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Hospital, industrial activity lead to development in Braselton
Duncan Place is one retail center on Spout Springs Road near where a 6-acre parcel in Duncan’s Corner was rezoned for a commercial development. - photo by LeAnne Akin

Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton is fueling development of medical office buildings and physician offices in the Braselton area, and some of that development has retail components on the horizon.

Braselton, a town marking the centennial of its founding this year, is also seeing an uptick in industrial activity.

“That will eventually trickle down to retail,” said Braselton Planning and Development Director Kevin Keller, “but it’s the last one coming along as developers take advantage of the growth of the area.”

Keller said there is a renewed confidence in the economy, and Braselton stands in a solid position thanks to investments in water and sewer infrastructure. There is a lot of interest in other properties and significant research underway by other potential developers, based on the call volume into his office, he said.

The potential for new retail investment is on the rise as new residential growth is now underway. For example, with Riverstone Park being newly built out in its first phase, which had stalled with the recession, new construction is returning. Pulte Homes recently rezoned property near Reunion, and Brand Properties will be bringing a mixed use project with apartments to South Hall.

Other existing subdivisions that had also been stagnant in the wake of the economic downturn are also seeing new life after the lots bought on the cheap from banks are being used up. Lot prices and home prices are now increasing, although not likely to the levels seen before 2008.

Keller said he considers it a good sign of market conditions that developers are on the move.

That residential development equates to an increase in rooftops, which investors look to before putting their money into major retail developments with large anchors such as the Halvorsen Development Corp. project planned for the Ga. 211 area across from Chateau Elan Winery & Resort. Halvorsen developed Stonebridge Village Shopping Center in Flowery Branch, which includes a Target and Home Depot. Currently, however, the vast majority of the retail/commercial in Braselton’s area of South Hall is local, said Keller.

Since online shopping has changed dynamics of investments in brick and mortar by electronics ventures and home furnishings, for example, he said some types of commercial presence may be unlikely.

The retail strips in the Duncan Corners area, as well as along Ga. 211 — some of which had been vacant tenant space — are filling again, and much of the new retail investment has been into existing retail centers, not new structures. With the recent rezoning of property at Duncan Corners, new retail center construction is anticipated.

“We have property earmarked for future retail development,” said Keller, who points to the area behind Publix as one example. On a 5-acre tract of that property, The Venue at Friendship Springs, a 40,000-square-foot multi-purpose event center with a 550-seat auditorium/performance theater, banquet rooms and conference space, is getting closer to an anticipated May completion.

Although transportation improvements in the Friendship Road-Spout Springs Road area are still under way, the end is in sight.

That area has seen brand-new stand-alone retail such as CVS Pharmacy coming in, with franchise fast-food ventures also adding to the dining options. But an expanded offering of sit-down restaurants are what Braselton Town Manager Jennifer Dees said she hears requested most by area residents.

“They want more sit-down dining, not fast food,” Dees said. “But the first thing people say they want is a Chick-fil-A. I hear that most often.”

Keller said the commercial wish list definitely includes more quality restaurants as evidenced by feedback obtained during the comprehensive plan update.

“Many would also like to have a Staples, a Target, so they don’t have to drive to Buford for that shopping,” he said. “But there are others on the flip side of that who don’t want that type of development.”

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