Major Condo and Retail Project Planned for Suburban Atlanta

Jun. 16--Gwinnett County development tycoon Wayne Mason plans what he calls an Atlantic Station for Gwinnett County.

Mason, the venerable metro area developer who also owns much of Atlanta's Beltline property, has purchased two empty shopping centers near Gwinnett Place Mall and plans to build as many as 10 condo towers and retail stores over the next several years.

Mason, working with a group of Asian investors, paid $24.7 million for the 40 acres between Pleasant Hill Road and Satellite Boulevard, once the Gwinnett Prado and Gwinnett Station shopping centers.

Mason said he will submit plans for the project, tentatively called "Global Station," to county officials this fall.

Mason's early concept for the $600 million project calls for a large retail village similar to Midtown's Atlantic Station, condo towers and an amphitheater.

Mason believes many Gwinnett residents — like their neighbors in parts of the metro area — will increasingly demand high-rise condos and walkable, mixed-use communities.

"This is not just happening in Gwinnett County, this is world wide. People are moving back into an urban lifestyle, not married to the automobile," he said.

Mason said he's providing consumers what they want. "If people want an acre lot and a little dog and a swing set, we'd furnish that," he said. "If they want a high-rise lifestyle, we'll do that."

Mason is also taking advantage of a new Gwinnett County ordinance that allows residential high-rises of more than 20 stories.

Until last December, zoning ordinances forbade buildings taller than three stories without a special-use permit. Gwinnett commissioners then passed rules to allow mixed-use developments with high-rise residential condominiums.

The change sparked additional projects. Two other mixed-use developments with tall residential towers are being developed for the area around Gwinnett Place mall.

Michigan-based Yamasaki Associates has proposed a $150 million development about a mile away, near the corner of Steve Reynolds Boulevard and Shakleford Road.

Gwinnett developer George Thorndyke said Friday that he expects to submit redevelopment plans in August for a mixed-use project on about 16 acres at Gwinnett Place Mall's empty Macy's building.

Thorndyke likened the burst of redevelopment interest in Gwinnett Place to the pace of change in other areas around Atlanta, such as Perimeter Mall in Atlanta. "It sat there and sat there and then, wham!" he said.

Thorndyke's proposal calls for offices, about 80,000 square feet of retail space and about 300 residential units with a starting price near $300,000, he said. It may be up to a year before he has secured all the necessary permissions from regional planners and Gwinnett government, he said.

Meanwhile, the Yamasaki project has already come before planners. The Gwinnett County planning board postponed consideration of the project earlier this month to allow the developer more time to talk to nearby residents and finish its planning.

Like Mason's proposal, Yamasaki's plan calls for upscale condominiums. Lee Tucker, a Gwinnett attorney representing Yamasaki Atlanta for its rezoning applications, said Thursday that the two tower project will have residential condominiums starting at about $400,000 a unit.

"It's a high-end new product, totally different from anything we've seen in Gwinnett County," Tucker said.

The Yamasaki project will set a standard, but each new development may reinforce the others, Tucker added. "Our position is that a rising tide affects all ships. I don't see any of these projects being mutually exclusive."

Staff writer George Chidi contributed to this article.

<<Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (KRT) -- 06/19/06>>