Economic Retail Initiative

Economic Retail Initiative

By Dick Valentine (photo attached)
CEO Hall County, United Community Bank
Chairman, Retail Initiative, Gainesville-Hall County Economic Development Council

As the result of a community leadership summit, a strategic planning retreat and VISION 2030, the Gainesville-Hall County Economic Development Council (EDC) has developed initiatives as a blueprint for future economic growth for Gainesville-Hall County in 2006 and beyond. Of the six economic initiatives, one focuses strictly on developing an aggressive retail and small business support plan.

To accomplish the retail initiative, the Greater Hall Chamber and the EDC seek to attract high-end retail life-style centers to Hall County and partner with developers to facilitate retail park developments.

Why Retail Recruitment?
Retail growth supports our Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) with sales tax dollars to benefit education and infrastructure and improves our quality of life. In addition, quality retail development complements Gainesville-Hall County’s position as a tourism destination and diversifies the commercial tax base and our economy, as overall sales tax dollars that flow to the general fund help keep ad valorem taxes from increasing too much. Gainesville-Hall County is already recognized as the regional center for financial and medical services, but our community is lacking high-end retail developments. In fact, Gainesville native and real estate business executive Frank Norton, Jr. of The Norton Agency estimated in his 2006 Native Intelligence presentation that Hall County is as much as 50% under retailed.

Quality Retail Seeks a Quality Retail Environment
The Mall of Georgia in Buford, Peachtree City, and North Point Mall in Alpharetta… Have you noticed what makes these retail areas special for us as shoppers and for the quality retailers and restaurants that desire to be in those locations? Consider some of the surroundings that create a quality retail environment and a better shopping experience: cleanliness, lighting, traffic flow, landscaping and safety.

In contrast, consider one of our main retail thoroughfares in Hall County – Browns Bridge Road. Cluttered, no standard signage, no standard setbacks, no consistency of design or building materials. In short, no apparent planning or development standard. Browns Bridge Road developed at a time when development standards were not considered a high priority by retailers, developers, local governments or citizens. Today, those expectations from consumers and citizens have changed.

Consider a few of the elements of design that are incorporated into the development of a quality retail environment: Appealing signage, setbacks, lighting, parking ratios, landscaping buffers, quality construction materials, architectural design. Quality retail developers are keenly aware of the risks associated with a lack of development standards, and Gainesville-Hall County has been specifically criticized in the past by retail developers for not having quality standards or attractive entrances to the community.

Gateway Corridor Initiative and Attracting Quality Retailers
The Gateway Corridor Initiative proposed by the Hall County Planning & Zoning Department is a big step towards creating a quality environment and entrance to our community. The Gainesville-Hall County Economic Development Council (EDC) recently announced their endorsement of efforts to adopt a Gateway Corridor Overlay Ordinance, a quality development standard for the entrances to Hall County. The purpose of the Gateway Corridors Overlay District (GCOD) is to promote the safety and efficiency of traffic while creating an aesthetically appealing environment with design standards for landscaping and public improvements.

A quality design standard on our most visible corridors will have positive benefits for years to come, and the Hall County Commission, professional management and staff have worked diligently with the engineering consultants at Jordon, Jones & Goulding on the details of the ordinance. The proposed plan addresses items including building materials, landscaping, buffering, signage, and parking development on specified roadways, primarily in the southern end of Hall County.

Nine (9) Gateway Corridors have been targeted and include entrance areas on highways to Hall County. The Gainesville-Hall County Economic Development Council was invited to participate in the public review of the corridors and the details of the ordinance. The Hall County Commission had a first reading of the Gateway Corridor Overlay Ordinance on November 9. The second reading will take place on December 14.

The design standards of GCOD will attract quality developers and quality retailers to our area while increasing the value of properties and locations for all citizens and landowners. Best of all, a quality development standard can encourage a more attractive form of development that will improve our quality of life for years to come. This is a “win-win” policy for the community and all Hall County citizens.

For a more information on the Gateway Corridor Initiative or for a complete copy of the proposed Gateway Corridor Overlay Ordinance, contact Tim Evans, Greater Hall Chamber Vice President of Economic Development, 770-532-6206.