Metro Atlantans who haven’t wandered the blocks around Downtown Lawrenceville’s historic square lately could be surprised by streets of new restaurants and boutiques in vintage buildings, beefed-up greenspaces, and hundreds of new housing units aiming to capitalize on walkability.

But the 200-year-old Gwinnett County seat is angling to make what could be its biggest redevelopment splash yet in 2021, when the curtain lifts on the $35-million Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center downtown.

Spanning 56,000 square feet, the arts center project has consumed a corner of former surface parking and a full block of street frontage facing the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse, a landmark that’s stood since 1885.  

Its marquee attraction will be Aurora Theatre—Georgia’s second largest professional theater company and Gwinnett’s only pro performing arts organization.

Project officials this week provided Urbanize Atlanta with aerial footage showing recent progress at the arts center site, which broke ground in summer 2019 and topped out in November. They say it could open as early as this summer, or as late as this fall.  

Features will include a 500-seat theater, Cabaret, indoor and outdoor civic spaces, plus rooms for offices and classes. A space next door will be left for future development.

The downtown Lawrenceville site in question, as seen in 2016. Google Maps

Once it opens, the facility “will be a visual representation of Lawrenceville’s commitment to the arts,” Mayor David Still said recently in a prepared statement. “A 15-year partnership with Aurora Theatre and many years of hard work on the part of numerous determined individuals have delivered a one-of-a-kind project.”

Aurora Theatre remains closed due to COVID-19 concerns, but it’s managed to stay engage with audiences through alternate programming that’s included virtual performances, according to Anthony Rodriguez, the group’s cofounder and producing artistic director. In October, the City of Lawrenceville green-lighted an additional $4 million to upgrade the arts center with improved air filtration and hands-free devices for safety.

Below is a look at recent construction and how the facility is expected to fit within its historic context later this year.

An aerial of the $35-million facility in January, with the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse grounds across the street. Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center

New construction mingles with renovated, historic houses downtown. Lawrenceville adopted an open-container ordinance downtown in 2019, following the lead of other north suburban cities such as Duluth and Roswell. Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center

How the project will meet the corner of East Pike and North Clayton streets. Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center; designs, Croft Architects & Engineers

A space for future development with cafe seating remains at right. Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center

As seen from the 1885 Gwinnett Historic Courthouse, where original features include the turret and clock tower. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center

The new PAC against a row of old East Crogan Street storefronts. The Gwinnett County seat's founding in 1821 makes it the oldest incorporated city in metro Atlanta—a couple of years older than Decatur. Lawrenceville Performing Arts Center

Inside Aurora Theatre's 500-seat venue. Rendering: Stevens & Wilkinson

The corner of East Pike and North Clayton streets. Rendering: Stevens & Wilkinson

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