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One-Time Hollywood Dream Heading To County Hands

The OFS corporate sign in front of its Norcross facility overlooking Interstate 85

Gwinnett County is stepping into a once-disputed Norcross facility to propel the future redevelopment of a “critical gateway.”

The county is set to consider Tuesday whether it will purchase 104 acres off Jimmy Carter Boulevard from OFS for more than $30M. The county's Urban Redevelopment Agency would pick up the site for some $330K/acre.

“The primary purpose for acquiring a large portion of the OFS site is to facilitate redevelopment at this important location. This is a critical gateway to Gwinnett that sets the tone for the entire area and could serve as a catalyst for further redevelopment and revitalization,” Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in an email. “We anticipate seeking private sector partners for the redevelopment of the site.”

This will not be the first time eyes have turned to what historically has been an industrial parcel. OFS, owned by Japan's Furukawa Co., manufacturers fiber optic cables there, and will continue to operate on another 60 acres at the site, even after the sale.

This is the same parcel that had been targeted by Atlanta-based Jacoby Development for a 5M SF Hollywood-like megalopolis that was slated to include six soundstages, office space, a 30-acre backlot, hotel space, a film school, student housing, apartments and retail. But last year, OFS fell into a legal dispute with Jacoby over unpaid fees, canceling a purchase agreement that would have paved the way for the project. The parties settled out of court in November.

Gwinnett officials offered no word on whether the county was actively courting an economic development prospect for the site, or even whether a future movie studio campus was still in play. Portions of the OFS facility are still being used by various Hollywood studios.

Nash said the project could include some portion of a future transit project, especially as the county begins to map out a future where it could extend MARTA heavy rail into the county. This past month, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill to create a regional transit authority to plan and coordinate transit projects in a 13-county region, including Gwinnett County.

That same law also provides a mechanism for counties to hold referendums to levy a penny sales tax specifically to fund transit and transportation projects.

“It is possible that there will be ancillary uses for some of the property, and a transit facility could be one of those. However, the primary purpose for acquiring the acreage is to encourage and facilitate redevelopment [of] OFS Brightwave,” Nash said.