Wanted: Developers with ideas for Gwinnett’s old Olympic tennis site

For the better part of two decades, the Stone Mountain Tennis Center — the Gwinnett County complex where racket-twirling stars did battle during the 1996 Olympics — quietly crumbled.

Left empty and largely abandoned after the Games, chain-link fences, weed-cracked asphalt and disintegrating bricks and mortar became characteristic features of the very visible property alongside U.S. 78.

Gwinnett acquired the 26-acre plot in a 2016 land swap and, less than a year later, tore everything down.

Clean slate in hand, the county is now looking for developers who can breathe new life into the property — and create what it envisions as a new “southern gateway” into Gwinnett.

Gwinnett Commission Chair Charlotte Nash said the county is hoping for “an innovative mixed-use development.”

“We want to see a development that uses to full advantage the unique features of the area around the site,” Nash said. “And we are looking for a project that spurs redevelopment of other nearby properties to create the type of community this area of Gwinnett deserves.”

Last week, Gwinnett County issued a formal "request for information" regarding the property — an open call for developers to submit proposals for the former tennis venue's redevelopment. The range of potential projects on the site was left largely open-ended but, as suggested by Nash and as phrased in documents accompanying the request, the county is dreaming of  "a signature development that will have a halo effect on the surrounding area."

Documents suggest the county would be “supportive of development on the site that incorporates a mix of transformative uses including retail, entertainment, hotel, office or residential.”

Should the interest — and the right project — be there, the county is willing to negotiate the sale or lease of the tennis center property, documents said.

The U.S. 78 corridor where the Olympic venue once sat has seen a few recent wins in its ongoing revitalization efforts. They include the relocation of the world-famous Netherworld Haunted House and the recent announcement that e-commerce giant Amazon plans to build a 1,000-job distribution facility nearby.

Officials see the tennis center site as the next big step.

The relatively unique process Gwinnett is undertaking to spark the tennis center’s redevelopment is also likely to inform how the county proceeds with other key pieces of property it owns — namely the 100-plus-acre site purchased near Norcross late last year.

The property Gwinnett purchased from fiber optic company OFS Fitel sits near I-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard and has been targeted for a potential transit hub (though that vision was complicated by the failure of the county's March referendum on joining MARTA).

Regardless of its transit future, the county believes the property — which it bought for about $35 million, financed at 3.9 percent over 20 years — could be the catalyst site that sparks that area's revitalization.

If the tennis center process produces a favorable result, the county is likely to use a similar one to solicit project proposals of the OFS property.

“The timing of the process for the OFS site will be based on our sense of market interest that will result in the best overall outcome for the county,” Nash said.