In a move that project leaders are calling a “resounding validation of progress,” the Atlanta Regional Commission has analyzed a massive mixed-use proposal in the southern reaches of Forsyth County and determined it checks many boxes in terms of dense, desirable, urban-style growth in a far-flung OTP locale.
The ARC, metro Atlanta’s regional planning and intergovernmental coordination agency, praised the multi-billion-dollar The Gathering at South Forsyth project as part of a recent Development of Regional Impact report. That’s an evaluation required by state law for master-planned projects in ARC’s 13-county jurisdiction large enough to significantly impact transportation and infrastructure.
As one of the largest private development proposals in suburban Atlanta history, The Gathering would certainly seem to qualify.
The ARC’s report applauds various aspects of The Gathering, including its relative density, plans to build less parking than what’s allowed, its prospects as an engine for job growth, and nearby roadway upgrades the Georgia Department of Transportation is implementing that could accommodate visitors and new residents.
The ARC’s favorable review allows The Gathering to proceed to the county level, where Forsyth County officials can now take action on the project, according to the development team.
“We’re pleased with the report’s findings, and we believe they underscore the potential transformative and positive impact of The Gathering at South Forsyth on the region,” Frank Ferrara, the development’s senior project executive installed last month, said in a prepared statement. “We’re eager to continue working with [Forsyth County officials] to move the project forward.”
Ferrara said the development team plans to refine its plans based on the ARC report’s findings as the process moves forward. Exactly what the project might cost—and what incentives developers might seek from the county—hasn’t been specified.
The Gathering’s leadership pointed to four areas of praise in the DRI report. Those included the intent to “strongly [align] with regional transportation policies” by limiting shared parking space and to boost housing stock along the Ga. Highway 400 corridor and jobs in office, retail, entertainment, and recreation industries on a compact site that’s “highly supportive of regional placemaking and multi-modal transportation policies.”
The ARC also applauded plans to include a large stream buffer on the site’s northern edge, and to build an “extensive internal sidewalk network” in addition to a 12-foot-wide extension of the Big Creek Greenway along Ronald Reagan Boulevard, per developers.
Expected to cost in the ballpark of $2 billion, The Gathering is being pitched as a top-flight, live-work-play hub that would double as a gateway to Forsyth County for anyone headed north. The project’s site—located along Ga. Highway 400, where Ronald Reagan Boulevard meets Union Hill Road—was originally rezoned for a regional mall development 15 years ago that didn’t take off.
Project heads are expected to attempt to lure an NHL hockey franchise back to Atlanta for The Gathering’s arena component. It would mark the metro’s first pro hockey team since the Thrashers decamped to Canada in 2011.
Prior to his recent move to metro Atlanta, Ferrara was chief financial officer and senior associate athletic director for Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Athletics. There, it should be noted, he also spearheaded ASU’s ice hockey program, leading the school’s efforts to select the development team for the 5,000-seat, on-campus Mullet Arena and the Mountain America Community Iceplex. (At 750,000 square feet, however, The Gathering’s planned arena would be nearly four times larger.)
The Gathering is the brainchild of car dealership mogul Krause, president and CEO of Krause Auto Group and a longtime resident of the growing suburb. U.S. Census data show Forsyth’s current 260,000-resident population exploded by 132 percent between 2000 and 2019, making it Georgia’s fastest-growing county this century.
Forsyth officials say upgrades to nearby roadways—including a new interchange on Ga. Highway 400 and a widened McGinnis Ferry Road—will be in place to help manage greater traffic volumes, should The Gathering come together as planned. But MARTA’s planned extension of services up Ga. Highway 400 would stop short of the area, in Fulton County.
Beyond Krause and Ferrara, the development team includes civil engineers Kimley-Horn, economic impact researchers Stone Planning, real estate advisors JLL, SCI Architects for arena design, and the Nelson firm for land planning, among others.
In this week’s DRI announcement, Krause seemed pleased with the pace of The Gathering’s progress so far.
“We’re extremely appreciative for the thoroughness and responsiveness of the Forsyth County and State of Georgia leaders and the ARC during the planning phase of this project,” said Krause. “We look forward to continued progress.”
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