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New shopping center proposed off Ga. 53
Developer looks to rezone 25 acres in Gainesville
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Shopping center

What: Public hearing on rezoning application for 245,000-square-foot shopping center=

Who: Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board

When: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 12

Where: Gainesville Justice Center, 701 Queen City Parkway

A 245,000-square-foot shopping center is proposed for 25.11 acres off Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville.

America’s Home Place, which has spearheaded development occurring around Beechwood Drive, is seeking to clear the way for the project through a rezoning application that first goes before the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board on Feb. 12.

The shopping center, also featuring several outparcels, would be built across from three restaurants that have sprung up over the past couple of years — Olive Garden, Cheddar’s Casual Cafe and Buffalo Wild Wings.

It would take in previously rezoned property that faces Dawsonville Highway. Neighbors also include Leggs Package store and a BP gas station.

The development would have two entrances/exits at Ga. 53 and one proposed entrance from Ahaluna Drive, a side street off Ga. 53, according to city paperwork.

Keith Brown, America’s Home Place assistant to the president, wouldn’t disclose any possible tenants, but he said “we have lots of interest in the project.”

A public hearing will be part of the Feb. 12 meeting, slated to begin at 5 p.m. and taking place in the Gainesville Justice Center, 701 Queen City Parkway.

Development or redevelopment of shopping centers off Dawsonville Highway at McEver Road have been ongoing for several years.

“We just continue to see that area grow and develop into a regional shopping destination,” said Rusty Ligon, Gainesville’s community development director.

The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board can only recommend approval or denial of the rezoning request. The final decision would be left up to Gainesville City Council, which is set to consider the matter at its March 5 meeting.

If the project is approved, work could begin next year and run through 2014 “at best,” Brown said.

“We’ve got a big hole to fill there (on the property) ... so there would be a lot of dirt movement,” he said.

The shopping center would back up to Lakeshore Heights, a decades-old, lakefront subdivision that runs between Ahaluna and John Morrow Parkway near Lakeshore Mall, which is undergoing a $20 million renovation of its own.

That neighborhood has dealt with past shopping center development along Ga. 53 and is involved again with America’s Home Place’s proposal.

Lynda Hawkins, vice president of the Lakeshore Heights Homeowners Association, said she expects a group of residents from her neighborhood to attend the Feb. 12 meeting.

“The shopping center really is right on top of us,” she said. “We have written a letter to (city officials) requesting some things that we hope will help protect our neighborhood a little better than the original plan that came from the developers.”

Hawkins added: “There’s some buffer zones and some really steep grades that go into some backyards.”

Other concerns involve environmental impact on Lake Lanier, security and home values, she said.