A New Hope for Gwinnett Place Mall

Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth has fallen on hard times. The area has noticeably declined since its glorious opening in 1984 as the county’s first ever supermall. Competition from the nearby Discover Mills Mall and the Mall of Georgia, dragging consumer spending (a legacy of the 2008 recession), and a burgeoning global preference for online shopping have left the mall in dire straits. The property was foreclosed on in 2012, forcing its manager Simon Property Group to sell its interest. Things did not get much better after that as longtime anchors Belk and JCPenney jumped ship in 2013 and 2015, respectively. In 2013, so many tenants had left that more than 50 percent of the storefronts were empty.

There is hope on the horizon though. The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners is making redevelopment of the area one of its top priorities for the next year. An article from the Gwinnett Daily Post laid out two possible redevelopment projects that are aimed at revitalizing the mall and its surrounding area. Here is a summary of each.

The ACTivate Gwinnett Place master plan

  • Created by the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District (CID).
  • Puts a traffic circle (basically a larger roundabout) at the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and Satellite Boulevard.
  • Improves the area for pedestrians by increasing the number of trails in the area and connecting McDaniel Farm Park with the mall.
  • Includes aesthetic improvements to the streetscapes on Mall Boulevard and Gwinnett Place Drive.

The Venture Drive Redevelopment Overlay District

  • Created by the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.
  • Focuses on developing the area south of Pleasant Hill Road, specifically by building high-rise buildings.
  • Adds office and residential space to the area to complement the already heavy retail presence.

Both of these plans will need a little help from the free market if they are to come to fruition. District One Commissioner Jace Brooks, a leading proponent of the projects, said, “We don’t really own much property over there if any at all. I mean, we have a park over there, but we don’t own a lot of these properties that can be redeveloped, so we’re dependent on the private market to do its thing.” The good news for Gwinnett County is that taxpayer dollars are available to help. Brooks indicated that some of the projects might find their way onto the 2017 SPLOST list. It looks like capitalism will save the day again. Or something.

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drjay
drjay

wow, i had a friend in lawrenceville (pretty sure it was lawrenceville) that worked at that mall when we were in high school. i thought that place was the best thing ever, crazy how times change…

gt7348b
gt7348b

Planting trees isn’t likely to help. MARTA wouldve helped, but Gwinnett voters axed that in 1990.

blakeage80
blakeage80

I won’t say MARTA wouldn’t have prolonged the inevitable, but suburban retail and trade areas are always moving to the new, shiny trade area in the new, shiny neighborhood. I think the best Gwinnett can hope for is for a commuter college or a mega-church to move in. Malls are funny. They are too big an asset to tear down and start over yet few know quite what to do with them when they die. Georgia Square Mall in Athens is suffering the same thing. It and it’s anchors just reduced their hours to 12PM-6PM. A mall open 6 hours… Read more »

drjay
drjay

wow, isn’t that the only mall in athens? the first birthday gift i ever bought my (then girlfriend) wife was a pair of earrings at that mall… this thread is all nostalgic for me…

John Konop
John Konop

This is happening across the country, for many reasons…… Interesting article about solutions. ………..She said there are three approaches to redeveloping old retail spots: revamp existing buildings, start fresh with new buildings or return to green space. In one example, Willingboro, N.J., took a struggling commercial strip and removed one building while adding green space. A Woolworth’s store became a library, a Sears became a jobs center. A community college moved in. “They created a town center without really doing much, not spending an enormous amount of money, but relocalizing that community from what had been chain stores now into… Read more »

drjay
drjay

i presume online shopping is a big reason why malls are struggling, also they are in a fixed location, which if that location begins to struggle (the big manufacturing center closes, the neighborhood becomes a bit rundown) you end up with a bigger problem than “hey we need a new store to replace macy’s” but they still seem like they’d have their place—in the south you want some indoors for shopping in july an august, in new jersey i’d assume the same is true in january…maybe more mixed use should be the norm so all their eggs aren’t in macy’s… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Online shopping is certainly one cause, but I think the driving reason is a new consumer preference for outdoor, mixed-use developments (e.g., Avalon, Buckhead Atlanta, Westside Provisions, Atlantic Station) which offer the same variety of shopping with the added benefits of fresh air, sunlight, and good food.

And to your point about hotels… The Mall of America just opened a swanky hotel that attaches directly to the mall and has apparently been pursuing Target or a big grocery chain to take over space vacated by Bloomingdales.

John Konop
John Konop

That is a tipping point, combined with demographic changes in an area via income. When it starts to go bad, it all feeds on itself, decrease tax revenue, increase crime, decrease in quality schools…..ie quality of life. Why revitalizing is so important, it does the opposite of the above. Suburban poverty is a rather new issue. When I graduated from planning school (83), it was about revitalizing major cities. Because they have a business base, solutions are easier to implement. ……More people with low incomes now live outside of cities, and some areas are ill-equipped to deal with the influx… Read more »

gcp
gcp

Traffic circle at Pleasant Hill and Satellite would help traffic flow much like the diamond lane over 85 but neither does anything for area development. Walking trails are a waste as is MARTA because the mall flourished in the past w/o these entities. Additionally, Gwinnett Transit already runs from the mall to the Doraville Station.

It will take a creative developer or developers with a lot of money to transform this area. We know one thing that won’t work is a theme park/carnival in the parking lot which was tried in 2014.

http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/archive/little-trace-left-of-theme-park-expected-to-transform-gwinnett/article_0938f185-5710-5952-8358-036335dff878.html

Will Durant
Will Durant

It was obvious to anyone that Scott Hudgens’ Mall of Georgia would undermine his previous Gwinnett Place Mall development. In any case a half-full mall beats the trailer park that was previously there on Pleasant Hill. Regardless of the decade however the Gwinnett commission has always been in favor of approving shiny new over remodeling. How many Walmarts have been newly constructed only to leave a flea market and ancillary pawn shops in their wake? They went so far in bending over for Hudgens & Simon at the Mall of Georgia that Highway 20 was rerouted so that they would… Read more »

John Konop
John Konop

What is sad, we learned this years ago with major cities declining. If you do not fix the problem, it only creates a poverty cycle. If you revitalize, it has a positive rippling effect. …….It was obvious to anyone that Scott Hudgens’ Mall of Georgia would undermine his previous Gwinnett Place Mall development. In any case a half-full mall beats the trailer park that was previously there on Pleasant Hill. Regardless of the decade however the Gwinnett commission has always been in favor of approving shiny new over remodeling. How many Walmarts have been newly constructed only to leave a… Read more »

Will Durant
Will Durant

I don’t have all the answers. I am leery in the extreme of seeing public tax money going to private hands. (Even when indirectly subverted like the $58M in tax credits going for “scholarships” to private schools that the Republicans just resolved to increase). It is probably already too late for Gwinnett but the impact fees on new construction should be equal to their consequences to the infrastructure. It might have meant that the Mall of Georgia would not have been built but so what? The existing residents may not have had to foot the bill for a $2 Billion… Read more »

John Konop
John Konop

It is about balance and vision, not all projects are the same. It seems much of the planning I see looks like a checker moves, verse a well though-out chess match. I do agree, the impact portion is not well thought-out many times, like we are seeing in the city of Holly Springs, in my area. The no impact fee approach has left that part of the county, stuck in an endless traffic mess. We tend to move on rather than fixing the problems making it worse. This mindset manifest itself, with all parts of our life student loans, Medicare,… Read more »

John Konop
John Konop

The really interesting part of this debate was displacement of housing for the poor, when I was in school. On the right side, it was better for the poor in the long run, via creating job opportunities. The far left argued, that the disruption was not worth it, for the poor. Now major city mayors like Reed have embraced the revitalizing strategy. Now we have the far right, pushing back, claiming it is not constitutional, to have government involved, in revitalizing areas ie chamber sell-out, Blah, blah….At the end if done right obviously it is economically better for all to… Read more »