Henry County is hoping to bring metro Atlanta its next giant mixed-use development by marketing 6,000-acres near the Atlanta Motor Speedway to developers.
The County Commission on Tuesday agreed to pay Atlanta-based Tunnell-Spangler & Associates $252,000 to create a master plan for the site, mostly rural farm land with a handful of subdivisions that stretches from I-75 west to unincorporated Hampton to the Clayton County line and .
The architectural firm will conduct Community Improvement District feasibility studies in the area, coordinate property owner interest and market the project.
The money will come from savings in the county’s health insurance premiums and not from the general fund of taxpayer money, county leaders said.
“This is our opportunity to show the metro Atlanta area and the state of Georgia that Henry County can get there with this project,” Commissioner Dee Clemmons said of the county of almost 235,000 people.
The proposal comes as south metro Atlanta communities are looking for big economic development projects to boost the region’s residential and retail appeal in the same way Atlantic Station did for Atlanta or Avalon did for the northern suburbs.
Supporters of a so-called “Airport City” near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, for instance, are trying to get off the ground a 320-acre mixed-use project in College Park that would include offices, hotels and houses.
Another project — the 160-acre Jodeco Atlanta South in Stockbridge — also is trying to move forward after it stalled last year. The Henry city fought an effort by wealthy neighborhoods in the Eagle’s Landing community to incorporate. The cityhood effort caused the project to lose big anchors such as Costco and sporting gear giant Cabela’s.
”Henry County is the second fastest growing county in the metro Atlanta region,” Daunte Gibbs, Henry’s planning and economic development director, told the commission in pitching the proposal. “Initiatives that achieve a prosperous and steadfast economy are essential.”
Kennesaw State Roger Tutterow warned southside leaders to tread lightly. Avalon succeeded because the $600 million Alpharetta project was well-capitalized before it got off the ground. Its success as a brick-and-mortar store destination also is an anomaly in a retail environment where big box locations are increasingly closing instead of opening.
“We have to avoid the temptation to think that because we can see a large scale project that has been successful in one location, it can be replicated in every community,” Tutterow said.
Hampton Mayor Steve Hutchison said he was surprised by the county’s announcement and did not know how yet how he felt about it. He had heard rumors for years that leaders had eyed unincorporated Hampton for future development, but nothing ever came of it until now.
“We’re going to have to start talking with the county because that is going to almost surround us completely,” he said, adding he began alerting Hampton leaders shortly after the Henry Commission meeting this morning. “I want to be able to work with the county on how this is going to help my city.”
Stockbridge City Manager Randy Knighton said the city is supportive of the plan, especially as it will help the county bring more opportunities for residential, commercial and recreational growth.
“We are certainly supportive of those opportunities as they avail themselves,” he said. “We wish the success of this endeavor.”
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