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College Park considering development projects

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

marauz@news-daily.com

The City of College Park seems to know its development potential and is taking small steps to reach its goals.

The city has already taken advantage of a crown jewel in its own backyard--Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The Gateway Center is conveniently located within the path of the airport's ATL Sky Train, an automated people-mover that provides stops for passengers at Gateway, Hartsfield-Jackson and the airport's rental car center.

The Gateway Center includes the Georgia International Convention Center, Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway hotel, SpringHill Suites Atlanta Airport Gateway and an office building--but the city wants more development.

In a recent city council meeting, Barbra Coffee, director of economic development for College Park, requested a six-month extension of the "Memorandum of Understanding" between the city and the developer for a proposed tourism attraction and retail center.

Mayor Jack Longino and three out of four council members approved the request on July 18. Councilman Tracy Wyatt was absent during the meeting.

"Being an airport-area city, it makes a lot of sense to do that [development]," said Coffee, during a telephone interview.

The extension requested will allow the city to negotiate with the developer, she said. The negotiation will include detailed discussions about creating "some sort of public-private partnership to build the development into fruition."

She said she is not at liberty to share who the developer is at this time.

Coffee said it is too early in the process to be specific about the development project, but the goal is to incorporate new retail, office space and other attractions to bring new businesses and tourism to College Park. The tourism attraction is anticipated to have "regional impact and meet that goal," said Coffee.

She said the city has a vision for this type of development on Camp Creek Parkway, to support the Gateway Center development.

College Park and its Business and Industrial Development Authority own over 200 acres of property, which will be used for commercial purposes, she said. Some of this property, located within College Park city limits, was owned by the City of Atlanta. College Park acquired it in 2010. "Having the property back in our control allows us to be in the driver's seat," she said.

Coffee said College Park is working to acquire more land located within its city limits that is owned by Atlanta. "We are working to get that property back...within now and the end of the year."

Mayor Longino and the council approved to include the discussion of the tourism attraction and retail center development in a meeting in August. The meeting will also include discussions of "Project Frost Bite," a development project, and the considered development of Georgia International Convention Center's parking area.

The meeting will take place during the next city council meeting, on Aug. 15. The mayor and council plan for the city's financial advisors to be present, during the meeting.

"These issues are big issues...this is a very crucial decision," said Longino during the council meeting.

On Wednesday, Longino said he was unable to elaborate on Project Frost Bite because he is unsure of its certainty.

Councilman Joe Carn said the city is considering several options to relieve parking congestion at the convention center, which include the expansion of the parking area, or adding another parking facility.

He said since the two hotels began operation at the Gateway Center, the center has attracted larger conventions, which typically bring up to 3,000 people to the facility.

"Now that we are getting larger conventions, we are getting growing pains," said the councilman.

He said the city anticipated this to occur, but it was a nice "expected surprise."

According to College Park officials, the convention center is located in Ward II of the city, and Carn represents this ward.

"We are relatively a small city, but we are growing," he said.