re very encouraged and that’s been one of the goals of the CID is to see this area transition into a diverse, walkable, green (and) sustainable community.”
Gwinnett County Commissioner Jace Brooks said having residents living in the heart of the district can help a variety of businesses in the area, from providing a supply of customers for area retail to offering a place for employees of major employers, such as Kaiser Permanente, to live.
Luring at least 10 percent of people to work at major employers in the area to live there as well could help relieve traffic, he said.
“It makes sense,” Brooks said of putting residential developments around the mall. “It’s no big secret that there has been an oversupply of retail in that area due to, one, this kind of overbuilding of retail for so many years around there and also because of the changes in retail.
“A lot of that retail needs to be repurposed and it makes sense that one of those repurposes would be residential.”
The news that Northwood Ravin was buying the Sears site was welcomed by Nick Masino, who is the chief economic development officer at Partnership Gwinnett.
“It’s exactly what the Gwinnett Place Mall area needs, somebody who is invested, that has a proven track record of doing great work,” Masino said. “That mall is a catalyst site and having someone of this capability investing there is a very strong sign.”
It comes at a time when efforts to spur on redevelopment in the mall area have been a high priority.
The Gwinnett Prado redevelopment planning is ongoing and the CID has been marketing the Mall Corners and Santa Fe Mall shopping centers on Pleasant Hill Road and Venture Drive to developers for redevelopment.
Meanwhile, Gwinnett County has been piecing together parcels of land to build a new, larger transit transfer hub next to the mall.
“There’s been a lot of activity around the mall,” Brooks said. “It shows that the Gwinnett Place area, the Gwinnett Place location, is still very desirable and now that there is some activity there at the mall, I think it just reinforces that that is a great place. The location is phenomenal.
“There is a lot of tremendous activity going around there, the traffic count, the foot count is high and so it seems as though there is a good amount of interest, not only in the area, but at the mall now, and that’s very promising for the area.”