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Postponed development ready to move forward
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Plans to build a “town within a town” on about 1,000 acres in Gainesville are heating up again.

Vision Capital Partners, a Marietta-based land investment firm, bought the land and planned to create a mixed commercial and residential development in 2008. The project fell through because of the economic downturn, but timing is everything, said Howard Joffe, company owner.

“The demand there is fast approaching where we think it will be time soon to start developing it out,” Joffe said. “The market is pretty close to needing some homes there.”

The company is able to pay cash for the property, and incurs no debt with the help of private equity investors, according to its website.

It is waiting for developed lot prices to rise before starting construction, but “prices have come a long way,” Joffe said.

The company bought the land for $22 million, according to a press release on its website. About 15 percent of the property off Old Cornelia Highway is outside Gainesville’s city limits and it fronts Interstate 985, stretching between Exits 22 and 24.

Joffe has engaged in some preliminary talks with the city of Gainesville.

City Manager Kip Padgett said staff have talked with the company about getting sewer and some road connections to the land. Part of the discussions have centered on getting good capacity for sewer at the site.

Padgett said it’s likely the largest vacant tract of land in the city that’s been zoned for development for several years.

The “town” is expected to include about 1,400 single-family lots, 250 townhouses and 1,300 condominium units and commercial space. The company also wants to entice medical offices to the property because of the proximity of Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

“We think that’s still a viable option,” Joffe said.

Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall said he talked with Joffe last month about sewer capacity for the project.

The capacity reserved for the development was diverted to a vacant development on the Ga. 365 corridor. Gainesville is currently doing some improvements to a pump station that’s expected to be completed in fewer than 12 months. That station will have capacity available for the site, Randall said.

The property was originally annexed and zoned into the city as planned residential in 1999, Community Development Director Rusty Ligon said.

It was rezoned in 2001 and included 2,270 residential units and nearly 550 acres of open space. About 20 acres was made available to the Gainesville City School District for an elementary school.

The next step is waiting for the market to be right and getting utilities and land permits. Joffe predicts groundbreaking in the next 18 to 36 months.

“I love Gainesville and I believe in it and I’m still as excited about the project,” Joffe said. “It’s just all about timing.”

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