Mar 25

Gwinnett plans commercial district at Infinite Energy Center

By: David Wickert

Published: Friday, March 25, 2016

Gwinnett County is moving ahead with plans to pursue a private company to create a mixed-use development on county-owned land at the Infinite Energy Center campus in Duluth.

The Gwinnett Convention & Visitors Bureau recently put out a call for companies interested in developing a mix of retail, residential and office space at the 104-acre site off Sugarloaf Parkway near I-85.

It could take years to finish the project. But the county hopes to make the Infinite Energy Center part of a larger urban district.

“If Gwinnett County were to have a city center, this would be it. And it is, to some degree, already,” said Preston Williams, CEO of visitors bureau, which operates the arena complex.

The complex is home to a 13,000-seat arena, a convention center, an exhibition hall, a ballroom and a 700-seat performing arts center. Long known as Gwinnett Center, the county sold the naming rights to Infinite Energy last year.

Nearly 1.3 million people attended events at the entertainment complex in 2015. But the county has long had bigger plans for the property.

A master plan calls for an expansion of the existing facilities, including 2,650 more arena seats and a 300-room, full-service hotel. Gwinnett also plans to double the space for meeting rooms and exhibits and upgrade the performing arts center.

The plan also calls for a significant private development. According to the request for developers’ qualifications issued earlier this month, the county envisions:

Restaurants, retail shops, apartments and condominiums, along with more parking.

Offices clustered around the existing Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce building.

A pedestrian-friendly entertainment district anchored by a “great lawn.”

Williams likened the plan to the entertainment districts under construction at the new Atlanta Braves stadium in Cobb County and proposed for Philips Arena downtown.

County Commissioner Jace Brooks said the plan will help Gwinnett create and retain jobs in the area. And he said plans for the Infinite Energy Center will benefit the nearby Gwinnett Place area, which the county hopes to redevelop.

Many of the details – including the cost – have not been worked out. Williams said the Convention & Visitors Bureau hopes to have a timetable by the end of the year.

The bureau plans to select a developer next month, then begin negotiations and planning.

“I can tell you we have already received several responses back already,” Williams said. “I think we’re going to get some good quality (candidates).”