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‘Connect Gwinnett’ Proposes New Transportation Future For Gwinnett County

A rendering of a possible transit-oriented development project in the Gwinnett Place area

The Gwinnett Place Mall might one day be the site of a new transit-oriented redevelopment project. But Gwinnett County voters still must approve a funding plan to expand the MARTA rail line, in addition to several bus routes.

The proposed redevelopment of the area could result from the implementation of the Connect Gwinnett Transit Plan, which the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners approved last month, after spending more than a year documenting current transit conditions and gathering input from public forums and online and phone surveys.

Public transit has been proven to benefit the communities it serves. Americans with access to bus and rail lines save 865 million hours in travel time annually, and public transit creates and preserves 1.1 million jobs every year. It also bodes well for real estate, with property values near popular transit centers performing 42% better than buildings located farther from transit options, according to The American Public Transportation Association. 

For Gwinnett Place, improved transit options could boost economic activity in an area that already has a total annual economic impact for Georgia of $9.5B. The Gwinnett Place area is also among Gwinnett County’s densest employment centers, averaging 6,049 jobs per square mile. Public transportation would help these workers get to and from their jobs and encourage more people to live and work in the area.

From gathering information, Gwinnett leadership identified sustainability, stewardship and service quality as the overall goals for Gwinnett County Transit. The sustainability goal seeks to preserve and promote social and environmental character. The priorities associated with this goal are the environment, economic development and congestion relief.

The stewardship goal will use available resources to ensure transit options remain equitable, efficient and well-maintained for riders while the service quality goal will enhance the desirability and utility of the transit service for Gwinnett residents and workers. When rating the priorities, stakeholders and the public identified coverage, connectivity and congestion relief as their top priorities. Travel time reduction, reliability and economic development were also on the priority list.

A rendering of a possible transit route in the Gwinnett Place area

Connect Gwinnett is split into four phases and is based on a 30-year funding plan from a 1% sales tax and federal and state dollars, as well as fare box collections. The plan aims to balance transit needs with budget constraints. Three of the four phases would be funded over the first 30 years of the plan while a fourth phase offers aspirational investments and is not financially constrained.

Original drafts of the transit development plan included a recommendation for a 4.5-mile heavy rail extension from Doraville, Georgia, into Gwinnett and the area near Interstate 85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard. The long-range phases propose extending seven more miles of heavy rail from the potential transit hub near Jimmy Carter Boulevard to the Gwinnett Place Mall area.

Land purchases have already begun in anticipation of future transit options. Gwinnett County completed its acquisition of land near Gwinnett Place Mall last month. Already a major transit center for six local bus routes, the existing transit center could become part of a larger expansion.

The Gwinnett Place Mall could then potentially shrink its retail footprint in favor of uses that will complement nearby transit, like residential and green space. Currently, the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District comprises 13% of Gwinnett County’s retail inventory.

The funding plan still needs to go before Gwinnett voters for approval, and officials have called for a referendum in March 2019.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and the Gwinnett Place CID. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.