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Developer wants to bring housing, retail, man-made river to South Hall
development Page 1
The Atlanta River Walk would bring homes, shopping, restaurants, offices, a hotel and a man-made river to 508 acres off Old Winder Highway in South Hall and Jackson County.

A Peachtree City developer hopes to bring a 508-acre waterfront development featuring homes, restaurants and offices to a now largely undeveloped section of South Hall.

“We will create a one-of-a-kind destination by constructing a man-made feature similar to a river and surrounding it with world-class mixed-use development,” said Jorge Duran, principal of ARW Group LLC.

The $700 million Atlanta River Walk is planned off Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 at Union Church Road. Its property line also would abut the Road Atlanta racing course in Braselton.

The proposed development would include some 265 single-family homes, 215 townhomes, 600 multifamily units, 242,000 square feet of retail space and 424,000 square feet of office space, according to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which is reviewing ARW Group’s plans through the Gainesville-based Georgia Mountains Regional Commission.

Plans also call for a 200-room hotel, 20,000-square-foot convention center, 50,000-square-foot grocery store and 60,000-square-foot theater.

A substantial part of the project would be residential development, including mid-rise apartments and active living communities for seniors, according to a press release on the project.

“The Atlanta River Walk will be a first-class attraction and a unique live-work-play mixed-use development,” Duran said. “It will increase the prominence of Atlanta as an international destination city and add a new year-round attraction for local, out-of-state and international visitors.”

For several years, Duran has been seeking a waterfront development opportunity in metro Atlanta similar to the San Antonio River Walk and Oklahoma City Bricktown, the press release states.

Duran had looked at the Chattahoochee River and other area waterways, “but environmental regulations prohibit the kind of development he wanted to do, which is dense, mixed-use projects that would showcase the water,” according to a press release.

The “river” will flow through the development and will feature a large water art installation, the “Tree of Life.”

Around the waterway, ARW Group will develop the International Village, featuring restaurants and chefs from around the world. Restaurants will be complemented by entertainment venues and unique retail destinations.

Other elements of The Atlanta River Walk include a boutique hotel, movie theater and major

supermarket, as well as an outdoor amphitheater and a conference center.

The project also will have a corporate and technology park, as well as 30 acres of green space featuring art installations, walking trails and a multi-use path.

Because the proposed development involves a rezoning request, it eventually will be heard by the Hall County Planning Commission and Hall County Board of Commissioners, which has final say.

But first, the state review process will occur, and it could take about a month to complete, said Adam Hazell, the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission’s planning director.

“It’s all purely advisory,” he said. “It is all oriented around giving the potentially affected governments the chance to voice any concerns … and done in a way that hopefully heads off any real issues before they become critical.”

Hazell cited a couple of examples where concerns might be noted in a large-scale plan — traffic and the environment.

Ga. 211 is a critical transportation artery, running from Winder Highway/Ga. 53 to Interstate 85, traveling past Chateau Elan and Friendship Road/Ga. 347. A health community is burgeoning off Friendship Road at Ga. 211, including the 100-bed Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton.

A traffic impact study prepared by a Marietta engineering firm and filed with Hall County suggests additional turn lanes off Ga. 211 and a traffic signal at Union Church Road.

Union Church is a busy connector in its own right, traveling 10 miles between Ga. 211 and Ga. 53.

Speaking of the planned development, Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said it is rare to find a tract of the size being eyed by ARW Group near I-85.

“It’s in a fast-growing area, where we’ve seen (other) ambitious large-scale developments in the last 10-15 years,” he said.

Frank Norton Jr., president and CEO of The Norton Agency real estate firm in Gainesville and a regional real estate watcher, said he believes Atlanta River Walk “is a mighty ambitious project for Hall County/Braselton that (would require) long-term capital and vision.”