THE EXPANSION OF SUWANEE TOWN CENTER
Big things are happening around Suwanee! Citizens have noticed some dirt moved, trees coming down and general construction activity around downtown and Suwanee Town Center. The city asked their citizens what they wanted, and they said, “More Town Center” – so they’re giving it to them!
First envisioned in 2002, the built-from-scratch Town Center is the physical and symbolic heart of the Suwanee community. A vibrant mixed-use area anchored by a 10-acre urban-style park, Town Center represents a bold and innovative response to two distinct community goals: to preserve open space and create more parks and to assemble an energetic and aesthetically appealing downtown and community gathering place.
The property was purchased in 2002 as an early acquisition of the community-driven comprehensive park and open space initiative. When Town Center Park was first envisioned, the population of Suwanee was approximately 9,000 people – roughly half of where it stands currently.
One of the big ideas that emerged from the 2015 Downtown Master Plan was the expansion of Town Center. After gathering information from stakeholder meetings, citizen surveys, planning workshops, design charrettes, and a variety of other meetings and presentations, the city has boldly embarked on the expansion of its Town Center: expanded park space, new mixed-use development and a better Buford Highway.
TELL US ABOUT THE NEW PARK! HOW WILL IT BE DIFFERENT FROM THE EXISTING TOWN CENTER PARK?
Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette: The new park design is influenced by the style and quality of Town Center Park, but is by no means a replica. It will have its own unique character and purpose. Concepts for the park were developed and refined with the needs and wants of the community in mind. The combined Buford Highway improvements and rework of City Hall Park will visibly link the two sites, and the topography of the new park will allow it to overlook Town Center, further enhancing the relationship of the two parks.
I think that I’m most excited about the new features that this park will bring to Suwanee; it will be a true mixture of urban and rural environments. Anchored by the most popular library branch in Gwinnett, there will be an elevated bridge spanning the entire park over a water feature, a terraced plaza, sandpit volleyball courts and an extension of PlayTown Suwanee geared towards older children.
The success of Town Center Park has exceeded all of our expectations; it draws over 200,000 visitors annually to over 40 events, as well as regularly serving our 18,000 citizens. This potential new, unstructured space would allow for more community utilization, as well as ease the demand on the existing park and surrounding community.
SPEAKING OF THE CONSTRUCTION ON BUFORD HIGHWAY…
JB: [Laughing] Well, the irony is that the community actually asked for the Buford Highway improvements, but obviously no one seems to enjoy the extra traffic construction creates. What’s the saying – “Change is exhilarating when done by us, but disturbing when done to us?”
It all started with the original version of the Downtown Master Plan in 2007. Participating residents and business owners expressed that, while they wanted transportation improvements to Buford Highway, they didn’t want to divide the city by transforming the road into yet another higher-speed thoroughfare. The city hired a team of transportation experts to evaluate different options for the road, prioritizing a community road over a commuter road.
The end result will be a better Buford Highway that will handle a similar volume of traffic as today, but in a safer manner. Pedestrians and cyclists will be able to comfortably move along the road from Town Center to Old Town, and crossing Buford Highway will become much easier and safer.
AND THEY’LL HAVE EVEN MORE REASON TO WANT TO WALK DOWN BUFORD HIGHWAY ONCE THE NEW SOLIS TOWN CENTER PROJECT IS COMPLETE.
JB: I’m really proud to have broken ground on this project as it represents a significant step our community is taking toward further realizing its vision of having a vibrant, connected, and pedestrian-oriented downtown. Solis Town Center will include 12,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 71 for-sale townhouses, 240 luxury apartments and a parking garage around which the mixed-use structure will be built.
This project is a prime example of the forethought it takes to create a truly impactful and visionary project. The city opportunistically purchased of the undeveloped partial adjacent to Town Center to be held for future growth. Previous city master plans – dating back to the 2002 Old Town Master Plan – created a vision for this property, which will have a similar look and feel to the current Town Center area. The project also addresses several goals in the 20/20 Vision strategic plan, including extending Town Center, ensuring lifetime housing, and promoting a mixture of housing types. We have a proven track record with Town Center of master planning our vision and then working with the private sector to implement that vision. People are always asking when we’re going to extend Town Center. We’re confident that this project will add depth and energy that not only physically extends Town Center but also further enhances the experience.
For more information, please visit www.suwanee.org