Gainesville-Hall County is hoping to address traffic impacts along the growing Ga. 365 corridor in northeast Hall, but a future major player in the area — the Georgia Ports Authority — also has that issue on its radar.
“We’re working on all of that,” said the authority’s chief administrative officer, James C. McCurry Jr., at a February Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce meeting. “We want to make sure that the plan is the best that it can be for the community, as well as the market.”
McCurry was referring to plans being laid for the Northeast Georgia Inland Port, which will be in the Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365 at White Sulphur Road. Construction could begin later this year on the regional cargo terminal, which is projected to open in 2021.
“We will work with the community to make sure that whatever questions are out there that we answer those as clearly as we possibly can,” McCurry said. “... We want to make sure this is a positive for the community.”
Officials estimate 150,000 containers per year could pour into the 104-acre port by way of Norfolk Southern railroad, which cuts through Gateway.
The port, expected to produce a boom of its own, is just one of a few developments emerging along Ga. 365.
Also in the works off Ga. 365 is Gateway Village, a 522-acre site that could produce up to 2.6 million square feet in industrial and commercial space. Development could begin by late spring.
The project at 3240 Chiplan Drive could consist of up to 130,000 square feet of retail at the front of the property, which is north of White Sulphur Road and across from Gateway Industrial Centre.
Industrial development on the site could be up to 2 million square feet, said Gainesville engineer Brian Rochester, who represented the developer at planning hearings.
“On the back side of the property, we have a research and development center that would be developed between 100,000 and 500,000 square feet,” he said.
Jonathan Collins of Gainesville-based Capstone Property Group, which is developing Gateway, has said he believes “there is a lot of activity for larger industrial space — certainly, you’re seeing that in Jackson County, Jefferson and North Gwinnett County.”
“Hall County has been extremely successful in recruiting large industrial companies … and available properties are at a real premium,” he added. “There’s not a lot of those, if any, at this point.”
A 1 million-square-foot single user “would be nothing like (what is in) Hall County today, but we feel like that with the economy and the market, there’s a potential for that in the next few years,” Collins said.
Construction has started on Auto Metal Direct, a 318,000-square-foot classic car parts distributor at Gateway near the inland port.
Mark Headrick, the company’s president, has said he’ll be happy to have more space when the new plant opens later this year.
He had to close the showroom in his current plant off Sherwin Parkway, near Atlanta Highway, in Buford, so he can have more room for the boxes that now reach the ceiling of his warehouse.
Also, the port will be like a godsend for the business.
“Most of our big parts come from Taiwan, so they’re all on containers,” Headrick said.
“I’ve got to pay to truck that stuff up here from (the Port of) Savannah, and they’re never on time.”
Also adding to the growth is the opening of Lanier Technical College off Howard Road at Ga. 365. The school had been located next to the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus in Oakwood.
The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee, the decision-making arm of the transportation planning agency, voted in February to seek federal money for a traffic study of the area between New Holland and the planned inland port.
“There’s been some great things happening up the Ga. 365 corridor … and we really feel a traffic impact study for this area would be very beneficial and forward-thinking,” said Chris Rotalsky, Gainesville’s public works director.
Getting the federal money would require a 20 percent match, and the city “has the funds necessary,” Rotalsky has said.
“The traffic generated from new and future developments in the area will affect the traffic flow on (Ga.) 365, Jesse Jewell Parkway and the connecting state and local streets,” he wrote.
A study “would explore existing roadway networks, model current and future traffic demands, recommend potential improvements along with estimated construction costs and provide detail on new facilities needed to handle the economic activity this corridor is experiencing,” Rotalsky said.