0826MOVINGAUDLarry Sparks, Oakwood’s planning director, talks about business changes that are taking place, and are expected to continue, on Mundy Mill Road.
OAKWOOD — The pavement isn’t all that’s changing on Mundy Mill Road.
Businesses are playing a sort of "musical chairs" on the busy strip off Interstate 985, setting the area up for what Oakwood officials believe is redevelopment once road construction is complete.
Even though road improvements are "designed to alleviate some of the traffic problems that we have, it’s also going to cause new businesses to locate along the road," said Larry Sparks, Oakwood’s planning director.
Businesses already are on the move.
Wachovia, which had a branch off Mundy Mill Road at Frontage Road, has moved to a site in front of the Wal-Mart Supercenter across from Gainesville State College.
Subway, which had a restaurant in Merchants Crossing at Oakwood shopping center, left that location and has stores in a small strip shopping center on Atlanta Highway at Poplar Springs Road and in the Wal-Mart store.
CVS Pharmacy also has moved from Merchants Crossing to a new store at the corner of Mundy Mill and McEver roads.
And Taco Bell returned to the area Aug. 2 after an absence of a couple of years. The fast-food restaurant chain’s former building fell victim to the state Department of Transportation’s $75 million makeover of the area’s road network, including Exit 16.
The new business "has been slammed since the day (it) opened," said Rick Marchisio, construction project manager for the company.
The road project, set for a February 2010 completion, involves the construction of new lanes on Mundy Mill Road at I-985, access lanes to a new interchange at Atlanta Highway and the widening of Atlanta Highway to four lanes between Mundy Mill/Winder Highway and Thurmon Tanner Parkway.
This fall, the state plans to bid out construction of the final leg of the four-lane Thurmon Tanner Parkway, running between Mundy Mill and Plainview roads.
"Because of the way (Mundy Mill Road) is designed, with the median and limited crossovers and curb cuts, that has affected businesses," Sparks said. "I know that was one of the things Wachovia was looking at — (and) they lost that traffic light (at Mundy Mill and Frontage).
"From an accessibility standpoint, they indicated they would be looking for another location."
Wachovia now is at a busy intersection that features a traffic light.
Sam’s moved to its new location because it wanted a larger building, said Gail Fargason, a principal with The Shopping Center Group’s Atlanta offices.
"They wanted their new larger prototype," she said. "It was an opportunity to do a Wal-Mart/Sam’s combo on a very large piece of (land)."
The Shopping Center Group is marketing the old 108,258-square-foot Sam’s location, as well as Merchants Crossing.
"We were working with an entertainment group (out of) Gainesville ... for several months, believing the transaction to be complete, (and we) had an agreed letter of intent," Fargason said. "We were working on the lease document terms, and they could not get their financing.
"So, we’re changing gears, looking again at retailers and entertainment uses. We’ve talked to some office operators and a couple of people looking for call centers. We’re flexible."
The removal of the Frontage Road traffic light "is a negative that did not exist in the past," Fargason said.
However, there is access from different locations, including Atlanta Highway and what will be the new interchange.
"People who live in Gainesville and Oakwood understand the (roads)," she said.
Sparks and other Oakwood officials believe the completion of the road projects will spur more business development, pulling in even more people to what is already one of Hall County’s busiest commercial centers.
"There’s going to be more people in this area, so therefore you’re going to have a desire for businesses to take advantage of that," he said.
The area already sports one of the state’s fastest-growing colleges, Gainesville State, which has more than 6,400 students at the Mundy Mill campus (another 2,200 in Watkinsville).
Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, sees all of the Mundy Mill corridor, including between the less developed Old Oakwood Road and McEver Road area, taking off.
"It’ll be a whole different ball game down there of convenience and redevelopment," she said.