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Developments would bring more shoppers to Ga. 365

POSTED: February 2, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Tom Reed /The Times

This area at the intersection of Ga. 365 and Howard Road, across from the new YMCA building, is the site of a possible regional retail center.

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BALDWIN — Retailers along Ga. 365 are extending a hearty welcome to talk of additional shopping venues along the corridor.

This follows a rezoning approval for a major residential development, which will have a shopping component, and an application for a major regional shopping center, both on Ga. 365 in Hall County.

Carrie Wilder and her husband, Clint, own a 20,000-square-foot store in Baldwin that carries goods for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation. Carrie Wilder said 60 percent of their store’s traffic comes from tourists to mountain destinations. For the past two years, they have been either building or operating their new business. Aside from a pair of car dealerships nearby, the area has few retail shopping venues.

The idea of more retail along the corridor is good news.

"It’s great news for us," said Carrie Wilder. "The more traffic that is drawn to this area and the more places there are to stop, the more people will stop."

She questions the accuracy of traffic counts on the highway from the Georgia Department of Transportation, saying the counts were made on a Tuesday and Wednesday and do not reflect the increased volume of vehicles on weekends.

"It was not a good sample and did not reflect anything except people travelling back and forth to work," she said.

DOT traffic counts made in 2006 placed the count near the beginning of Ga. 365 in Hall County at 28,250 cars per day, while further North in Habersham the count is around 19,000.

About a mile to the South, Sarah Smith is marking 20 years in her business, Hartford House, which sells handcrafted furniture. A fire last March destroyed the building and contents, but Smith quickly decided to rebuild. She, too, would welcome additional retail.

"The more retail the better," Smith said. "I have never shied away from people who are even similar to me. It just brings more people to my business. I have a niche and I do my thing. If I can’t get the people here, I can’t tell my story."

She said a large portion of her business comes from outside of Habersham County.

"A significant percentage of my business comes from Atlanta, Highlands, (N.C.), and second homes on the lakes," she said. "We deliver furniture all over the Southeast."

She believes there is great potential for the future on Ga. 365.

"I can’t imagine that we would not benefit from people coming South to go to a regional shopping center. We already benefit from people who live in Clayton or Highlands going to Mall of Georgia."

Monika Schulte, said she is anxious for new shopping along Ga. 365.

"I love it and I’ve been waiting on it a long time," said Schulte, who was shopping with her husband at Wilder Outdoors. She said many of her neighbors in the Orchard development, near Turnerville, are equally anxious about the prospect for additional shopping. She said currently, shoppers who are looking for specialty retail can choose between the Tanger Outlet Center at Banks Crossing or travel to the Mall of Georgia.

The Gipson Co., a shopping center developer, and The Norton Agency, its broker, announced plans last week for Mountainbrook Farm, a regional retail center that when completed would have 900,000 square feet of retail space. The developer’s rezoning application is expected to be filed in February for a 200 acre site near the James A. Walters YMCA.

A week earlier, Hall County Commissioners approved a zoning request for Hagen Creek, a planned community with 2,736 residential units and 1 million square feet of commercial and office space near the intersections of Ga. 52 and Ga. 365, near Lula.



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