After Gwinnett County purchased the Stone Mountain Tennis Center, (1996 Olympic venue) every structure on the site was demolished (in 2018). At the time, the stated intent of future development was to revitalize the southern end of the county through the creation of a new and impressive “Southern Gateway”. In 2020 Fuqua Development was selected to create what had been promised to be an upscale mixed-use development on the site. There was also talk of focusing on transit-oriented development.
But the latest proposal for a “gateway” is a warehouse-type store (Costco) and some fast food restaurants. While development in the north end of the county includes a number of unique and upscale projects including Rowen, major improvements at the Gwinnett Civic and Cultural Center, (Gas South District) and redevelopment of the former Gwinnett Place Mall, South Gwinnett is slated to get a warehouse-anchored shopping mall with 255 apartments thrown in to meet the mixed use criteria.
In spite of the fact that equity is one of the county commission’s stated values, that apparently doesn’t pertain to the southern portion of the county which has consistently been treated as the proverbial red-headed step child. The current proposal for the tennis center property is simply the latest example.
Property development is largely driven by builders and development companies. While Fuqua is building an impressive mixed-use development on Georgia Highway 20, just south of Interstate 85, the company apparently has chosen a low rent image for South Gwinnett. Ultimately, what is built on the tennis center site will be determined by the county commission.
With large tracts of land, such as the 24-acre tennis center property, rezoning is typically required. County commissioners vote to approve or deny requested rezonings and in so doing, influence the character of a development. In cases where the county owns the property to be rezoned, the commission has even more control because it can specify the type of development it would like to see before selling the property. If the Commission approves the current proposal for the tennis center property, it is sending another message that it has no concerns about the quality of development in South Gwinnett.
The tennis center property is within Commissioner Ben Ku’s district. Although the entire commission will ultimately vote on the fate of the tennis center site, Ku will have a leading role in determining what is approved. It will be interesting to see whether Ku chooses to push for a development that truly serves as a gateway or simply champions another insult to the people of South Gwinnett.