The Rotary Club of Dawson County last week welcomed the architect who will be designing the retail portion of a proposed mixed-use development on Ga. 400 and Lumpkin Campground Road currently known as Etowah Village.
Lamar Wakefield, whose firm is most well-known for designing the Avalon in Alpharetta and The Battery Atlanta at SunTrust Park, among other projects, was the guest speaker at the Rotary meeting Feb. 28.
Wakefield founded Wakefield Beasley & Associates, an architecture firm based in Alpharetta, in 1980.
He has been involved in the project since the land was owned by the Southern Catholic College in the early 2000s.
Wakefield’s comments at the Rotary Club meeting centered on the main retail village component, which will be located closest to Ga. 400 and contain retail, office and apartment space. The concept plan also shows a luxury hotel and conference center, a performing arts center and a 1-acre Asian garden.
Wakefield said that the key to retail centers like the one proposed is no longer about leasing space due to the prevalence of online shopping, but about merchandising.
“We want to put retailers in place that promote cross-shopping and therefore increase dwell time, and dwell time is the key to keeping anybody in business,” Wakefield said. “The only thing susceptible to failure in a deal like this is the food and beverage and retail, that’s it. If we can’t keep people in front of them 16 hours a day, they won’t make it.”
Engaging retail and restaurants that make sense for the demographics the development is expected to attract is key.
“Every tenant that will be in this village is driven by a demographic; the population in a three- to five-mile radius as well as the demographics of that population,” Wakefield said.
The live, work, play feature is also key to making large mixed-use developments thrive, Wakefield said.
“Density is your friend if you want these things to be successful; you want as much office, you want as much residential, you want as much retail, you want as much hospitality as you can and any entertainment venues that you can do,” Wakefield said.
The project has lots of density proposed, with 2,727 housing units planned and an overall residential density of 2.8 units per acre.
A 350-unit continuing care retirement community will be located next to the retail village, with an active adult community and single family housing spanning across the banks of the Etowah River down to Etowah River Road.
A 40-acre county park and canoe launch are also marked on the map.
Corey Gutherie, an engineer who is working on the residential components of the project, said it is not going to be an overnight development.
“You’re seeing a plan for about 2,000 residential units, a ton of office space, retail, but this isn't going to be built overnight,” Gutherie said. “The benefit of this plan is that it’s thought out, we’re master planning it, so rather than having a hodgepodge of different zonings throughout the next 10 or 20 years ... the residential component will help entice folks to keep the retail component vibrant.”
Gutherie said that a Development of Regional Impact, or DRI, review process is underway with the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, and that a traffic study has identified many traffic improvements that will be necessary to accommodate the development.
“Within the next few weeks, the recommendations for the DRI should be published, which will have to be incorporated into this development, that includes improved intersections, new roads,” Gutherie said.
Gutherie said the zoning process will take three to four months and be followed by the design process, so groundbreaking would not take place for at least another year or year and a half.
According to the DRI, the buildout could take 10 years and will be worth an estimated $600 million.
A rezoning request for the development will go before the Dawson County Planning Commission at 6 p.m. March 19 and before the Board of Commissioners at 6 p.m. April 18.