‘Project Rocket’ distribution center could bring 1,800 jobs to Gwinnett

An enormous warehouse distribution facility with a mysterious potential tenant has been proposed on the far western side of Gwinnett County.

According to new documents filed with Gwinnett's planning commission, the proposed facility near Stone Mountain — dubbed only "Project Rocket" — would be a 2.5 million square feet and could employ as many as 1,800 people. It would be one of the largest such facilities in Georgia, and the company behind it would instantly become one of Gwinnett County's largest private employers.

Exactly who that company may be has not been made public.

Several officials with Gwinnett County and affiliated agencies declined this week to comment on the code-named project in general, or on suggestions that e-commerce giant Amazon could be involved.

Recent media reports have suggested Amazon is searching for a site to build a new fulfillment center in the Atlanta area.

Atlanta is also among 20 cities named earlier this year to the "short list" for Amazon's much-sought-after second headquarters, and the company has announced plans to open other fulfillment centers — where customers' orders are packed and shipped — in Georgia as recently as last year.

The so-called HQ2 project is projected to create about 50,000 high-paying jobs and has kicked off a frenzied competition among possible destinations, Atlanta included. The state purportedly pitched several potential sites for HQ2, most in Atlanta proper. Like other competitors, it has offered healthy incentives to try and lure the company in.

Attempts to contact a representative from Amazon were unsuccessful Friday morning. A representative from Eberly & Associates, the engineering firm working on behalf of the would-be Gwinnett tenant, also did not immediately respond to inquiries.

Even if the “Project Rocket” site is being targeted for a fulfillment center, it would not necessarily be a single one way or another on HQ2. Amazon is building fulfillment centers all over the country, including in places not on the current short list.

The “Project Rocket” documents submitted this month to Gwinnett County’s planning commission ask for a zoning variance that would allow the construction of an 80-foot-tall building on 78 wooded acres along West Park Place Boulevard, just south of U.S. 78 on the DeKalb County border. Part of the property is in DeKalb, but “the entire building structure” would be built in Gwinnett, the documents filed by Eberly & Associates said.

The maximum building height allowed under the property’s current “light industrial” zoning classification is 45 feet.

Documents filed with the state of Georgia — necessary because the project would be considered a “development of regional impact” — suggest the facility would be worth $200 million, and around $1.5 million in annual tax revenue, if completed.

The documents submitted by Eberly earlier this month suggested the project would “preserve, protect and enhance this area’s role as an economic center of the metropolitan region.”

The request for the building height variance is currently on the agenda for the planning commission’s August meeting. It would also have to be approved by the county’s Board of Commissioners.

The property is one of the few undeveloped sites in a heavily industrial area of Gwinnett.

Netherworld, an internationally known haunted house, recently relocated near the "Project Rocket" site and has expanded its offerings to be more a year-round attraction. The "Project Rocket" site is also just down the road from the former home the Olympics-era Stone Mountain Tennis Center, which Gwinnett County recently and razed.

Officials hope a developer will be drawn to the now-empty land and help revitalize what they see as a key gateway to the county.