‘Project Rocket’ gets final Gwinnett approval — but questions remain

A rendering of the potential "Project Rocket" warehouse nd distribution facility proposed near Stone Mountain in Gwinnett County.

A rendering of the potential "Project Rocket" warehouse nd distribution facility proposed near Stone Mountain in Gwinnett County.

Gwinnett County has granted “Project Rocket” permission for takeoff.

But plenty of questions — and a potential complication in neighboring DeKalb — remain.

The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners gave final approval Tuesday afternoon for the permits necessary for a massive, 2.5-million-square-foot distribution center near Stone Mountain, referred to by the code name Project Rocket. The facility will occupy 78 acres on West Park Place Boulevard, just south of U.S. 78 and just inside Gwinnett County lines.

It is projected to create more than 1,000 jobs, and county officials have expressed significant excitement about its potential. But they haven't named the company that will be doing business at the site.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the vote was handled quickly and passed 4-1. Commissioner Tommy Hunter — who represents the area where the project is proposed — was the only no vote.

“No one cared to share, or ask if I wanted to know, who or what the end user was so I didn’t feel I had all the information I needed,” Hunter said in a post-meeting text message to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The complex is set to add hundreds of jobs.

Over recent weeks and months, various officials from across the county have either declined to comment on the project’s would-be tenant altogether or said they genuinely didn’t know who it was. Engineering firm Eberly & Associates, which is named as the applicant on filings with the county, has not used the future tenant’s name and has not responded to media inquiries.

Speculation, meanwhile, has focused on e-commerce giant Amazon, which has reportedly been scoping out sites for a new Atlanta-are fulfillment center. Fulfillment centers are where customers’ orders are packed and shipped.

Commissioner Jace Brooks made the motion to approve Tuesday.

“I’m not sure who the final user will be,” he said, “but this was just a building height increase.”

The property’s current zoning already allowed for a warehouse and distribution facility, but existing guidelines restricted the potential height to 45 feet. The special use permit approved Tuesday allows for the project to be built up to 80 feet tall.

Overall, “Project Rocket” would include 65 loading docks, 200 truck parking spaces and more than 1,800 employee parking spaces.

The Atlanta Regional Commission and the Georgia Road and Tollway Authority already gave the project the necessary regional approval, as long as about $15 million of proposed “transportation improvements” are completed in the surrounding area.

The entire “Project Rocket” facility would be inside Gwinnett, but developers are hoping to include an additional entrance from the DeKalb County side of nearby Bermuda Road. A few dozen parking spaces would be on the DeKalb side as well.

Hunter had previously delayed calling a vote on the project while waiting to see how things played out with the DeKalb County Planning Commission.

During its Sept. 6 meeting, that planning commission voted to recommend denial of the zoning change necessary to build the additional entrance, according to online records. DeKalb’s Board of Commissioners is scheduled to have the final say next week, though it was unclear if a denial would scrap the project altogether.

More than a dozen residents from Gwinnett and DeKalb attended Tuesday’s meeting, despite no new public hearing being held. Their concerns have centered on traffic and noise.

“That’s all that we can hope for, is that DeKalb County will not allow the new entrance on Bermuda Road and it will hinder this to the degree that they won’t be able to build the project,” said Paul Najjar, who lives in Gwinnett’s Summertown subdivision.