Special to the Citizen This map shows the tract of land that will be developed as a healthy-living, mixed-use community, complete with YMCA, in Conyers.
CONYERS -- A 300-plus-acre mixed-used development billed as "New Choices for Conyers" was announced at a meeting of developers, architects and community leaders Monday night at the Corner Market.
The as-yet-unnamed development will be designed to promote healthy living and is expected to have the metro area's "Taj Mahal" of YMCAs as its centerpiece.
The development is under the auspices of 4 A International, which owns the property that lies south of Interstate 20 eastbound between Johnson and Parker roads. The development firm, which has owned the property for three decades, has put together a team of designers, engineers, marketing professionals and others to "explore ways to make the most of the property's unique natural assets and to provide a range of choices for healthy community living not currently available in this area," according to the project website at www.newchoicesforconyers.com.
Conyers Mayor Randy Mills, who gave opening remarks at Monday's meeting, said the tract of land for the project was considered one of three potential mall location sites in the 1980s. "We've been studying this site for about 25 years," he said.
Mills said the property lies at the core of the Conyers/Rockdale community.
"This truly is the heart of this community, and how it builds out will foretell the future of this community," he said.
In the two days following Monday's meeting, Bill de St. Aubin, an architect with the Sizemore Group in Atlanta, said he would lead a planning charrette in which 20 professionals with diverse backgrounds in engineering, environmental issues and other disciplines would meet to come up with a plan for the development. De St. Aubin said walkability and sustainability will be two of the guiding principles for the project.
The mixed-use community will have a town center, most likely located near Long Horn restaurant on Iris Drive, that will encompass about 40 acres. The proposed YMCA will require about 10 to 12 acres, and the remainder will be in green space and single-family housing.
De St. Aubin said the project will incorporate a mix of income levels and a variety of architectural styles in order to create an "authentic place."
The development is expected to generate approximately $600 million in construction industry dollars, de St. Aubin said. He noted that the project will benefit from the spinoff effect of the development of Baxter International, a pharmaceutical company planned for Newton County, and the expansion of the ports in Savannah.
Following the planning charrette, de St. Aubin said the project will be refined over the next month, followed by the Development of Regional Impact permitting process and the rezoning process. He said development could begin within four to six months.
Estin Hood, chief operating officer for the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, said a recent market study in Rockdale County showed a market penetration of 9.1 percent, compared to a 3 or 4 percent penetration rate in other communities, which he said is generally considered to be good. Hood said the study showed 6,000 potential YMCA members in Rockdale County.
"Given this study there is only one choice, and that is to go forward and build a YMCA for this community," he said.
Hood said he expected the YMCA to be built through a typical public/private partnership on land donated by 4 A or leased under a long-term agreement. In addition, Hood said the facility would likely be 60,000 to 65,000 square feet.
"Anything smaller than that and we are going to have people say 'let's build Phase II,'" he said.
Hood said he expected the YMCA project to take two years total, including fund-raising and construction.