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County pushes forward on Gateway Village project

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

After nearly five years of inactivity on the Gateway Village project, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) -- on Tuesday -- adopted an 18-month plan to develop the area and prime it for new construction.

The $510,000 project will include a feasibility study for a hotel, grading of the property, and the demolition and clearing of remaining houses along Westwood Way in Morrow.

The board voted unanimously to adopt the plan, which would utilize approximately $500,000 in bond proceeds available to the Development Authority of Clayton County (DACC).

According to the plan, the county will spend $20,000 on a hotel feasibility study; $20,000 on hotel site preparation and erosion control; $150,000 on a project manager; $100,000 on the grading of a hotel site and leveling surrounding property; $100,000 for demolition and clearing of houses on Westwood Way; $75,000 on a digital marquee sign along Ga. Highway 54, and $25,000 on marketing.

Clayton County Economic Development Director Grant Wainscott said that in 2000, DACC purchased 17 acres of land on behalf of the county to eventually develop it as a business and cultural community adjacent to Clayton State University. The land east of Ga. Highway 54 was eventually developed as the Georgia Archives and National Archives at Atlanta, but the land west of the highway -- originally slated for a hotel, residential lofts, and shops -- was never developed, he said.

"It [the project] got put off, after a disagreement about the size of the hotel and the scope of the project," Wainscott said. "The land has been sitting for a few years, waiting for us to take another hard look at it. We have roughly half-a-million of bond proceeds that have been set aside for sometime, when we refinanced the Gateway Village bonds in 2005 ... These bonds have a sunset, and would go back to the bond developer, if not spent.

"We have interest from hotel developers ... two letters of interest, verging on MOUs (memorandums of understanding)," Wainscott continued. "In order to move forward, we have to offer pad-ready sites. This would get our land ready, pad-ready, and basically put a development plan back on the table."

BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell said the Gateway Village was originally planned to mirror the shops, stores and amenities surrounding the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology. He said he is glad to finally see the project moving forward.

"It was dreamed of as an epic center for commerce and development in the center portion of the county, and particularly around our college," Bell said. "It was supposed to be a place with a hotel, bookstores, a conference center ... but it fell on hard times. Now, we are trying to cause a rebirth in the area."