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Environmental concerns raised in review of proposed Atlanta River Walk in 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 near the Jackson County line.

A regional review of a proposed 508-acre waterfront development in South Hall near the Jackson County line raises some concerns about the development’s impact on the watershed.

“There are lakes and additional wetlands shown on various aerials that are not being designated on the concept plan,” according to a Jackson County written response to the project.

And the Atlanta Regional Commission says, “After construction, water quality will be impacted due to polluted stormwater runoff.”

To address that issue, the commission says the Atlanta River Walk project should comply with standards set by the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, an ARC-staffed operation that oversees water management in 15 counties, including Hall.

“It should also implement stormwater management controls” as found in the Georgia Stormwater Management Manual, a best practices guide for managing stormwater, the ARC document states.

The Jackson County and ARC comments are part of a review of the project by the Gainesville-based Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, with findings released last week to government officials.

“This (report) is advisory only and the project may proceed as presented … under the assumption it will comply with all applicable local, state and federal rules and regulations,” the review states.

“However, the developer and (government officials) are encouraged to consider the advisory and review comments … and pursue any mitigation measures that may avoid the potential impacts.”

The ARC commented “after the review period had technically closed, but (its comments) were still shared with Hall County,” said Adam Hazell, GMRC planning director.

The study was spurred by development plans announced in early May by Peachtree City-based ARW Group LLC, which couldn’t be reached for comment concerning the GMRC’s report.

The $700 million development is planned off Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 at Union Church Road. Its property line would also 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’ website.

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.

But its centerpiece is construction of “a man-made feature similar to a river and surrounding it with world-class mixed-use development,” ARW Group principal Jorge Duran has said.

“The Atlanta River Walk will be a first-class attraction and a unique live-work-play mixed-use development,” he 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.”

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

Around the waterway, ARW Group would develop the International Village, featuring restaurants and chefs from around the world. Restaurants would 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 would have a corporate and technology park, as well as 30 acres of green space featuring art installations, walking trails and a multi-use path.

Regional events