Mike Lowrey, a former general manager of the mall, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2018 that he had considered bringing in big-box retailers or removing the roof. But any change had to be approved by every property owner, and the anchors all own their own stores.
“We could never get unanimous consent on anything,” he said.
High-rise: As far back as 2005, high-rise condominiums and apartments were proposed in the parking lot of Gwinnett Place. The county has allowed high-rise development since December of that year, though none have been built.
At the mall, various proposals have come and gone. The first, floated by developer George Thorndyke, would have put two 25-story towers in the Macy’s parking lot. County commissioners rejected that proposal in 2007, saying they didn’t have enough information about how it would affect the surrounding area.
After Thorndyke filed suit, they reconsidered it in 2009, approving it in March. But that project was never built. Other high-rise proposals in the area fell apart over the years.
In 2016, the county approved a new commercial district near the mall that encouraged high-rise development. But the area does not include the mall itself.
Urban agriculture: In 2009, planner Andrés Duany worked with the Atlanta Regional Commission to consider what could happen with Gwinnett Place, which he said then “has all the symptoms of impending collapse.”
The proposals included reimagining the mall as a town center and making it more walkable. The most drastic proposal suggested “most of the grounds of the mall and the surrounding shopping centers be reverted to agricultural land, in the form of individual gardens, community gardens, and small farmsteads.”
The mall, in that proposal, would be replaced by a grand central plaza attached to the rest of the area with cottage-lined streets.
Joe Allen, the executive director of the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District, has been involved in more than 35 planning studies for the area. He remembers Duany’s proposal for what was described as a “parallel canal” around the mall.
“He put a moat around it. It was a Mad Max plan,” Allen said, referring to the post-apocalyptic movie series. “It’s as if civilization as we’ve known it collapsed.”
Cricket: In 2017, a developer proposed the mall be turned into a cricket stadium. Philadelphia-based investor Jignesh “Jay” Pandya told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year that he and partners in CricRealty Co. Atlanta LLC wanted to start an eight-team cricket league in cities across the United States.
Pandya said then that he was under contract for much of the mall. The vision included not just a stadium, but a “complete full blown, mixed-use development” at Gwinnett Place, with retail, commercial and residential components.
The project never got off the ground.