Gwinnett Place Mall will be subject of $220K regional study

Gwinnett Place Mall will be the subject of a study to determine its future. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com) AJC FILE PHOTO

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Gwinnett Place Mall will be the subject of a study to determine its future. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com) AJC FILE PHOTO

A suburban mall that was just purchased by Gwinnett County commissioners will be the subject of a study to determine how the area might be redeveloped.

The Atlanta Regional Commission is funding a $220,000 study of the Gwinnett Place Mall area, which has long been seen as a default downtown for the county. The mall, which opened in 1984, has fallen into disrepair in recent years.

Gwinnett’s Urban Redevelopment Agency closed on its purchase of Gwinnett Place earlier this month.

The study, known as the Livable Centers Initiative, will be used to solicit community input about the mall’s future, as well as look at how transit could be integrated into the plan.

“It allows us to really do a deep dive about what can be successful,” said Joe Allen, executive director of the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District. “It’s a chance to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, see what could be successful.”

Gwinnett Place has been the subject of other studies over the years, said Jared Lombard, the LCI program manager for the Atlanta Regional Commission. But this time is different, Allen said, because the county owns the property and has the ability to make decisions.

ExploreDecember 2020: What has been proposed at Gwinnett Place Mall?

Lombard said the study will be one of the first opportunities for public engagement since the mall purchase was announced.

“What is the future to be?” he said, adding that the study could serve as a guide for other aging malls around the region. “We’re really looking forward to seeing what the final results will be.”

The county’s $23 million purchase includes 39 acres of the mall’s interior, but does not include anchor tenants Macy’s, Mega Mart and Beauty Master which own their own property and will continue to operate.

Joe Sorenson, a Gwinnett County spokesperson, said interior access to the mall has been blocked and all interior leases have ended. Rick Case Dealership is leasing some of the parking lot. That lease expires this month, but can be renewed for another 30 days. Spectra Site Communications has a tower lease that expires in 2025.

Paramount Pictures has an agreement to film at the mall beginning in the next 30 days, Sorenson said.

The study will begin this summer and is expected to finish in the fall of 2022.

Sam Shenbaga, managing director of the Community Development group at the ARC, said the group intends to reimagine Gwinnett Place to make the area more economically competitive and attractive. Bus Rapid Transit will be part of the study.

Shenbaga said it was a “unique opportunity” for what will be a key site in the county. He and others expect a mixed-use development with green space, but Shenbaga said he doesn’t “want to presume what the outcome is going to be.”

The goal is to engage diverse members of the community to add a range of viewpoints, he said.

“If they come back and say, hey, we want to do another mall? That’s not what we’re trying to accomplish,” Shenbaga said.

The Sugarloaf Community Improvement District in Gwinnett County also received a $100,000 grant to study Bus Rapid Transit at Sugarloaf Mall and multimodal connection to the Infinite Energy Center. And the Lilburn Community Improvement District received $120,000 to develop a walkable downtown in Old Town Lilburn and to promote diverse housing options.