Hopes are high this week that Gwinnett Place Mall might finally shed its status as a retail cemetery and, with the help of a national real estate titan, reemerge as a destination—this time with a diverse community of people living, working, and playing there.

Gwinnett County leaders announced a partnership this week with CBRE, billed as the world's largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, to lead a redevelopment of the beleaguered 1984 mall that’s been proposed for years but has failed to gain traction.

Nicole Love Hendrickson, Gwinnett County Chairwoman, called the CBRE announcement “a significant and exciting new development in the story of the mall’s revitalization” in a Tuesday release. She hailed the Dallas-based development firm as “the right partner to help bring a transformative redevelopment project” to the 39-acre, mostly vacant portion of the site purchased by the county for $23 million in 2021.

At least one CBRE executive leading the project has local ties to the area. Jae Kim, vice president and head of CBRE’s U.S. East Coast Korea Desk, has lived in Gwinnett for 35 years and foresees the county partnership delivering a “revitalized, vibrant, and inclusive development for Gwinnett residents.”

Gwinnett’s vision for the mall calls for leaving the few remaining big-box tenants standing, while delivering a dense, green, walkable mixed-use hub around them that preserves the area’s character and cultural diversity.

The overarching concept for new construction, with existing big-box stores as standalone retail islands and greenspace woven throughout. Gwinnett Place CID/ARC/GwinnettPlaceToBe.com

Current state of the 1980s mall property off Interstate 85 in Duluth, with Stone Mountain in the distance. Gwinnett Place CID; KB Advisory Group

Gwinnett Place Mall has slipped from a multi-state attraction over the past 20 years into a magnet for unfortunate headlines empty enough for Netflix’s Stranger Things to transform its interiors into 1980s-style mall sets for two seasons. Worse, according to a 2023 economic analysis prepared by KB Advisory Group for the Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District, the mall has hemorrhaged 87.6 percent of its collective appraised tax value over the past two decades, despite the county’s population swelling around it. The mall’s value, per that report, tumbled from $167 million in 1999 to just $20.6 million in 2022, as most stores vacated the property.

But a brighter future seemed to be dawning two years ago.

Following input from 2,500 area residents, a team of “Gwinnett Place To Be” revitalization strategists took the strongest elements from two drafts and fused them into one final redevelopment concept that came to light in summer 2022. That residential-heavy plan, called Global Villages, would create a central park as the communal nucleus, remake all roadways as Complete Streets with connections to other key points in Duluth, and enhance transit with possible bus-rapid-transit options and a new transit center.

No specific numbers have been nailed down—no surprise, without a development team in place—but renderings have indicated at least 20 new buildings could eventually sprout from today’s vast parking lots.

Gwinnett Place CID/ARC/GwinnettPlaceToBe.com

Gwinnett Place CID/ARC/GwinnettPlaceToBe.com

According to Gwinnett leadership, the next steps toward redevelopment include collaborating with CBRE to refine plans before seeking development partners to come in and build out their vision. No timelines were specified.

Just beyond the mall property, investment is already apparent in places.

The 2,000-acre Gwinnett Place area counts more than 1.1 million square feet of real estate in various stages of development today, including 1,126 new housing units, according to KB Advisory Group. Those projects include a 776-unit mid-rise multifamily building called Orchid Grove proposed along Pleasant Hill Road and a 36-room MainStay Suites Duluth hotel on Shackleford Road.

In the gallery above, find more context and a quick recap of Gwinnett Place Mall redevelopment concepts the county selected in 2022.


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