The center’s current convention center is expanding to more than double its space; a long-delayed hotel project appears ready to become reality; and the arena itself may get a bit of a face-lift. All of it will be happening at roughly the same time and it will be more than a little complicated.
But, officials say, it will be worth it.
“We’re very excited,” Preston Williams, the CEO of the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau, which manages the Infinite Energy property, said last week. “And we’re gonna make this happen.”
During a Wednesday afternoon meeting of GCVB's board of directors, North American Properties managing partner Mark Toro outlined what he and his team — which is responsible for the aforementioned Avalon, as well as the revival of Midtown Atlanta's Atlantic Station — see in the future of the property near Sugarloaf Parkway and I-85.
A “very early” site plan for the still-nameless development included 465,000 square feet of retail options (a space about one-quarter the size of the Mall of Georgia), some 600,000 square feet of office space and about 840 housing units.
North American later declined to release a copy of the site plan or more specifics, but Toro said he hopes to “have a relatively concrete plan for how to advance this” by the end of the year . He wants to break ground in the third quarter of 2018, putting the project on pace to be finished in early 2020.
The “merchandise mix” may “vary substantially” from Avalon, Toro said. But there still will be chef-driven restaurants, plenty of events and, Toro said, the opportunity to create a “downtown Gwinnett.”
“If we are able to work hand and glove and carry this forward,” Toro said, “it will change life in Gwinnett, as it has in north Fulton.”
Gwinnett County officials will stay in the loop on the North American project but won’t try to micromanage it down to the tenant selection level, Williams said. And that may be a good thing — because the GCVB will have plenty else on its plate.
Gwinnett's Board of Commissioners recently approved setting aside more than $60 million in SPLOST funds for the expansion or renovation of several existing facilities on the Infinite Energy site. That includes adding about 60,000 square feet of space to the convention center, as well as a new entry and additional "breakout rooms."
The convention center is currently about 50,000 square feet.
Williams said ground could be broken on that expansion in late spring or early summer of 2018. The goal is to have it completed by early 2020.
At the same time that’s happening, the nearby performing arts center and Infinite Energy Arena — which is fresh off a record-breaking run of sold-out concerts — will both receive some significant maintenance work and aesthetic improvements.
A hotel that the county has planned for the property since 2011 looks like it will finally become a reality, as well. The 300-room Marriott probably will run about six months behind the schedule of convention center expansion, Williams said.
“Now that it is all happening at the same time, I think we are excited about it,” said county Commissioner Jace Brooks, who is also a GCVB board member. “It does allow for coordination to take place. It complicates it, but it actually probably is going to end up creating a better project overall.”
Tyler Estep is a reporter covering DeKalb County, its government and its people. A Gwinnett County native and University of Georgia graduate, he has been with the AJC since 2015. He previously covered his home county and served stints on the paper's hyperlocal and breaking news teams.