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Developers pitch major mixed-use community in South Forsyth

Initial plans include trails, pocket parks and STEAM school

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A team of developers has won initial approval to proceed drafting plans for a mixed-use community in southern Forsyth County they say would be on the scale of Halcyon and Avalon.

Representatives from Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s leading developers of luxury homes, and Atlanta-based Empire Communities, are pitching an overlay plan on just over 400 acres north of McGinnis Ferry Road, between Peachtree Parkway and Old Atlanta Road.

Eric White, Atlanta Division president for Toll Brothers, told members of the Forsyth County Commission July 27 that part of the company’s focus is on new architecture, and it has more plans active now than are posted on its website.

Toll Brothers is a publicly traded company with about $1.5 billion in hand. It bills itself as “America’s Luxury Homebuilder.”

The company has a 5,000 square-foot studio currently under construction slated for opening the beginning of next year. He said Toll Brothers homes include quality construction, including Hardie plank materials on the exterior with quality interior finishes.

White said the company has active projects in all five districts of Forsyth County, and he would like to partner with the county to bring the development online.

Rezoning in South Forsyth

Standing from left, Eric White, Atlanta Division president for Toll Brothers, and Paul Corley, regional president for Empire Communities, present plans for a mixed-use development in South Forsyth County at the July 27 County Commission work session.

Paul Corley, regional president for Empire Communities, said he has been building in the greater Atlanta market for nearly 30 years, including footprints in Avalon and Halcyon.

“You know you hear the terms ‘live, work,’ play,’ everybody says it – we mean it,” Corley said.

He added that a partnership with Lamar Wakefield of Wakefield Beasley and Associates design firm, the development will reflect the community now and how it will live in 20 years.

Corley said the team expects to have selected another partner for the mixed-use property by the end of August.

“It’s the best of the best that we’re talking with because they recognize the demographics of this area,” he said. “They recognize the schools. They recognize the (Ga.) 400 access and the good stuff that’s happening here in Forsyth.”

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Corley said initial plans call for 15 pocket parks, two substantial amenity complexes, a large village center and 3.8 miles of trails that could tie in to surrounding communities. Residential will include townhomes in the $400,000s and estate homes worth more than $1 million.

Wakefield provided his vision for the mixed-use community as “a chance here to do something really special for the county.”

He said he is using the same fundamentals used in creating Avalon when project leaders visited more than 60 of the best rated mixed-used developments in the country to help draw up the design.

While plans are not complete for the South Forsyth project, Wakefield provided some general details, based on his conversations with county and community leaders.

He said the development would be bisected by a $20 million parkway connecting Peachtree Parkway and Old Atlanta Road. It will have more than 100 acres of greenspace and an amphitheater. The main plaza will be 1.6 acres, twice the size of Halcyon’s.

Wakefield said talks have already begun with a large grocer, one suitable for the development.

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One of the more innovative parts of the plan includes anchoring one corner of the development with a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) school. Wakefield said negotiations are currently underway with the school district for approval.

“I can tell you, with this student population that we have in Forsyth County, it will be the best STEAM school in the state of Georgia,” Wakefield said. “We think it will be 1,400-1,500 students.”

County commissioners were intrigued by the proposal, but they said they could not commit to beginning a regional impact review for the project until the developers present more details of a draft plan. The county said it is looking for traffic studies and a more exact number on the amount of commercial and residential square footage within the development.

A DRI review, which is assembled by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is intended to coordinate between government entities and other agencies on assessing the impacts and conflicts major projects may have on an area.

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Commissioners agreed county staff should work with the development team to help refine the concept plan and bring back something they can evaluate.

County Commissioner Alfred John said he thinks there are still a couple of meetings required before the county would commit to a review.

“A lot of work has been done so far, and there’s still a lot of work left to be done,” John said.