Gwinnett OKs major mixed-use development — with an interactive golf driving range — near Mall of Georgia

This conceptual site plan shows the layout for The Exchange at Gwinnett development that is being planned on Buford Drive near the Mall of Georgia. Gwinnett commissioners approved the development Tuesday — but told Fuqua Development that it needed to make the site layout more walkable before construction can begin. (Photo: Gwinnett county)

Gwinnett County commissioners approved a 64-acre regional mixed-use development with apartments, shops, restaurants — and a golf driving range — near the Mall of Georgia on Tuesday.

Fuqua Development is planning to build The Exchange at Gwinnett on the southeast side of the Buford Drive and Interstate 85 interchange with 500 multifamily residential units spread across six buildings, a four-story 123-room hotel and 337,000 square feet retail, restaurant and office spaces.

It is also slated to include other commercial spaces, such as an interactive golf driving range and an indoor go-karting business. Renderings of the driving range that were shown to commissioners Tuesday night had a large symbol which resembles the logo for TopGolf entertainment centers.

“We really wanted to try to create a unique environment here, a walkable area for people to come spend some time and do some dining and some truly kind of regional class uses,” Fuqua attorney Shane Lanham told commissioners.

The development has attracted a lot of attention because of its size and planned uses, which makes it a development of regional impact that required reviews from the Atlanta Regional Commission and state officials as well as local officials.

Lanham said 350 of the 500 planned multi-family residential units will be built initially and there would be structured parking to help accommodate the remaining 150 units once they are built.

The attorney also said signs for the development, possibly up to 50 feet tall, would be placed along the side of the property facing I-85. Landmark-style signage would be used on Buford Drive and inside the development.

The one condition that commissioners placed on the development is that Fuqua has to reconfigure its site plan to make the project more walkable. Commissioners John Heard, who represents the district where the development will be located, and Jace Brooks raised concerns about the walkability of the proposal that was presented Tuesday night.

Heard suggested the buildings in the development be moved closer to the main thoroughfare — saying he felt Fuqua “missed the boat” in its walkability design — and parking be pushed further back. Heard and Brooks said they felt the buildings were too spread out to be considered “walkable.”

The commissioner, who is leaving office at the end of the year, put a condition on the development that conceptual site and signage plans be approved by the planning department before construction can begin.

“It doesn’t feel like a walkable center in the least to me,” Heard said. “The site plan, the way it’s spread out with the buildings spread out around the perimeter with the parking closer to the main thoroughfare, is not the type of walkable center that we’re trying to promote … The goal is good, but the site plan needs to be redone.”

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