Gwinnett’s new entertainment district: Food, drinks, shops — and MARTA?

Developers of the nearly $1 billion complex that will surround Gwinnett County’s Infinite Energy Center offered up details this week about the coming hotel, restaurants, retail and everything else planned as part of the project. Then came the question that pops up in just about every discussion in Gwinnett these days.

What about transit?

Mark Toro — managing partner of North American Properties, the team behind Alpharetta’s Avalon and other high-profile projects — didn’t shy away. He’s in favor bringing it to Revel, the newly named, 118-acre Gwinnett project that could begin construction as soon as next year.

At a Tuesday morning presentation sponsored by Partnership Gwinnett, the county’s economic development arm, Toro talked about a trip to Toronto he took last fall with Gwinnett County leaders. There, they all explored that city’s bus rapid transit system. He floated that kind of system as one potential option — and “a MARTA station at Revel” as another.

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A lot of things would have to happen for either to become a reality but the wheels are definitely turning, both in the state Capitol and in Gwinnett.

“After all these years of banging the drum … we’re seeing a warm reception from communities like Gwinnett, finally, to see regional transit solutions provided,” Toro said.

County officials have voiced a desire to have a referendum on some kind of transit expansion this November and proposed legislation would allow residents to vote on joining the MARTA system. Gwinnett is also completing its own transit study.

The Infinite Energy area, with its proximity to I-85 and job centers in Duluth and Lawrenceville, is already one of the first to come up in conversations about potential transit sites in Gwinnett. And Revel may push it even further front of mind.

At Tuesday’s presentation, Toro and other officials from North American provided new details about the long-awaited mixed-use megaproject.

Exact numbers were described as “moving targets,” but current plans call for the following: a 25,000-square-foot food hall (with about 15 different food stalls); an eight-auditorium movie theater; markets offering groceries and adult beverages; and a 60,000-square-foot fitness center.

All of that’s in addition to an estimated 215,000 square feet of additional restaurants and retail; 600,000 square feet of Class A office space; a 300-room, full-service Marriott hotel; and 700 residential units.

David Weinert, a partner and senior vice president of leasing at North American, said the plan is to offer “best in class” retail, though tenants haven’t signed on yet.

“It is a broad range of categories because that’s how you become more dominant,” Weinert said. “More things mean more people.”

Officials hope to break ground on Revel in March 2019 and open the first phase in the fall of 2020.

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The development, which will also include public gathering spaces aplenty and an Avalon-esque main “boulevard,” will surround the existing Infinite Energy campus. That campus includes the popular, 13,000-seat Infinite Energy Arena, a performing arts center and the Infinite Energy Forum, a convention center that will soon be undergoing its own expansion.

Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said Tuesday she was excited about the Revel project. She said she wasn’t surprised by Toro’s comments about transit at the site and that they had “talked about it several times.”

“The logical thing with transit is to look where there are going to be lots of people traveling to and from, and there’s already lots of people traveling to and from the Infinite Energy Center,” Nash said. “This development that was discussed this morning only means that there’s probably going to be more of those folks traveling to and from.”

Alyssa Davis is the executive director of the Sugarloaf Community Improvement District, which does not include the county-owned land that Revel will be built on but does encompass most of the properties surrounding it. Davis said the CID is in favor of improving transportation of all kinds in the area, including transit.

“It’s already a major regional destination,” Davis said, “and this is just going to make it that much more of a draw.”

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