Gwinnett is growing, and times are changing. We need enterprising, thoughtfully executed plans to preserve and enhance our quality of life and lay the groundwork for generations of prosperity.
We cannot afford to charge ahead impulsively or wait for a crisis.
Having recently served as chairman of the Gwinnett County Transit Review Committee as well as volunteering countless hours by serving on the Citizen Project Selection Committee for the 2014 and 2017 SPLOST, Laurie McClain is uniquely knowledgeable and qualified to tackle the real challenges related to Gwinnett’s traffic congestion, safety and infrastructure.
As a 45-year resident of the county, Laurie further understands that the great schools, parks and other assets that we enjoy today are the legacy of bold leaders. Learning from the past, she, in turn, will lead Gwinnet with a vision for the future.
The crucial decisions facing Gwinnett call for Laurie’s balanced, commonsense approach. While embracing innovative ideas that create opportunities, she’ll instill the balance and accountability needed to fulfill promises. Laurie McClain will position our county to succeed and her approach includes:
We have a state of the art water system in Gwinnett. The F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center, “an award-winning wastewater treatment facility” is a “worldwide model” for wastewater treatment. I am grateful to the visionary leaders of the past that built this facility and the water distribution system when Gwinnett’s population was a fraction of what it is currently. Today, we see that as more and more people choose Gwinnett as their home, the system is strained. The materials are old and need to be replaced with current technology and increased capacity. We need to incorporate innovation and bold leadership to focus on our needs many years in the future. Our leaders are doing that with The Water Tower at Gwinnett. We need to ensure that this project is fully funded and implemented to provide a place for continuing research and innovation to help keep Gwinnett Great. Read more about it here: https://aqaix.com/case-studies/gwinnett-county-water-tower
As a former member of the Gwinnett County Water and Sewer Authority, I have an inside perspective on the challenges and rewards that surround the protection of this, our most vital resource.
It is no secret that as Gwinnett has grown exponentially over the last 30 – 40 years. This is, at least partially, a result of Interstate 85 running directly through the county, and most particularly through the heart of District One. If you did not live here prior to 2006 (I have lived here since 1975), you won’t remember the old I-85/316 intersection where you merged from SR 316 westbound into I-85 southbound’s fast/left lane. It was a nightmare and could only get worse as the population grew. Fortunately, visionary leaders sought to solve the problem and the intersection got a much needed facelift. But as we continue to grow, it is clear that new and expanded roads can no longer solve the congestion that population increases brings. We must look at new ways to get around Gwinnett. The November ballot will once again allow Gwinnett voters to opine on the adoption of MARTA into Gwinnett. Whether it passes or not remains to be seen, but in either event, an adaptable, feasible transit plan is critical for our future development and quality of life.
As the Chairman of Gwinnett County’s Transit Review Committee, I spent countless hours reading and studying various options for transit. I believe BRT is a cost-effective way to mitigate our congestion woes without committing to a financially strapped organization with a history of mismanagement.
Here is an excellent article with more insight:
There are only seven certified county police departments in Georgia and one of those is Gwinnett. We have a nationally accredited police department providing law enforcement services to nearly 1,000,000 residents. We are also blessed with an outstanding Sheriff’s Department, corrections and nine other municipal law enforcements divisions, on top of Gwinnett County Public Schools Police Department. In addition, we have an internationally accredited Department of Fire and Emergency Services. In Gwinnett, every firefighter is cross trained to paramedic standards, a fact of which I am eternally grateful as a heart attack survivor. Gwinnett’s quality of life can only be lived and enjoyed if citizens feel safe in their communities. These public safety professionals put their lives on the line every single day to make sure we can continue those standards. As such, I believe they should be fully funded and encouraged to adopt cutting edge technology to assist them in their mission.
Gwinnett County has boasted a AAA bond rating for over 20 years! This rating has been given to less than 50 county governments in the United States! This is a result of excellent fiscal management and allows Gwinnett to borrow money for improvement projects at much lower interest rates. Gwinnett has accomplished this by focusing on its core values and priorities. As most communities do, Gwinnett has many needs and limited resources. That dichotomy demands that we focus on major issues and government responsibilities and make hard, sometimes unpopular choices between wants and needs. This requires discipline and prioritization. Having served on the Chairman’s Budget Review Committee for two years, I understand how difficult this process is and look forward to using my Masters Degree in Taxation to assist in this regard.
Want to see the details:
Gwinnett Place Mall originally opened in 1984. It was the pride and joy of Gwinnett, offering premiere retail and entertainment venues. I can remember being completely enamored with the marble floors and water features. Opened and operated by Simon Property Group, it was the go-to spot for shopping in the eighties and nineties. Unfortunately, when the Mall of Georgia (1999) and Discover Mills (2001) opened, the Gwinnett Place customer base moved on to brighter, shinier experiences. And as time went by, lack of investment in the property by Simon combined with the dramatic changes in the retail environment , and declining appeal for the area in general, the mall grew sadder and sadder.
In 2005, the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District (CID) was formed. Raising money through taxes on participating commercial property owners, the CID has diligently sought to bring new business and revitalization to the area for the last 15 years. Working with their partners, they have added lighting, signage, miles of new sidewalks, landscape enhancements, economic development tools, 7-day a week community patrols, safety cameras, and many transportation infrastructure projects like the diverging diamond interchange at Pleasant Hill/I-85 and a roundabout currently under construction along Venture Drive. They continue to advocate for businesses in the CID and promote the area as a great place to do business.
Despite these efforts, the mall went into foreclosure in 2012 and was purchased by Moonbeam Capital Investments, LLC in 2013. Despite initial promises to redevelop the site, for the past seven years, they have continued to do nothing to improve the mall space. Now, not only, is the mall virtually empty, it is in tremendous state of disrepair with broken escalators and elevators and parts of the ceiling falling down. It is a disgrace. We won’t even discuss the deceased body found in the now vacant mall food court.
The mall is privately owned; and as such, the hands of business advocates in the area are virtually tied to advocate and facilitate conversations about redevelopment. The only hope is that it will be sold to a developer who sees the potential in creating something new and different in the area. How do we do that? That’s where leadership comes in.
We all know that across the nation, malls are dying. What is happening at Gwinnett Place Mall is not unique to Gwinnett County. But, elsewhere, we are seeing dead and dying malls being transformed by the formation of public-private partnerships. From Lakewood and Westminster, Colorado to Orem, Utah, to Nashville, Tennessee and points in-between, communities are coming together to develop a strategy, work a proactive coordinated game plan and make the necessary investments to transform the dead malls in their areas. Why is that not happening in Gwinnett County?
There are a variety of tools at the county’s disposal that could speed up or at least create forward motion on a potential redevelopment. Those tools could include more stringent code enforcement, building out transit in the area pulling together a robust package of incentives for redevelopment, fully funding the CID’s ACTivate Gwinnett Place plan, and involving the CID more in the process. The list could go on and on.
Why should we do this? Why should Gwinnett come off the hip to create a robust public-private partnership for the redevelopment of the Gwinnett Place Mall? Because it’s a damn good investment and Gwinnett Place Mall is in the strategic heart of our county. If we allow Gwinnett Place to continue to decline, what will be the ramifications for all of us? More crime, lost jobs, less tax revenue. The portion of the mall owned by Moonbeam right now is paying roughly $400,000 a year in property taxes - for 563,367 square feet of retail space that is DOING NOTHING!!! And it gets worse every year. If county leadership would focus on creating a redevelopment game plan to win in this area, and that property’s value increases, that’s more funds for social services, homelessness, and transit. And that’s a helluva deal for Gwinnett residents.
Hoping that something will happen at Gwinnett Place Mall is not a strategy. But that approach has been our strategy for the last decade. The time for action is now.
Here is a great resource for more info:
Your donation is an opportunity to be part of something bigger. Help Laurie with the campaign that will make the difference and positive impact to Gwinnett now and for years to come. Please donate today!