Nash’s vision for Gwinnett: College town, Hollywood, Broadway

Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash envisions a future where Lawrenceville is a college town, Jimmy Carter Boulevard is part of the Hollywood of the South and Sugarloaf Parkway is a hub for Broadway shows and other entertainment.

In her annual State of the County address Thursday, Nash provided few details of how Gwinnett will fully realize that future, but she said the county would do its part. She urged more than 700 community and business leaders at Infinite Energy Forum in Duluth to keep “dreaming dreams about tomorrow and what can be accomplished.”

“Now, the future may or may not match my vision, since all of Gwinnett has a say in what we create here,” Nash told the group. “One thing we know is that we’re heading toward that future, and the decisions we make today affect tomorrow’s Gwinnett.”

Nash’s speech comes as some Gwinnett’s residents and business leaders have encouraged discussion of new mass transit options that they believe are crucial for the county’s development. The chairman called improving traffic mobility while maintaining existing transportation system “the biggest challenge facing Gwinnett” and noted growing demand for transit service.

She did not endorse any transit options. But several illustrations projected to the audience as she spoke showed bus rapid transit – a form of transit that involves large buses departing from transit stations and using dedicated lanes to carry commuters.

After the speech, Nash said the images “should be seen as possibilities. I presented these to give folks a sense of what could be and to provoke thought, no necessarily what will be.”

In her speech, Nash laid out a vision of Gwinnett in 2040 that builds on numerous initiatives that are already under way. She said she envisioned a future where Georgia Gwinnett College – which opened in 2006 – and downtown Lawrenceville two miles away are “woven together, creating a vibrant, creative community.”

Her vision of Hollywood along Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross depends on development of the OFS plant as a movie studio and mixed-use development. And plans for an entertainment complex on Sugarloaf at Satellite Boulevard hinge on plans to further develop the Infinite Energy Center area.

Nash touted the county’s efforts to update its long-term transportation plan, which will be completed early next year. She said other key building blocks toward the future include excellent schools, public safety and water and sewer infrastructure.

“I see Gwinnett’s main streets linking revitalized, thriving urban areas to our quiet suburban neighborhoods and even further out to locations that can retain a bit of country feeling,” the chairman said.

Several people who attended the speech welcomed Nash’s vision. Lilburn Mayor Johnny Crist said he expected more details on transportation improvements, but praised her broad vision as “lovely.”

Chuck Warbington, executive director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, also praised Nash’s speech. “Looking into the future is a very positive thing we haven’t done in a while,” he said.

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