May 19

Gwinnett Center master plan would create entertainment district

By: Arielle Kass

Published: Tuesday, May 12, 201


On the heels of county leaders approving a large “headquarters” hotel at the Gwinnett convention center last month, the head of the Convention and Visitors Bureau outlined an ambitious master plan that would further urbanize the area.

CEO Preston Williams said described the plan as “vitally important.”

The proposal for the Gwinnett Center, at Satellite Boulevard and Sugarloaf Parkway, is to add a long-discussed entertainment district to the complex that already has a theater, arena and ballroom. In addition to dining and other entertainment, the master plan would add seats to the arena, double the size of the convention center, build a black-box theater, create an outdoor lawn and walking trails and add more access points to help ease traffic.

There is no dollar figure for the potential improvements, which include a new roof and upgraded lighting and sound systems.

“They’re sitting in a place of great potential, and it’s under-utilized,” said John Wyle, vice president at the architectural firm Rosser. Wyle presented the master plan to county commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioners expressed support for the plan as it was presented, but Williams and others stressed that it was only a concept. The details of the plan could change as discussions continue.

The point of the master plan, Wyle said, is to get people to come early and stay late. It will help ease traffic and will be a benefit to Gwinnett’s tax base. He proposed a public-private partnership for some development, including residences.

In April, Gwinnett commissioners agreed to lease the land for a 290- to 300-room Marriott hotel with conference rooms, a ballroom and a business center.

The commissioners’ agreement will convey the land to the Gwinnett Development Authority, which will assign the lease to the Convention and Visitors Bureau. That group will sign agreements with the developer, Concord Sugarloaf. The initial lease will be for a 25-year term, with a 25-year extension option. The $70 million project is one of three planned hotels in the area.

Gwinnett Center General Manager Joseph Dennis said the changes would help keep the area competitive.

“If you’re treading water, you’re not moving forward,” he said. “Everything we’re thinking about is to improve the experience.”