Henry County closing in on site for convention center, arena

Hampton is home to some of Henry County’s biggest attractions, including Nash Farm and Atlanta Motor Speedway. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

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Hampton is home to some of Henry County’s biggest attractions, including Nash Farm and Atlanta Motor Speedway. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Henry County officials say they have a new site for a planned convention center and arena .

The new location comes three months after efforts to annex land in Stockbridge erupted in controversy.

Henry is working on a public-private partnership with Peachtree Corners developer Forest Development Group, Inc. to build the center in a mixed-use development off I-75 near I-675.

Forest Development will donate 80 acres for the building and is conducting a feasibility study with the county on the project to determine what type of road infrastructure would be necessary and whether trails could be installed to connect convention visitors to the county’s path system.

“This will be a regional project that will have a tremendous direct and indirect impact on creating an entirely new cultural atmosphere and sense of place that will attract talent to our communities,” said Henry Commissioner Bruce Holmes.

The identification of a new site comes after Stockbridge leaders in January balked at a Henry Commission plan to annex a portion of a 160-acre mixed-use development site in Stockbridge dubbed Jodeco Atlanta South for the convention center and arena.

Stockbridge leaders, who had just defeated an effort by Eagle’s Landing residents to create their own city by de-annexing half of Stockbridge, were in no mood to allow another takeover of its land.

"Over my dead body, you're not going to get it," Stockbridge Mayor Anthony Ford told the commission at a January meeting. "So this is a moot point."

Henry's push for the convention center also comes as the county of more than 235,000 is trying to leverage its burgeoning growth into attracting more businesses to the county.

While it has been successful in obtaining manufacturing and logistics jobs, it’s also hoping to grow as a tourism destination.

In 2017, Henry — home of the Atlanta Motor Speedway and Nash Farm — pulled in about $283 million in tourism spending, Laura Luker, director of tourism for the Henry County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said at a Henry Commission meeting earlier this month. That spending translated in the collection of almost $8 million in sales taxes and created around 2,600 jobs.

The Henry Zoning Advisory Board will discuss the new development and the convention center on May 9. If approved, it will go to the Henry County Board of Commissioners for a final decision.

"This site was recently slated to be a warehouse community, however in an effort to diversify and pivot away from those types of developments, we were able to convince the developer to come up with a plan better suited for Stockbridge and citizens along the I-75 corridor ensuring best use and benefit for all Henry County citizens," Holmes said.