Gwinnett transit vote could bring new life to Norcross

By Amanda C. Coyne

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Plans for a MARTA train station could bring more than passengers to Norcross.

As early voting begins Monday in Gwinnett County, a decision to begin a new tax to pay for transit could also bring new life to the working- and middle-class part of the county in Norcross near Jimmy Carter Boulevard.

A transit station planned in that location would become a hub for expanded bus service within five years, and MARTA train service could follow within 10 to 20 years.

The county acquired 103 acres of land near the intersection of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85 in December that could become Gwinnett’s gateway to the rest of metro Atlanta, pending the referendum’s passage. Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash also has said she envisions an “urban-style mixed-use development” on the site.

That kind of development coupled with more access to public transportation could transform the Jimmy Carter Boulevard corridor, currently a high-traffic stretch of road lined with strip malls, fast food restaurants and warehouses.

But the development could also bring a downside: Development centered around a transit station could raise rents for residents and businesses in the area, according to planners who have seen it happen elsewhere.

The intersection of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85 is just inside Gwinnett County’s borders — so close to Doraville and unincorporated parts of DeKalb that some homes and businesses in the area have Atlanta addresses. The transportation hub site and the surrounding area are not currently inside Norcross city limits, but are considered unincorporated parts of the city.

The Gateway 85 Community Improvement District has been interested in “upgrading” the area around the intersection of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85 for the past 12 years. Emory Morsberger, a member of the CID’s board and a longtime Gwinnett County developer, said the passage of the transit referendum would increase interest in building mixed use developments there that combine residential, retail and office space.

“I think it will rapidly move toward mixed use,” Morsberger said of the hub. “It’s one of the best sites in Gwinnett County for access to the metro area.”

Molly Bloom