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Gwinnett's Backup Plan For Heavy Rail At OFS? Sell To Developers

Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce CEO Nick Masino

Even if another attempt at bringing MARTA into Gwinnett County fails in a future election, the county's investment in a massive fiber optics facility that was destined to be the its first heavy rail station will not go to waste.

That was the word from Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce President Nick Masino at Bisnow's event focused on Gwinnett County Thursday morning.

“I don't believe it's going to fail,” said Masino, who is also CEO of Partnership Gwinnett. "But if it did, there are six backup offers on the property."

Masino said the OFS Brightwave Solutions property off Jimmy Carter Boulevard is highly desirable among private developers.

“[The county will] probably make a profit off of it,” he said.

Masino was part of a lineup of speakers at Bisnow's Gwinnett event Thursday morning where topics ranged from the future of Gwinnett transit to potential new developments and efforts to redevelop Gwinnett Place Mall.

In March, Gwinnett voters rejected — for a third time — a referendum in a special election that would have funded MARTA's expansion into the county. Three months earlier, the county approved the purchase of 103 acres of the OFS facility for $35.4M, with plans on transforming it into a multimodel hub and MARTA heavy rail station. The MARTA vote loss dashed those plans for the time being.

Despite the defeat, transit proponents say eventual expansion is not a lost cause, with some speculating that the county may again push for a ballot measure in the 2020 general election. Proponents see the county's demographics changing away from its white conservative roots into a more heavily Democratic enclave, whose supporters are more likely to approve mass transit plans.

“When there is a vote that is held in a general election, I have no doubt it will pass,” Lawrenceville City Manager Chuck Warbington said.

The state legislature must approve adding a new MARTA vote to the 2020 ballot, he said.