Power play? A proposed arena in Atlanta’s exurbs draws questions

This is a rendering of a proposed mixed-use development in south Forsyth County.

Credit: The Gathering at South Forsyth

Credit: The Gathering at South Forsyth

This is a rendering of a proposed mixed-use development in south Forsyth County.

A decade ago, the Atlanta Braves struck a deal with Cobb County’s leaders to move the ballclub roughly a dozen miles up I-75 to a flashy new suburban development.

Inspired by the Battery’s success, a first-time developer wants to build a $2 billion campus on territory along Ga. 400 that would be anchored by a glitzy arena that could be used to lure an NHL team back to the metro region.

The Braves’ move, now a point of pride for Cobb, came at a political cost. Some residents balked at the $300 million in taxpayer support for the deal and county chair Tim Lee, an architect of the move, was ousted from his job.

Forsyth County’s leaders may be venturing onto thin ice. Forsyth sits further from Atlanta’s population center than Cobb — a 30-mile hike from downtown — with a third of Cobb’s population and a significantly smaller tax base.

The commissioners of the deep-red exurban county, once a hotbed for anti-tax tea party protests, haven’t said whether they will attempt to levy taxes or provide other taxpayer-financed incentives for the proposed development.

Contacted by the AJC on Monday, the county’s five commissioners didn’t immediately say whether they’d support using public dollars to help build or support what developers promise will be a “world-class entertainment hub.”

But in statements, Forsyth lawmakers indicate they’ve bought into the developer’s vision. Commissioner Chair Alfred John said that the campus will be an “economic driver like no other” and generate “thousands of jobs” for the region.

While the public cost is uncertain, developers say an extensive overhaul of nearby roads and infrastructure would be needed, including a new interchange along Ga. 400. Officials suggest that the project will advance even if an NHL team doesn’t uproot for Georgia’s sunnier climes.

This is a rendering of a proposed mixed-use development in south Forsyth County.

Credit: The Gathering at South Forsyth

icon to expand image

Credit: The Gathering at South Forsyth

One executive told the Forsyth County News the proposed $1 billion arena could draw concerts, graduations and other events — and compete with nearby Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Fulton County and Gas South Arena in Gwinnett County.

Other details were scant and the developer, but residents were buzzing about the developer, Vernon Krause, an auto dealer whose last big real estate pitch was a 60-acre tennis facility in Roswell that unraveled after a community uproar.

In hindsight, Krause told 11 Alive a few years ago, he should have “held public hearings, gotten everybody’s input” before trying to press ahead with that doomed tennis complex.

An April 25 commission meeting is scheduled to unveil more details about Krause’s latest proposal, though he’s refused to comment directly to the media about the project.

The community will soon see if he’ll put his promise to be more transparent into action.

This is a rendering of a proposed mixed-use development in south Forsyth County.

Credit: The Gathering at South Forsyth

icon to expand image

Credit: The Gathering at South Forsyth

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