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South Hall River Walk appears dead in the water
2 years after rezoning, developer has dropped out of $700 million project
12052017 RIVERWALK.jpg
The proposed 500-acre Atlanta River Walk project off Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 in South Hall appeared dead after the developer pulled out of the $700 million development. New plans propose changing the name and continuing the project without the man-made river. - photo by Jeff Gill

Atlanta River Walk in South Hall was hailed as a $700 million economic engine when it was rolled out to the public more than two years ago.

Today, the project off Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 at Union Church Road appears halted.

“We are no longer involved with this project and are not sure what the owners have planned,” said Michelle Boyd, vice president of business development at Randolph Williamson, in a recent email.

The Peachtree City firm had been instrumental in trying to “bring to life one of the most unique developments in the country,” according to a website set up to promote the project.

As late as December, the company had insisted the project wasn’t dead.

“As you can imagine, there are many moving parts with a project of this unique caliber and size,” Boyd said. “We are doing our due diligence to ensure we get it right. We are approaching final completion of project financing, and we look forward to sharing more updates with the community soon.”

But even that optimism was tempered at the time by Gainesville lawyer William Bagwell, who represents the property owner, Crystal Farms.

He said the contract on the project “expired some time ago.”

“The buyer under the contract did not perform and … (the deal is) just history at this point, I guess.”

When originally pitched in 2016, the project called for 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.

Plans also called for a 200-room hotel, 20,000-square-foot convention center, 50,000-square-foot grocery store and 60,000-square-foot theater.

But its main feature would have been construction of “a man-made feature similar to a river and surrounding it with world-class mixed-use development.”

The project drew both raves and concerns from residents.

Nearby resident Glenda Capps, for one, is disappointed River Walk isn’t happening.

“That project would have created so many jobs and turned old, undeveloped land into a thriving community — a place to work and play for all families,” she said.

Capps said she’s visited the San Antonio River Walk and thinks “it’s wonderful.”

“I think Braselton has missed a wonderful development that would have been an inspiration to many other cities,” she said.

Tim Evans, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of economic development, said he believes the property “is going to be a great site for redevelopment.”

He did note that “whoever winds up using the site will have to rezone the property, as Atlanta River Walk had such a specific zoning. It’s unlikely that another developer will come along and just accept that zoning without making some changes to it.”

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