A project more than 10 times the size of Piedmont Park that aims to reshape the social and economic trajectory of metro Atlanta’s northeastern fringes is officially underway.

A groundbreaking ceremony today attended by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and more than 150 other dignitaries marked the ceremonial beginnings of Rowen, a Gwinnett County mixed-use development that could eventually span 2,000 acres and become a “nonprofit-led knowledge community” midway between university-rich Atlanta and Athens.

Project leaders with The Rowen Foundation say the innovation-led venture, located on woodlands along Ga. Highway 316, could ultimately produce 100,000 jobs across Georgia and contribute between $8 and $10 billion annually to the state’s economy.

The goal is to build dense housing in a village-like setting, alongside retail, lab, and office spaces, to bring together researchers, entrepreneurs, and other innovators in a bucolic setting, alongside more than 50 research and educational institutions across Georgia. [CLARIFICATION, 8:09 a.m., Dec. 12: This article has been updated to reflect that only dense, multifamily housing will be included in the Rowen project.

The pitch: “This new concept in Georgia [is] a unique place where 100-year-old oak trees inspire 25-year-old innovators.”

The Medium Density area with a planned water feature and acres of greenspaces designed to boost privacy. Courtesy of The Rowen Foundation

Project leaders didn’t provide cost estimates in an announcement today. But the eventual scope, they specified, could entail more than 22 million square feet of lab, office, and civic spaces, alongside a mix of multifamily buildings, cafes, start-up hubs, parks, and public trails.

First up is infrastructure construction. That will create SITES-certified complete streets, trails, sidewalks, and more, with new roads lending access to an area called the Rowen Village and developments with densities varying from low to medium.  

Mason Ailstock, Rowen Foundation CEO and president, said in a prepared statement the project’s name “alludes to a ‘second harvest,’ and that is precisely what we plan to cultivate at this unique location.”

A Rowen media rep tells Urbanize Atlanta the “gamechanger” project will likely be a multi-decade buildout—up to 40 or 50 years, given the scope—but that could change, depending on market demand.

Rowen’s board of directors, which governs the Rowen Foundation, is made up of leaders from the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Emory University, Georgia Gwinnett College, and others who are advancing the project for its economic and jobs-creation potential.

Find a Rowen primer in the gallery above.

Gwinnett County news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)