Gwinnett Daily Post
SUNDAY • February 27, 2005
winnett County with a million people — the experts agree we’re on our way. How long it will take us to get there, however, is a point of contention. Some predictions say it will come as early as 2018 — a scant 13 years from now. Others say
the county won’t add another 300,000 people to its current 700,000 population until the year 2030. The Daily Post peered into our crystal ball (and the crystal balls of demographers, statisticians, economists and county leaders) to paint a picture
McMORE Gwinnett’s phone book lists 20 McDonald’s in the county. According to a national database, Nationmaster.com, in the United States, McDonald’s hosts 44 stores per 1 million people.
WATER Now: Gwinnett uses 112.8 million gallons a day. When Gwinnett has 1 million, we’ll use 237.7 million gallons a day.
MOVING UPWARD As Gwinnett grows, experts say we’ll grow up as well as out
of what life will be like. For our purposes, we calculated 2024 as the year we’ll hit a million. Time will tell the accuracy of our predictions. The only certainty is that maintaining this county’s quality of life will continue to be a challenge as we travel the road to 1,000,000.
IN CLASS Gwinnett’s newest high school, Mill Creek, with a student population of 2,338, is one of 15 public high schools. According to school projections, which only go to the year 2012, the school, with a population of 4,013, will be one of 20 public high schools.
Arena at Gwinnett Center
GREENSPACE As the county grows, government has plans to preserve more land including this 1,800-acre tract in the Harbins area. In the next six years the county hopes to acquire 1,200 to 2,000 additional acres.
Gwinnett University Center
ON THE ROAD More roads will be built to cope with congestion. Today’s 2,500 miles of paved roads in Gwinnett will grow to 4,000.
WAL TO WAL The county houses 9 Wal-Mart Supercenters for nearly 700,000 people. For 1 million people, there could be 13 Wal-Mart Supercenters.
IN FLIGHT The Gwinnett County Airport has 108,000 takeoffs and landing a year. With 1 million residents, expect that number to grow to 172,000.
HOSPITALS There are 667 hospital beds between the three hospitals, including Emory Eastside Medical Center in Snellville. For 1 million people, there will be 1,000 beds.
THE BOOKS Right now, Gwinnett residents can find 12 libraries and one under construction. Before the population hits 1 million, there are plans for 3 more libraries with branches added in Dacula, Grayson and Hamilton Mill.
FOR YOUR HEALTH Instead of the three tiny public health clinics the county has now, six large public health clinics will serve Gwinnett spread strategically across the county, located near bus lines.
TAKING A RIDE The 1,300 bus routes Gwinnett Transit runs a year will grow to 2,100 bus routes for 1 million people. Staff Graphic: Nicole Puckett
The day will come, sooner than later BY BRYAN BROOKS AND JAIME SARRIO STAFF WRITERS firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
ondo and office towers rise along Interstate 85, while below, rubber-tired trains zip past gridlocked traffic. It’s 2024 and Gwinnett County has 1 million residents — a far cry from the 72,000 inhabitants it had in 1970 when growth began marching across the land. Back then, Interstate 85 had just been extended through Gwinnett, bringing with it new industry, new jobs and a growing economy — all conditions that attracted new residents. “White flight,” or the migration of white, middle-class families from Atlanta to the suburbs, also added to the wave of newcomers. In succeeding decades, that wave continued pushing northeast, bringing more people, more homes, more roads and more businesses to serve the burgeoning population. Between 1970 and 1980 Gwinnett’s population climbed to 166,800 people — a mere hint of what was to come. In the 1980s, Gwinnett was among the fastest-growing counties in the nation, adding almost 52 new residents per day. By 1990, Gwinnett’s population stood at 356,500, and it would surge to more than a half-million by 2000. Today, the county holds roughly 673,000 people, but when it will hit 1 million depends on who you ask. Projecting the future According to Gwinnett County government projections, there will be slightly more than 1 million people living here in 2020. However, the Atlanta Regional Commission places Gwinnett at only 800,000 residents at that time. Not until shortly after 2030 will the county gain its 1 millionth resident, based on the regional projections. Then again, the Metro North Georgia Water Planning District, whose mission is prolonging the region’s limited water supply, says Gwinnett will hit the population landmark around 2022. Averaged together, these three projections indicate Gwinnett will reach the 1 million milestone in 2024 — 19 years from now. By no stretch of the imagination is that number scientific or grounded in the number-crunching methodology used by demographers or professionals paid to forecast population growth. But it does provide some idea of how close Gwinnett is to having 1 million people living here, driving here, going to school here, seeking health care here and working here. That’s why government officials use population forecasts to help plan for the long-term future — to determine what challenges their county or city will face and tweak public
More jobs in Gwinnett would bring more people, just as decaying neighborhoods marked by shuttered buildings and graffiti could send people fleeing to more stable surroundings, possibly outside the county. Conversely, efforts county officials are undertaking to revitalize troubled areas now found in the southern part of the county could bear fruit, and maintain Gwinnett’s reputation as a desirable place to live and do business. The performance of the county school system as it tries to keep up with growth and educate an increasingly diverse student population will also determine how many people continue moving into Gwinnett County, just as it has in the past.
1,000,000 934,103 GWINNETTGROWTH The population boom began in the 1960s and through the next three decades, the number of people doubled, then tripled. While the growth is expected to slow, the Daily Post predicts 761,295 the county will have 1 million residents in 2024.
72,344 43,541 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2024 U.S Census figures
Daily Post projection
policy accordingly. Population projections give public officials an idea of how many schools will be needed, or when a sewer plant will have to be expanded. The projections are the closest thing decision makers have to a crystal ball, but comparing the numbers to a fortunetelling device would assuredly make forecasters cringe. That’s because planners and projectors are quick to note that the further out they try to project the population, the less reliable the forecasts become. Why? Because there are so many things that affect how fast a state, a region or county adds new residents. For instance, policy decisions by local officials could put the brakes on new development, or sinking SAT scores or rising crime could make the community less attractive to potential residents. The birth rate will affect how fast Gwinnett grows, but so will the economy, from the national level down to the local level.
Growing to today Most of the factors that will drive, or slow, Gwinnett’s growth in the future are the same factors that got it where it is now. The public school system and the academic performance of its students is one of the factors that contributed to Gwinnett’s population growth, along with a strong job market and a strong, diverse economic base. Longtime Lawrenceville resident Shirley Tallent has seen the effects of these factors firsthand. Tallent has lived with her family on the corner of U.S. Highway 29 and Bethesda School Road for 58 years. In that time, the Lawrenceville resident has watched the landscape of her county change, as well as the demographics. But the most noticeable change is how the massive population influx has affected the way people in Gwinnett shop, play and eat. Tallent remembers driving to the Varsity in Atlanta for Friday night dates, and knowing everyone at the local grocery store. Today, the Tallents can dine at a slew of restaurants located on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and when she visits the new Publix supermarket built a block from her home, she does not see many people she knows. The Tallents plan to leave their lot on the busy highway but will stay in Gwinnett, a county they love despite the change, she said. “The only thing we regret is that we didn’t buy more land when it was dirt cheap,” Tallent said. Now the growth that arrived in the 1970s has washed over Gwinnett and into counties farther away from Atlanta, like Barrow and Jackson, where land is cheaper. There, people are getting their first taste of growth and development that has become old hat to Gwinnettians. What a million means Today, only 37 counties in the United States have more than 1 million residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. • See Sooner, Back page of section
INSIDE SECTION G DIVERSITY: Hispanics will continue to lead the diversification of Gwinnett. –Page 2
TRAFFIC: More roads, buses won’t cure congestion. –Page 5
CONSTRUCTION: As greenspace disappears, density will increase. –Page 7
SPORTS: Which high schools will become the dominant programs? –Page 8
HOUSING: More dense and affordable. –Page 10
CHURCHES: Cultures bring their faiths with them. –Page 4
HEALTH: A million people will need 1,000 hospital beds. –Page 6
SCHOOLS: Gwinnett schools on the way to a quarter-million students. –Page 8
DINING: 44 McDonald’s, many more grocery stores. –Page 9
LIBRARIES: Three more branches before we hit 1 million. –Page 11
2P • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • GWINNETT DAILY POST
Diversity to increase as Gwinnett grows BY ARIELLE KASS
STAFF WRITER arielle.kass@ gwinnettdailypost.com
A long time ago, the director of Gwinnett’s Human Relations Commission said diversity in the county used to mean that there was a Methodist Church down the street. Today, the minority population in Gwinnett is a majority in some areas of the county. And as Gwinnett grows, its diversity will only increase. In the 2000 census, the county was 73 percent white. While the white population grew by 72 percent between 1970 and 2000, nonwhite residents increased 326 percent over the same period. Bart Lewis, chief of the research division at the Atlanta Regional Commission, predicts that when Gwinnett’s population hits a million — the ARC forecasts it for just after 2030 — migrant workers from Central and South America will be the groups that have increased the most. With the baby boom generation aging, he said, more and more unskilled, high-intensity jobs will have to be filled. Already, the growth has begun. In 2000, more than 26,000 native-born Mexicans lived in Gwinnett, 20,000 more than native-born Indians, the next highest-represented group. “If you go on a construction site in Atlanta, you’d better be able to speak Spanish,” Lewis said. “Mexico’s going to be one of the big providers. They have a crummy economy and a common border.” Jeffrey Humphreys, who directs the Selig Center at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, has been publishing a yearly report on
“Now” listed are the 2000 census figures. “Then” numbers are projections from a UGA professor. All are rounded. The numbers do not include the Hispanic population because it is not included in the racial make-up due to the number of residents who are Hispanic and another race. That number is 11 percent for “Now” and 23 percent for “Then.” NOW 4% other
3% more than 1 race
2% more than 1 race
Staff Photo: James Nedock
Store signs in Spanish and other languages as seen at these storefronts in Norcross show the diversity in Gwinnett County.
the buying power of different ethnic and racial groups in the area since 1990. His forecasts show Gwinnett’s population at a million around 2010. An increase in minority populations in Gwinnett is an advantage for businesses, Humphreys said. Nationally, Asians and Hispanics start businesses at a rate that is four times higher than the rest of the population, and Gwinnett’s highdiversity population is an advantage for business owners, as well. They are able to expand their customer base while staying in their back yard, he said, and have an advantage in perfecting their advertising strategies to target specific groups. “The learning curve can be steep,” Humphreys said. “You have to learn very quickly. But Gwinnett is the center of gravity. It’s a sweet spot, the most multicultural market in the
state. … Gwinnett is the center of multicultural universe in Georgia in terms of business opportunities.” Percy Scott, the executive director of Gwinnett County’s Human Relations Commission, likened Gwinnett’s diversity to a multicourse meal. Currently, 106 languages are spoken in the county, he said, and he expects existing groups will only increase in numbers. “America used to be a mixing bowl,” Scott said. “Now, it’s more like a tossed salad or an eight-course meal. Each of them brings their own tastiness to the table.” Scott said that as long as Gwinnett residents continue to respect each other, there would be no problems with understanding the cultural diversity in the county. All citizens have equal access to the county’s services, he said, and the coun-
ty uses about 40 volunteer translators to help bridge the understanding gap for nonnative English speakers. Scott said he does not see the county printing documents in different languages for nonEnglish speakers. The cost would be too tremendous to cover all 106 languages, he said, and he thinks it does a disservice to immigrants to translate official documents, depriving them of opportunities to learn English. Beth Arnow, who coordinates the Gwinnett County Public Schools’ English to Speakers of Other Languages program and its International Newcomers Center, said 37,000 students in the system speak a language other than English at home. As of January 2004, more than 16,000 students in the public schools were born outside of the United
G W I N N E T T
States, nearly 13 percent of the total student population. Each school in the system has an ESOL teacher, Arnow said, and some have more than one. She said that while the system hires new teachers every year to keep up with growth, it may come to the point in the future that the county is looking for teachers with different skill sets than they are now — teachers who are comfortable working with a diverse range of backgrounds and languages in the same classroom. No one seems to question the fact that Gwinnett’s diverse population will expand as it continues to grow, but Humphreys said there are some things that could slow the exponential growth — Arnow’s International Newcomers Center had already welcomed 1,084 new students for the 2004-2005 school year by January. One of the main draws to the county, Humphreys said, is the
high job availability. If there were any major shock to the economy of the county or the state, Gwinnett would become a much less desirable place to live. Similarly, new visa requirements for immigrants or tighter border controls could significantly slow growth among different groups. Lewis said Gwinnett is a prime example of the continued existence of America as a melting pot for people of every race and ethnicity. And as more people move to an area and mixing with each other, he said, people will only get more comfortable with different skin tones and languages. “I’m certainly not going to tell you that prejudice is dead in Atlanta, but I think we’ve put it behind us. I think most places in the country have,” Lewis said. “You used to read history books about the U.S. being a great melting pot in the 1920s. It’s not over yet.”
C E N T E R
Thanks to you, the residents of Gwinnett and metro Atlanta, Gwinnett Center and The Arena have had another stellar year. Your support of the many concerts and sporting events has helped The Arena at Gwinnett Center become one of the top ten ranked facilities in the Nation. We gladly give you top billing in our list of thank yous for helping to make it a show-stopping year. To join in on the excitement in 2005, check out these future events: SAT & SUN SUNDAY THURSDAY MONDAY MONDAY SATURDAY TUESDAY MONDAY FRIDAY
FEB 26 & 27 FEB 27 MARCH 10 MARCH 14 MARCH 21 MARCH 26 MARCH 29 APRIL 4 APRIL 29
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GWINNETT DAILY POST • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • 3P
SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES ARE THE CORNERSTONE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND QUALITY OF LIFE IN GWINNETT. THE GWINNETT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IS PROUD TO PLAY A VITAL ROLE IN OUR THRIVING COMMUNITY BY LEADING, SUPPORTING AND PROMOTING A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR OUR BUSINESSES AND CITIZENS ALIKE. THE GWINNETT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE.
LEADING THE WAY
For more information about Gwinnett Chamber initiatives, call 770-2323000 or visit www.gwinnettchamber.org. Advocates for – High-Paying Jobs • Clean Industry • Infrastructure Improvements • Quality of Life • Programs include – Seminars and Workshops • Networking Opportunities • Business Exposure • Governmental Committees • Technology Forums • Personal Enrichment • Executive Roundtables • Education Committees • Leadership Programs
4P • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • GWINNETT DAILY POST
Spiritual landscape changes with times
Gwinnett currently has 700,000 residents. Do you think it will reach 1 million and when?
BY CAROLE TOWNSEND Staff Correspondent
The face of Gwinnett is changing rapidly, and the changes are mirrored in the county’s business, education and religious institutions. By the year 2010, Gwinnett is projected to have about 821,000 residents, according to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. By 2025, a staggering 1.2 million residents are expected to call Gwinnett home. Furthermore, the 2000 U.S. Census recorded a population of 99,518 foreign-born residents, an increase of 464 percent in the immigrant population of Gwinnett since 1990. From a religious point of view, Gwinnett’s churches will almost certainly echo the population growth and diversity, just as they do today. For instance, Gwinnett’s Asian population is more than triple that of the state average. The Hispanic population (largely Catholic but increasingly Protestant) here is more than double the state average, 10.9 percent as compared to 5.3 percent statewide. The Caucasian population remains at about 67 percent. Since churches typically reflect an entire culture and not just specific religious beliefs, what can we expect to see in the coming years? A growing trend in churches nationwide is the inter-cultural gathering place, one that brings Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians together and teaches “your truth is as valid as mine, and we are all the same under one higher power.” Perhaps this dawning realization is the reason metro Atlanta has seen the birth of so many nondenominational megachurches. “There is definitely a move-
Word on the Street
Barbara Sickler Loganville
Desiree Bonner, Suwanee
“I don’t know. I’m moving out of Gwinnett as soon as I can.
“Yes, probably about 2010.”
Ethan Rinke Dacula
Gary Chatman, Duluth
“Yes, probably in the next five to 10 years.”
“It probably will about 2008.”
The Rev. Jeff Anefils of Bible Based First French Speaking Baptist Church of Lawrenceville ministers to the area’s Haitian population.
NOW&THEN The Gwinnett Daily Post projected numbers and trends based on current statistics and growth figures. THEN NOW ■ As listed in the Gwinnett County phone directory, there are currently 526 churches.
■ The current number compared with the current population means there will be 751 churches for 1 million people.
ment away from denominationalism,” says Senior Pastor Rusty Hayes of Sugarloaf Community Church. “Seekers, especially the younger population, go to places where they sense they are experiencing God. “They ask themselves, ‘Does this church speak my language? Does it speak to my
soul?’” Sugarloaf Community Church’s attendance is fast approaching the 1,000 mark. Hayes said the racial diversity of the community is mirrored in his and other churches. “There seems to be more of a spirit of cooperation among cultures and churches,” he says. “We held a joint service with a local Romanian Baptist church not long ago, and we recently did a missions conference with a Hispanic charismatic church.” Interestingly, Atlanta is second only to Dallas in the number of megachurches that have emerged. A megachurch, loosely defined, is home to at least 2,000 congregants. Typically, it is nondenominational as well. Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, pastored by Andy Stanley, has an average weekly attendance of 7,000. Crossroads Community
Church in Lawrenceville (pastor Kevin Myers) has an average attendance of 2,200, and Perimeter Church in Duluth (pastor Randy Pope) has 2,000 weekly attendees. These are just a few of many nondenominational super churches in metro Atlanta. Communities are turning to their churches for spiritual guidance, of course, but more and more they are looking for counseling, strong children’s programs, and language and life skills education. “If a church today is going to be viable, it has to address the many and changing needs of the community it’s in,” Hayes said. “Those are the churches that will prosper.” That’s good news for the megachurches, but not so good for the smaller, older, straightline denominational churches.
Lillie Broadnax Mountain Park
Nancy Lopez Norcross
“Yes. It’s going to be in 10 years.”
“The way it’s going, yes.”
This question was asked by staff intern Betsy Charron.
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GWINNETT DAILY POST • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • 5P
Added people won’t help traffic BY CAMIE YOUNG STAFF WRITER camie.young @gwinnettdailypost.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — Even with double the miles of roads, triple the amount of sidewalks and people finally riding the county buses, traffic will still be a problem when Gwinnett hits 1 million in population, Transportation Director Brian Allen admits. Allen said transportation in this suburban Atlanta county would look a lot different in 20 years, but despite all the work, the growth may be too hard to keep up with. Without that work, though, traffic could be unbearable. “The fact of the matter is adding 300,000 people to the county, congestion isn’t going to be any better,” Allen said. “It’s probably not going to happen.” “But without doing all these projects, it will get much worse,” added Alan Chapman, who is in charge of transportation capital projects. It’s the decisions made in the next several years that could determine the future, Allen noted. Some of the biggest questions include a still-controversial cross-county connector between Sugar Hill and Dacula, the much-debated toll plan for upgrades to Ga. Highway 316 and commuter rail programs that have been pushed to the backburner. “The traffic’s getting so bad on (Ga.) 20. It just keeps getting so much worse going to the mall or the interstate,” Sugar Hill Mayor Gary Pirkle said. “Hopefully by then we’ll have 20 widened and the cross county connector in to provide more options.” Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks said he just hopes for a decision on the cross-county connector and the Ga. 316 issues so he can get started planning his
city’s future. Several years ago, officials decided to begin a county bus program, and they still take the heat for starting a system that citizens have been slow to support. But when 300,000 more people move to the suburb, Allen says the bus system will prove to be critical to get people around. “I think you could see local bus service in most parts of the county,” Allen said. “You have to look at every solution.” Allen explains that every talk about congestion has to be coupled with discussion about transportation alternatives — sidewalks, bike lanes, buses, trolleys, trains. “Chances are, every mile of road that is added will have at least a mile of sidewalks, not to mention things like greenways and trails,” Allen said. Since Gwinnett passed its first major capital improvements program in 1992, the county has spent about $1 billion on roads, bridges, sidewalks, intersections and other traffic needs. To add another 300,000 people, “at least, that effort would have to be duplicated,” he said. “That infrastructure that has been improved over 25 years, will age that much more over the next 25 years.” For now, because of budget constraints, county tax dollars are focused on getting as much from the current infrastructure as possible. The county is trying less costly solutions such as changes to signal timing while continuing with sales tax programs worth millions. Of course, the county is planning for a future that is still uncertain. “It’s probably safe to assume that the travel demands will also be changing,” he added, explaining that instead of driving to Atlanta, people may begin to drive to Gwinnett for the jobs. “It may mean that the morning commute is more of a northbound issue,” he said.
Word on the Street Gwinnett currently has 700,000 residents.What will be the best and worst aspects about 1,000,000?
Erin Harris, Suwanee “The best aspect will be meeting new people, and there are no bad aspects.”
Joel Schanerman, Buford
“A good aspect will be that the tax bases might change, and the worst aspect will be traffic.”
Joanne Vicknair, Snellville “The best aspect is that people in Gwinnett are nice, and the worst will be traffic.”
Karen Sutton, Lawrenceville “The traffic will be terrible. There are no good aspects.”
The northbound I-85 lanes just south of Old Peachtree Road are closed as the Georgia Department of Transportation continues its resurfacing project. Officials predict the county will add 1,500 miles of roads to service 1 million people.
NOW&THEN The Gwinnett Daily Post asked Gwinnett County transportation officials to estimate some statistics about the county’s transportation network when the population reaches 1 million. Miles of roads Traffic signals Miles of sidewalks Miles of dirt roads Bus system (passengers per year) Airport (takeoffs and landings)
NOW 2,500 575 1,130 40 1.5 million 108,000
THEN 4,000 800 2,300 20 2.6 million 172,000
Rev. Marshall B. Clack, Loganville “The best aspect will be for the churches, and the worst will be traffic and commuting.”
Rodney Harris, Suwanee “The best aspect will be that people will have the opportunity to interact with different cultures and races, and the worst will be traffic.”
This question was asked by staff intern Betsy Charron.
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6P • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • GWINNETT DAILY POST
: HEALTH CARE
Residents more likely to stay here for health care BY SHELLEY MANN
STAFF WRITER shelley.mann @gwinnettdailypost.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — As Gwinnett’s population grows, health officials predict county residents will rely more heavily on in-county health care rather than driving to Atlanta for services. The shift, likely to be brought on in part by increased traffic congestion, will lead to a big jump in the number of hospital beds and facilities for Gwinnett Medical Center and Emory Eastside Medical Center. On the other hand, the number of people who don’t have access to health care will continue to grow as the county nears a million people, and Gwinnett will need to double the number of public health clinics and bring existing clinics up to date, public health officials said. State health department policies dictate that both Gwinnett and Eastside’s hospital systems can set concrete plans only three years in advance, said Frank Rinker, Gwinnett Medical Center’s CEO. While both systems have longrange goals for up to 20 years in advance, officials could only speak about projects on the three-year drawing board. Eastside will complete a 110-bed hospital, Emory Johns Creek, in North Fulton County by about 2007. At the Gwinnett Health System, plans include a replacement hospital for the aging Joan Glancy Memorial and an eventual 100-bed addition to Gwinnett Medical Center’s Lawrenceville campus. Future projects could include an expansion to the Glancy replacement hospital and a freestanding surgery center on a systemowned parcel of land near the Mall of Georgia, Rinker said. The health services offered in the county will be dictated by growing populations of both young professionals and seniors, said Les Beard, CEO of Emory Eastside Medical Center. Eastside is betting on the population staying relatively young and will gear services toward that group, concentrat-
For health care, Information for “Now” provided by Gwinnett Medical Center and Emory Eastside Medical Center. Information for “Then” are calculations by the Gwinnett Daily Post based on the number of beds per person in 2005 and estimates for 2007, plus interviews with hospital officials. NOW
■ 667 hospital beds ■ Three major hospitals – Gwinnett Medical Center, Emory Eastside Medical Center, Joan Glancy Memorial
■ More than 1,000 beds. ■ Five major hospitals, including the already planned Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital and Emory Johns Creek hospital, as well as a possible free-standing surgical center in Buford and a 100-bed expansion to Gwinnett Medical Center’s Lawrenceville campus.
■ Three tiny public health clinics, in Norcross, Lawrenceville and Buford.
■ Six large public health clinics spread strategically across the county, located near bus lines.
Hospital officials predict county residents will rely more on in-county facilities for health care in the future, prompting new hospitals to be constructed and existing ones to expand.
ing on obstetrics, women’s health and pediatric urgent care. But both hospitals say seniors will also be important when the county’s population hits a million. Through a combination of baby boomers hitting their golden age and working families bringing their parents in, the above-60 age group is growing fast, Rinker said. Services such as cardiovascular, orthopedic, pulmonology and gastroenterology, all in high demand from seniors will quickly grow, said Paula Martin, spokeswoman for Gwinnett Medical Center. Another trend will be an increase in specialists to bring the county up to speed with the services offered in Atlanta, Martin said. Right now, Beard estimated, both Emory Eastside and Gwinnett Medical Center are seeing about 40 percent of possible patients migrating into Atlanta for health care. “Probably the demand (on the hospitals) will grow faster, because it will get harder to get inside the perimeter because of the roads,” said Greg Caples, chief financial officer for Emory Eastside. “Each year, we’ll see more people realizing they’ve got everything they
need here.” The county’s Hispanic population, already large and expected to continue to grow, will also affect the health services local hospitals offer, Caples said. Because of cultural differences, Hispanics are more likely to use the hospitals for OB/GYN needs than any other health services. But as the racial makeup of the county changes, hospital officials are betting on the county’s level of affluence staying the same. Eastside plans to cater to that affluent group by specializing in “boutique” services, like face lifts and dental procedures, that aren’t medical necessities, said spokeswoman Sheila Adcock.
two-fold job — it must prevent disease from spreading in the population at large and provide basic health services to residents without health insurance. From the outside looking in, Goins said, Gwinnett is a wealthy county. But with that wealth comes a built-in demand for people to work in the low-paying service industry. Out of the county’s nearly 700,000 residents, about 200,000 have no health insurance and aren’t eligible for Medicaid. When the population hits 1 million, that proportion is expected to stay the same, Goins said — about 280,000 people will be without health care. The top goal will be better serving those resi-
Public health Gwinnett’s health department expects the county to hit 1 million residents in about 12 years, said East Metro Health District spokesman Vernon Goins. He said the public health department has a lot of catching up to do if it will be able to adequately care for 1 million people. The public health department has a
dents. The county’s three tiny public health clinics can only accommodate about one-third of the people who need help, Goins said. To care for 280,000 people, the county would need at least six large public health clinics, and the clinics would need to be strategically built near public transportation lines, he said. Already, the health department is applying for grants for mobile units to go out in the community and bring dental, women’s and children’s services to low-income residents. An increasing immigrant population brings health problems of its own, Goins said. Immigrants often come from countries where basic health services aren’t available and bring diseases like tuberculosis and hepatitis with them. The public health department has to treat those residents to prevent the diseases from spreading to the rest of the population. Before the county hits a million, the health department will need to have a quick response system for responding to disease outbreaks and a more efficient system for inspecting restaurants, Goins said. He expects the health department will have a Web site that lets citizens access restaurant and pool inspection scores, the public health clinics will have drivethrough windows for flu shots and health care vouchers, and the staff will be trained to better serve patients who speak different languages or practice different religions. Of course, all plans depend on the amount of money the department gets from the county, state and federal levels. As state health funding is expected to continue to decline, the health department will try to rely more heavily on paid services — such as DNA, STD and drug testing and travel clinics — that appeal to the population, Goins said. “It’s up to the public to decide how big a health department they want,” Goins said. “We all think of having beautiful downtowns, town greens and all those things that brought them here in the first place, and community health gets put on the back burner.”
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GWINNETT DAILY POST • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • 7P
: LAND USE
Development’s nature to change with growth wave BY BRYAN BROOKS STAFF WRITER bryan.brooks@ gwinnettdailypost.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — By the time Gwinnett County reaches 1 million residents, all the easily developable land will be filled with homes, offices and shopping centers. As a result, developers will have begun looking for small tracts of land that were passed over earlier, when growth was pushing northeast through the county. “The nature of the development will change,” said county Planning Division Director Steve Logan. “We will be in a situation where the development will switch from new greenfield development to infill development and redevelopment.” The passed-over tracts, which will remain vacant for various reasons, will equal about 10 percent of the county’s land area, Logan predicted, and it is those parcels developers will hunt for. When the growth wave does reach the far ends of Gwinnett, in its wake will probably be bands of high-intensity development along limitedaccess roads, like Interstate 85, Interstate 985 and Ga. Highway 316, according to local and regional planners. Those high-density corridors that will spread about three miles out from each side of the roadway will have appeared by the time Gwinnett reaches 1 million people, Logan predicted, and they will continue to develop for some time after that. “I see you’re going to have these high-intensity development corridors, and they may have not reached full intensity by 2020,” Logan said. “My guess is Gwinnett and the Atlanta area will grow well into the future, and the intensity will increase as time goes by.” A desire to live close to the transportation network will drive the development along the corridors, and rising land costs will drive the development skyward, planners said.
NOW&THEN Numbers are provided by the Department of Public Utilities and are measured in millions of gallons per day. Sewer Water
NOW 56.7 112.8
THEN 134.1 237.7
▼ ‘‘I could even write a scenario where cities like Lawrenceville, which will have urban amenities in 20 years, will compete well against downtown metro Atlanta because it will be cheaper.’’ Chief of ARC’s research division
The price of land will increase as it becomes more scarce, forcing developers to build more units per acre in order to recoup the land cost and turn a profit, planners said. At some point in time, the prices in some areas will force a density that can only be achieved by building upward. “High-rises really are a function of land costs, much like everything else in real estate,” Logan said. “Our consultants (hired to help the county draft revitalization plans) have suggested that we will have a massive build-up of offices up the I85 corridor,” Logan said, “probably starting about where Gwinnett Place Mall is and extending up through the Sugarloaf area and the Mall of Georgia as time goes by.” The high-rise development will probably be similar in appearance to
When the growth wave reaches the far ends of Gwinnett, in its wake will probably be bands of high-intensity development along limited-access roads, like Interstate 85, Interstate 985 and Ga. Highway 316, according to local and regional planners.
what now stands along the top end of Interstate 285 in the Perimeter Center area, Logan said. “My guess is, in the next five to 15 years ... as land costs rise and as development intensifies along the I85 corridor, you will definitely see high-rise office development, highrise condominium development and other high-rise land uses occurring.” Also, mixed-use development will have probably established a firm foothold in Gwinnett County by 2020, with offices, shops and residences being built in close proximity to one another, allowing people to be less auto-dependent, planners said. Such development — called “livework-play communities” by land
planners — is also a main component of downtown improvement plans being implemented by numerous Gwinnett cities. As a result, city centers across Gwinnett could have thriving, pedestrian-friendly downtowns by the time the county reaches 1 million people. Not only will young professionals be attracted to the in-town amenities, but also retired baby boomers looking for less home and closer shopping, restaurants and social activities. Bart Lewis, chief of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Research Division, said in 20 years the cost of living in Atlanta’s in-town areas could be so high that folks wanting an
urban lifestyle might have to settle for suburban cities like Lawrenceville, Roswell and Marietta. Lewis said, “I could even write a scenario where cities like Lawrenceville, which will have urban amenities in 20 years, will compete well against downtown metro Atlanta because it will be cheaper.” Asked what existing county Gwinnett at 1 million could be comparable to, Lewis said DeKalb County. Logan said the best example of what Gwinnett could look like is found in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. He said Montgomery County or Fairfax County is illustrative of what Gwinnett might look like.
8P â€˘ SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 â€˘ GWINNETT DAILY POST
For school systems, bigger not necessarily better BY JAIME SARRIO STAFF WRITER jaime.sarrio @gwinnettdailypost.com
LAWRENCEVILLE â€” With more than 100 facilities already in place, it is hard to imagine Gwinnett Countyâ€™s school system getting any bigger. But it will. As the population of this metropolitan county creeps toward 1 million, and the number of births climbs, public school officials will have to cope with a massive school enrollment that could exceed 200,000 students before 2023. Buford City Schools, a system tucked in the northern part of the county, will face similar challenges as people move into the city limits. Both school systems say they The Gwinnett Daily Post projected numbers and trends based on are planning for the future current statistics and growth figures: and hope to be ready. NOW THEN
Bigger and bigger Gwinnett County Public Schools is already the largest school district in Georgia, serving about 136,000 students. The school population increases by about 6,000 students per year â€” the size of the average Georgia school district. It is one of the 20 largest school systems in the nation, and planning officials expect that status will increase as Gwinnett contin-
Students Teachers Bus routes Lunches per year
136,800 9,800 1,300 16.7 million
ues to grow. Enrollment forecasts for Gwinnett Schools were only available through 2017 when the system predicts it will have 196,325 students and need 9,816 classrooms. Beyond that the crystal ball gets hazy, but if the system continues to add 4,000 new
220,325 15,000 2,100 27 million
students a year until 2023 â€” the year the population could hit 1 million â€” the total school enrollment will be about 220,325, according to projections. The nationâ€™s seventh largest school district, Clark County Schools in Las Vegas, has an enrollment of 231,600 stu-
If Gwinnett County Public Schools is going to keep up with its needs, it will have to build 30 to 35 new schools in the next 10 years, said Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks.
dents, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The school district has more than 100 facilities including 63 elementary schools, 20 middle schools, 16 high schools, and seven other educational facilities. If the district is going to keep up with its needs, it will have to build 30 to 35 new schools in the next 10 years, said Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. â€œI never thought of it as being the bigger (the) better,â€? he said. â€œWe became the largest school system in 1997, and I am still waiting on the prize.
â€œBut it does force you to focus and strategize. Weâ€™re looking at our growth six, seven, eight, 10 years down the road.â€? The growth in Gwinnett will slow, but not significantly, Wilbanks said. By 2012, Gwinnett add about 4,200 students per year rather than the 6,500 who enrolled this year. About 4,000 full- and parttime positions would be created with the construction the new schools needed in the next 10 years, Wilbanks said. Where the kids are From 2000 to 2002, the county added 6,333 more toddlers to its population. Children younger than five now account for 8.2 percent of countyâ€™s 650,771 people â€” an increase of 0.2 percent from 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Most of these children will enroll in public education, and for Gwinnett County Public Schools, that means making room in an already overcrowded system. Almost half of the systemâ€™s students are enrolled in elementary school, said Greg Stanfield, director of planning for Gwinnett Schools. â€œThere are more young people here, or more families move in with young children,â€? Stanfield said. â€œI sus-
pect we will have to continue to open more elementary schools as we continue to grow.â€? Stanfield predicts the growth will continue to spread to the Eastern portions of the county because large lots of land are available in those areas. A million and Buford Gwinnettâ€™s population influx will no doubt affect the city of Buford, but officials canâ€™t say how severely. Growth is controlled inside the city limits and development is balanced with the schoolâ€™s capacity, according to officials. Right now, the system has about 2,190 students and four schools, according to Geye Hamby, assistant superintendent. â€œSchool facilities in Buford City are in excellent shape and have room for growth,â€? he said. â€œCurrently, with the 10 room additions to Buford Elementary and Buford High and the construction of a 130,000 square-foot middle school we can accommodate growth in Buford for five to 10 years.â€? â€œThe school that will experience new construction first as the population of our school district increases is Buford Academy,â€? he said.
Growth equals titles for Gwinnettâ€™s athletic programs BY WILL HAMMOCK STAFF WRITER will.hammock @gwinnettdailypost.com
Massive growth and overcrowding can mean a number of problems for high school administrators. Bus issues. Lines of trailers. Packed lunchrooms. Loads of students create a different effect in high school athletics, where the Gwinnett County schools with the biggest enrollment in Class AAAAA generally have the most success. The theory makes sense. The more students at a school means the more elite athletes are involved on the schoolâ€™s teams. More top athletes bring more wins and more championships. That has held true in the past with the countyâ€™s biggest schools â€” Brookwood, Parkview and Collins Hill â€” accounting for 80 of the 118 state titles won by Gwinnettâ€™s AAAAA programs. Collins Hillâ€™s status as the stateâ€™s biggest high school has no doubt fueled its run to nine state championships since 2000. As Gwinnettâ€™s population closes in on 1 million, the rising number of high school students is expected to keep the countyâ€™s athletic programs among the stateâ€™s best. â€œAs an athletic director, I love the numbers,â€? said Mill Creekâ€™s Gary Long, who was the South Gwinnett AD prior to this school year. â€œThere is another whole aspect on the logistical end of things that say there are just too many kids in a building. I understand that. But as an athletic director, the numbers mean weâ€™re going to have a lot of success with our athletic pro-
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Growth in the northern part of the county should help schools such as Mill Creek High School become powerhouses in the state.
NOW&THEN Predictions were made based on projections from the Gwinnett County Public Schools and current trends based and statistics. NOW Teams in regions 7-AAAAA,8-AAAAA 15 Mill Creek enrollment 2,338 Dominant programs Brookwood Parkview Collins Hill
gram.â€? The growth in the Brookwood and Parkview districts during the 1980s and 1990s sparked those athletic pro-
THEN 20 4,013 Mill Creek N. Gwinnett Collins Hill
grams to great success. The northern half of Gwinnett was less developed with neighborhoods, but the rapid growth has turned North
Gwinnett into a AAAAA school and forced the construction of several other high schools. Mill Creek is a perfect example of the population boom. It opened this school year with an enrollment of 2,338, a large figure for a new school. The student body likely will be in the 3,500 to 3,600 range within two years and the countyâ€™s projected enrollment for Mill Creek in 20092010 is 4,013.
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should bring benefits in terms of victories for the Hawksâ€™ athletic programs. â€œThe biggest growth in the county is right here and will continue to be right here in the near future,â€? Long said. â€œI know the Grayson area is booming like it is here. Itâ€™s subdivision after subdivision.â€? The athletic downside of overcrowding is scheduling venues for off-campus sports. The addition of schools and teams can make it hard to schedule a golf course, a tennis match or a swimming meet. Gwinnettâ€™s school system is making preliminary plans for its 2007-2012 building program, which calls for the construction of five new high schools, most in the northern part of the county. Two are slated for the Mill Creek area.
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GWINNETT DAILY POST • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • 9P
Technology changing the restaurant business BY DOUGLAS SAMS STAFF WRITER email@example.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — Here’s a safe prediction about the typical restaurant of the future — technology will change the way consumers dine. Even now, years before Gwinnett hits 1 million people, that transformation is already under way. McDonald’s, the giant of the restaurant industry, is among the first in the fast-food industry to experiment with self-service technology, enabling consumers to order, receive and pay for food without ever talking to a cashier. Today, lovers of the Big Mac, fish sandwich and the Happy Meal still form long lines at lunch. But that inconvenience may be a thing of the past in 10 to 20 years — the period estimated to take Gwinnett to reach 1 million residents. By then, self-checkout in the restaurant may no longer be a novelty. After all, it is only natural that the food industry —defined by the loyalty of the customer — would turn to technology that improves customer service. Other businesses embraced selfcheckout years ago. In the financial industry, it began with the automated teller machine at every bank. Then pay-at-the-pump became an option at the gas station. Restaurant and hospitality industries appear to be next, according to NCR Corp. The company’s Duluthbased Retail Solutions Division is already making computer automated checkout devices for various businesses. These include a touchscreens restaurant patrons can use to look over the menu, order and pay with either cash, credit or debit cards. Another safe assumption about restaurants when the county reaches 1 million — there will be many more of them, especially in the South, according to industry pro-
NOW&THEN The Gwinnett Daily Post projected numbers and trends based on current statistics and growth figures along with information from Web sites for McDonald’s, Nationmaster.com and the National Restaurant Association. NOW
■ Order food in line
■ Order foot by automated menu
■ Pay the cashier ■ Computerized self-checkout ■ New to the ■ New to the scene: Moe’s scene: Ruth’sSouthwestern Chris steak house Grill
jections. A cursory glance through the Yellow Pages shows 20 McDonald’s in Gwinnett at the end of 2004. When the county approaches 1 million residents, more than twice as many Golden Arches may be overlooking the retail landscape. That growth is based on the fastfood chain averaging about 44 restaurants per 1 million people, according to the online data resource Nationmaster.com File Photo The trend is not limited to Georgia now has nearly 18,500 eating-and-drinking establishments, generating $11.4 billion in sales. McDonald’s. Over the next 10 Lisa Anders, spokeswoman for restaurants thanks primarily to the nesses from Buford Highway years, restaurants in Georgia are expected to add 90,000 jobs to sus- the Gwinnett Convention and Visi- rise of the multi-cultural super- northeastward to Pleasant Hill Road and Gwinnett Place mall. tain their expansion, according to tors Bureaus, said ritzy restaurants store. Hispanic buying power, or the Super H Mart, an upscale Korean and ‘non-chain’ locations like Aqua the state’s restaurant association. The United States has nearly Terra, Lil River Grill and Sperata value of goods and services con- grocery retailer and an Internationsumers can afford to buy, is already al Farmers Market of Asian and 900,000 restaurants, and sales at will become more common. And, while nothing is set in skyrocketing — from $105,000 in Hispanic foods are just a few new those locations are expected to reach a record $476 billion in 2015, stone yet, a high-end restaurant has 1990 to $1.9 million in 2004, businesses moving into the area. In fact, the South led the nation according to the National Restau- been talked about for several years according to a University of Georin a survey of new grocery stores rant Association. Georgia now has in the most affluent section of gia study released last fall. Meanwhile, Asians living in including ethnic foods on their nearly 18,500 eating-and-drinking Gwinnett — a corridor of expenestablishments, generating $11.4 sive homes, shopping, entertain- Gwinnett had a buying power in shelves, according to the Food 1900 of $148,500, but by last year Marketing Institute. ment and financial firms. billion in sales. “With the advent of the new mul“We wouldn’t be surprised to their disposable income soared to Fast-food chains may be the ticultural supermarkets,” Anders most prolific when it comes to see a very upscale steak or seafood $1.6 million. Greater financial clout among said, “the ethnic restaurants will expansion, but they are just one restaurant move into the Sugarloaf minorities has fueled the expansion probably expand out of Buford example of the new restaurants Parkway area,” Anders said. Another likely trend is the of the international corridor of Highway and some of Gwinnett’s Gwinnett will offer in the coming expansion of minority-owned Asian, Hispanic and Indian busi- other cities and towns.” years.
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10P • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • GWINNETT DAILY POST
Affordable housing key to fighting poverty, homelessness BY SHELLEY MANN
STAFF WRITER shelley.mann @gwinnettdailypost.com
LAWRENCEVILLE hen the county hits 1 million people, affordable housing will be the key to keeping Gwinnett’s neighborhoods vibrant while cutting down on the number of families who live in poverty or who end up on the street, housing experts said. If residents and lawmakers don’t accept a mixed-use approach to housing, with a blend of single-family, town home, rental and government-subsidized units, the county’s neighborhoods could be in danger. Now, neighborhoods are built new at the same time and then downgrade at the same time, and will systematically fall into blight, said Marina Peed, director of the IMPACT! Group, formerly Gwinnett Housing Resource Partnership. With a growing population comes a growing need for workers to fill service industry jobs. As Gwinnett has grown, land prices and housing costs have risen but wages haven’t kept up with the pace of housing cost, Peed said. “A lot of people think we’re taking about housing for people who don’t work or contribute to society. That’s not it,” Peed said. Common sense economics tells families it’s dangerous to spend more than 30 percent of total income on housing. But with average apartment rental prices running $800 to $1,000, lowincome families have a hard time keeping up. Many families with poverty-level income are spending 100 percent of their income on housing, said Ellen Gerstein, executive director of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services. “A lot of people are living one or two paychecks away from homelessness,” Gerstein said. Not to mention the fact that Gwinnett lacks a reliable and efficient public transit system, practically requiring residents to own a vehicle, Gerstein said. The county has a lot of apartment housing, but it lacks in property for renters or homeowners who make less than $40,000 a year. Current residents have opposed moving toward affordable housing, Peed said. “People fear loss — loss in property value, in safety, and they fear a loss in their comfort level in terms of having people like them living around them,” Peed said. “Most of that opposition is based on misinformation.” Unless the county can find better ways to blend affordable housing, such as rental and government-subsidized units, in with traditional single-family housing, the poverty rate will continue to climb, Peed said. Peed predicts the blend of housing will shift based on need. Older residents who have lived in Gwinnett their entire lives will want to downsize into smaller, more
The Gwinnett Daily Post projected numbers and trends based on current statistics and growth figures.
With more residents moving to Gwinnett every day, a blend of more affordable housing, such as town homes, above and left, and other rental properties will be needed to fight poverty and homelessness.
affordable housing in their same neighborhood. Young, single professionals will also be looking to build up equity by buying houses, but they’ll be burdened with student and car loans and will need affordable options. Peed also said many neighborhoods will start to develop a specific ethnic flavor as residents follow ethnic and racial lines. “This has happened through all mankind, we’ve seen it in Boston and New York,” Peed said. “We’ll be able to know where to go in Gwinnett to get the best Korean food or the best Pakistani food. I think it’s going to be a cool place to live.”
“If, at a million people, all the money continues to go for infrastructure needs and not for people needs, I just don’t see how health and human services are going to be able to address all these issues,” Gerstein said. Without a strong social
fabric of residents, government, churches and civic and social service groups working together, Gwinnett will start seeing many of the problems rampant in inner cities. Higher crime rates, gang problems, degradation of neighborhoods, tremendous white flight, businesses
fleeing the area — it could happen across the county, Gerstein warned. A large population of have-nots puts a lot of strain on already taxed health and human services agencies, Gerstein said. Groups that help struggling families find food and money to pay rent and utilities haven’t kept up with the tremendous growth in the county. Funding for social services is scarce. Funding will continue to be a major hurdle, Gerstein said, especially because President Bush has discussed doing away with community development block grants, traditionally a major source of money for social service groups. The relatively young county hasn’t yet built up a philanthropy system that can
■ The county lacks affordable housing options for families who make less than $40,000 a year. Neighborhoods tend to be segregated by the age and price of the housing.
■ The county will move toward more neighborhoods with a mix of housing — new construction, older single-family houses, rental units, governmentsubsidized housing and housing seniors on a fixed income can afford.
help generate funding and local churches, which often pitch in to raise money for social services, have been too busy maintaining and building new facilities to keep up with the population explosion, Gerstein said. Gwinnett is on the right track with its seven cooperative ministries, which run food pantries and provide some payment assistance. But the co-ops are struggling to find funding and are able to help only a fraction of those in need, Gerstein said. But the picture could be entirely different if the county works together to build a strong network of food pantries, advocacy groups and shelters for women, children and the homeless, she said. Gerstein’s experience with Gwinnettians shows her that once they “get it,” they’ll respond. She points to the overwhelming success of Great Days of Service, the countywide volunteering event that has drawn nearly 70,000 people in the past. “This issue’s a little hard for people to grasp. Unless you see it every day, you might not know it’s there,” Gerstein said. “What needs to happen is people need to become aware that these issues do exist. Then they need to respond and voice their advocacy for doing something.”
Social services Data from the 1990 and 2000 censuses showed poverty increased by one percentage point, from 4 percent to 5 percent. Census estimates for 2004 showed the level of poverty in the county increased another percentage point in just one year. The trend is dangerous for the county, Gerstein said. Gwinnett residents have traditionally yelled loudest for money to pay for roads, sewers, water and parks; so the government pours money into infrastructure.
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GWINNETT DAILY POST • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • 11P
Gwinnett libraries ready for influx of readers County plans to have 15 branches in the future BY KANDICE SMITH STAFF WRITER firstname.lastname@example.org
As Gwinnett County anticipates reaching a million residents, the Gwinnett County Public Library (GCPL) prepares to provide them information with a new campaign and materials. The new campaign is focused on changing the way people view libraries. “We want people to realize the library’s image has changed. You don’t have to worry about getting in trouble with the scary librarian,” says
Cindy Murphy, marketing director. One change is the atmosphere of the library. According to Murphy, the offered programs, like Gwinnett Reads, invite library users to carry on conversations instead of sitting quietly. Libraries have to change their technology more frequently to meet the needs of library users, says Murphy. The library is moving toward making e-books for reference materials available in 2005. Two encyclopedias and a financial report are available as e-books.
“We want to make things more convenient for people. This way they have access to the materials they need from home,” says Mabel Anne Kincheloe, division director of materials management. The library system is preparing to introduce audiobook downloads this March. With this new feature, library users can “check out” books by downloading them to their MP3 players. But this new service doesn’t have to be done at the library. Library users can download books from their homes.
Murphy believes this new technology will reduce the number of printed materials in libraries and provide more space for library programs and seating. “I think this provide more space for inviting seating. People can sit in a comfortable chair while listening to a book,” says Murphy. Both she and Kincheloe foresee an increase in the quality and number of programs offered by the library system. “When we hit a million, our programs will become more popular and there will be more choices. People are busy so we’ll see varying times and repeats of programs,” Murphy says.
NOW&THEN Like everything else in Gwinnett, the library system will have to grow along with the population. NOW
■ 12 branches and one under construction
■ 15 branches
■ Branches in Buford, Suwanee, Collins Hill, Duluth, Peachtree Corners, Norcross, Lilburn, Five Forks, Lawrenceville, Centerville, Snellville and Mountain Park
■ Branches added in Dacula, Grayson and the Hamilton Mill area
■ Almost 4.8 million visitors
■ 6 to 8 million visitors
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The new library in Suwanee is just one of Gwinnett’s 12 libraries in use. By the time the county hits 1 million people, Gwinnett expects to have 15 libraries total.
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12P • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • GWINNETT DAILY POST
: HOW LONG?
Sooner: County’s diversity will rise with Spanish-speaking residents • From Page 1G The most populated county in the country is Los Angeles County, Calif. with 9.8 million residents. At the bottom of the million-county club is Fairfax County, Va., a suburb of Washington with just more than 1 million inhabitants. Even fewer U.S. cities can claim million-resident status. Only nine cities have 1 million people living inside the city limits. New York is first with 8 million residents, and Dallas rounds out the top nine with 1.2 million, according to the bureau. Gwinnett’s diversity could rival the biggest of those cities when it hits 1 million people. White residents will still be the majority — but just barely.
The county’s diversity will continue to rise, with an influx of immigrants from Spanishspeaking countries particularly. Schools will require more teachers for non-English speaking students, and experts say businesses will reflect a variety of cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities. Poverty and affordable housing will become a more pressing need as more people look to plant their roots in the growing county, and the cost of living here rises. The health care industry will also carry a heavier load. Health officials predict more county residents will stay in Gwinnett for health services, and a growing senior population will require more cardiology
and orthopedic services. While the growth has brought more amenities, like a 13,000seat arena where residents can catch a hockey game or a concert by a big-name star, it has also brought overcrowded schools, congested roads, polluted air and crime — things the county will continue to combat as it moves into the future. More than one of those issues will be tackled at the regional level, where Gwinnett is a member of the Atlanta Regional Commission. Regional and state decisions on roads and public transit will determine whether traffic congestion, and to some extent air pollution, increases as metro Atlanta and Gwinnett continue to grow.
AT EMORY EASTSIDE, WE’RE
Even in the best-case scenario, regional planners predict gridlock on some routes, including Interstate 85, will become worse regardless of how much money is spent on the road network. One million and beyond Will growth stop in Gwinnett? Will it “build out” or become “full?” According to planners, the answer is no. Once all the easily available land is developed and open spaces filled in, Gwinnett will build up, with high-rise buildings full of offices and residences dotting the landscape along Interstate 85, Interstate 985 and Ga. Highway 316 Gwinnett’s growth will slow in coming years as its far corners
become urbanized, but even then, the number of people moving here and being born here will far exceed population growth in other counties. “I expect Gwinnett to certainly continue through this decade with a relatively high growth rate, and even when it starts to slow, it will still be growing faster than a lot of places,” said Bart Lewis, chief of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Research Division. Doug Bachtel, a University of Georgia demographer, said Gwinnett will grow during good times and bad. “It seems to me the only thing that is going to slow Gwinnett’s growth down is the development of an anti-growth movement as new people move in and there is
more traffic and crime and pollution and overcrowding,” Bachtel said. Even if Gwinnett shut the door and didn’t let anybody else in, the birth rate alone, which accounts for about half of the county’s annual population growth, would still drive the county toward 1 million residents, said Dan Reuter, chief of the ARC’s Land Use Division. Although it’s unknown exactly when Gwinnett will hit 1 million, what is known is that it will be a very different, yet familiar place — a place where high-rise buildings dot the landscape, while below, motorists battle traffic congestion. — Staff writers Arielle Kass and Shelley Mann contributed to this story.
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Gwinnett Daily Post
SUNDAY • February 27, 2005
HOW WILL THEY GROW? BY CAMIE YOUNG STAFF WRITER email@example.com
or the past several decades, most of the population growth has occurred in the unincorporated areas of Gwinnett. But city officials have been working to prime their cities to be the new growth centers of the future. Some say there isn’t much room to grow, but others are expecting to double in population in the next two decades. For years, the county and the cities have fought over control of land through annexation, but many say that trend will end, with the cities becoming more traditional, densely developed and walkable. “Annexation, for us I don’t think there is a big growth area,” Snellville Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said. “I think you’ll see the city being developed and the county being less populated.” More than one mayor has visions of Peachtree City, a city south of Atlanta where people get around by golf cart. Here are how the mayors envision their cities when Gwinnett reaches 1 million in population: Auburn Mayor Pro Tem Billy Parks knows Auburn is next. Watching Dacula to the west and Winder to the east, Parks knows Auburn’s time for growth is coming, and coming soon. The city is working on a plan for where the 10,000 new residents they expect in the next 20 years can live. And Parks is hoping the city can be primed for some business and industrial growth. That means the water system needs to be expanded and a sewer system needs to
NOW&THEN The Gwinnett Daily Post asked each mayor to estimate what they believe their city’s population will be when Gwinnett County reaches 1 million. NOW THEN Auburn 6,000 16,000 Berkeley Lake 1,700 2,000 Braselton 3,000 8,000 Buford 11,000 15,000 Dacula 4,400 8,000 Duluth 24,000 45,000 Grayson 1,600-1,800 >5,000 Lawrenceville 25,000 35,000 Lilburn 12,000 14,000 Loganville 8,000 20,000 Norcross 9,000 11,000 Snellville 18,000 25,000-30,000 Sugar Hill 13,000 25,000 Suwanee 11,000 22,500
be developed. “We’re trying to plan ahead to get those things in the ground before the growth gets here,” he said. Berkeley Lake In Berkeley Lake, the big stuff is over. “Our city is almost built out,” Mayor Lois Salter said. “There is one big development that is just beginning and that’s probably it.” Salter said she doesn’t expect many changes in her small city, once a fishing village. But the stage has been set for the first business development in the city. Braselton On the eastern edge of Gwinnett, Braselton is on the cusp of the current growth trend. “What has been driving Braselton’s growth is the availability of infrastructure,”
Mayor Pat Graham said. “We are starting to see some investments pay off. “We still have quite a bit of vacant land. I see our historic downtown area revitalized.” Graham said the city’s population could more than double by the time Gwinnett reaches 1 million — from about 3,000 now to nearly 8,000 then. The city has worked to acquire greenspace along the Mulberry River and Graham said a nearly five-mile trail along the river should be complete by the time the milestone is reached. Buford The next couple of decades will be business as usual in Buford, City Commission Chairman Philip Beard predicts. “We’ve had a totally different motive in running our government than any other city in Gwinnett,” he said. “We have all our utilities to manage.” Beard, who has been in office for 30 years, is proud of the low water, sewer and electricity rates and he plans on keeping it that way. “Our government is fully involved with all the utilities and services,” he said. “Most of the cities had water and sewer systems and they gave up. “Our job is totally involved in our citizens’ life.” So to fund the only city school system in the county, development in Buford has been centered on business. Beard said he expects the city to annex the Mall of Georgia by the time Gwinnett hits 1 million. Buford has also worked to revitalize the city center. “Our little downtown has really come along. We’re experiencing a surge,” Beard said. “Buford is alive after dark.”
Dacula There are still a lot of factors up in the air for Dacula, Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks says. He’s waiting to learn if the county will continue working on a road that would connect Dacula to Sugar Hill and whether state officials will turn Ga. Highway 316 into a tollway in order to fund upgrades. “As we grow to a million, we think it’s important the cities and the county talk about transportation,” Wilbanks said. He’s also hoping for some help from the county in extending sewer service to eastern Gwinnett. “We’re going to have more homes, and we’re going to have more businesses,” he said, estimating his city’s population would double in the next two decades. “We’re going to need more classrooms and more places to worship and more places for people to work. “I think we’re going to want to provide some opportunities to live closer to jobs. That will solve some our nagging transportation issues.” Duluth For all her work on Duluth’s new Town Green, Mayor Shirley Lasseter believes the payback will be extraordinary. “We’re going to have a huge retail hub in the downtown area, complete with parking decks and walking paths,” the mayor said. “It’ll be like a mini-mall type of area.” Lasseter said she is glad the idea of a livework-play community is finally starting to emerge as a trend in the Atlanta suburbs. “That’s what everyone’s been preaching to us for the past eight years. That is catching on now as a way of life instead of a new wave,” she said. See Cities, Page 14P
INSIDE SECTION H SHOPPING: More open-air malls, specialty shops –Page 3
JUDICIAL: Court system learns to streamline –Page 4
ARTS: Groups looks to expand offerings –Page 6
OTHER COUNTIES: Neighboring areas must grow with Gwinnett –Page 7
EXPERT INTERVIEW: University of Georgia professor weighs in –Page 8
LAW ENFORCEMENT: Precincts will undergo renovations –Page 4
ECONOMY: More jobs are coming –Page 5
GWINNETT CENTER: The key to keeping audiences is diversity –Page 6
POLITICS: More leaders, more power for more people –Page 8
COLLEGES: Gwinnett Center will see tremendous growth –Page 9
14P • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • GWINNETT DAILY POST
Cities: With land scarce, more three- and four-story buildings needed •From Page 1H But because land is scarce, that means building three- and four-story buildings. “Everybody’s running out of space, so we have to go up to accommodate the needs of the public,” Lasseter said. Grayson Gwinnett’s best kept secret is starting to get out, Mayor Jim Hinkle jokes about his small city’s motto. “Our area of the county is just going gangbusters now,” Hinkle said. For the southeastern city of Grayson, now all that remains is to get ready for the growth. Hinkle said the city has rewritten standards to ensure quality development, especially in the small historic strip along Grayson Parkway. “It’s legally impossible to stop growth, but you limit it,” Hinkle said. “We are trying to do a downtown concept.” Hinkle said he expects Ga. Highway 20 to be widened by the time the county’s population reaches 1 million and the county’s plans for a library in the city will come to fruition. Lawrenceville Lawrenceville Mayor Bobby Sikes wants to return the county seat to its former glory as the highlight of Gwinnett. “I think they’re on the way up to where they’ll look a lot different,” Sikes said. “I think there’ll be more people that’ll shop here. There’ll be more of a night life.” For the past several years, city officials have focused on revitalizing the downtown Square. Developer Emory Morsberger has purchased dozens of buildings to help in the effort, and the city is wooing a local theater company to set up shop. The biggest hindrance, Sikes admits, is traffic.
“But we’re looking at fixing that,” he said. Among the proposals is one to shift the state highways off of the Square, and one legislator has even proposed adding a trolley to the city to help people get around. “I think it’ll become the city of activity,” Sikes said. “We’re working at it every day.” Lilburn Jack Bolton is getting ready for the second wave. His city, Lilburn, has already experienced a growth surge, and now there is little room for more. But the mayor said his city will experience revitalization. “I see a second way spreading out from the Atlanta area but not wanting to go to the edge of Gwinnett County,” he said. “I see some renewed interest in the area.” But in order to accommodate more people, the city will need a new brand of housing stock, Bolton explained. Although he doesn’t expect Lilburn to have high-rises, he does foresee the addition of townhouses, especially those catering to either empty-nesters or young professionals. He’s also hoping for some pocket parks and a commuter rail line through Lilburn. Loganville In the next couple of decades, Loganville may bump right up to Snellville, Mayor Tim Barron said. “I think there will be some interest in moving out toward Athens,” he said. “By that time, we’ll definitely have the need to take some of the traffic of (U.S.) 78.” Barron said the city will likely have a bypass to try to revitalize the downtown area and he hopes the city will be walkable, possibly with cart paths like
Peachtree City. Already experiencing a surge in adult-oriented subdivisions, Barron said he could see Loganville become “a senior mecca.” “I wouldn’t be surprised to see that become a focus in Loganville,” he said.
“Hopefully the cities will be the places where growth will happen.” Oberholtzer said he hopes to draw more white-collar jobs to the city, switch homes from septic tanks to the sewer system and add express bus routes from Snellville to Atlanta.
Norcross Mayor Lillian Webb says Norcross is almost full. “It depends on what’s available and if the density goes up,” she said. “It behooves us all to have a good plan in place, to decide how we can provide them with water and sewer, the transportation needs. There’s always a price tag with that.” Norcross is one of the oldest developed cities in Gwinnett, and with Berkeley Lake to its north and Lilburn to its south, Webb said there is little room to annex land. “Well have to go up rather than go out,” she said, explaining that Norcross could have high rises and lofts to accommodate the growth. “It’s a changing time that we live in,” she said. One of the most important needs she foresees is for public transportation.
Sugar Hill By the time Gwinnett hits 1 million, Gary Pirkle hopes those crazy Sugar Hill boundary lines are a thing of the past. The mayor said he believes making the city boundaries contiguous will do a lot the define the northern Gwinnett city. “They are looking for that downtown feel and connection,” Pirkle said.
Snellville In this southern Gwinnett city, construction is under way to build a downtown where one never existed. Instead of hailing the center of town at the busy intersection of Ga. Highway 124 and U.S. Highway 78, a new City Hall and several shops and lofts are in the works for the northeast quadrant of the intersection. “What I would hope is that in Snellville we would have created a downtown that is a distinction,” Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said of his vision for the 1 million mark. “I’d love to see the older neighborhoods revitalized.
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He’s working now on developing a city center. In the next couple of decades he hopes a cross-county connector will provide some relief for traffic, and adding restaurants will mean that people will stick closer to home. The city is working on providing more services, including adding a sports complex and making improvements to the city golf course. Suwanee In a city known for its trails, all that’s left to do is add more trails. That’s what Mayor Nick Masino says about Suwanee, which recently completed an aggressive greenspace program.
“Our goal is to be very walkable. We’ve already got the great parks. We’ve got to get them connected. We’ll have a jewel.” The population of Suwanee tripled in the 1990s and Masino expects it to double again by the time Gwinnett’s population hits 1 million. The city recently opened a large amphitheater at the corner of Buford Highway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road. The city bought land behind it to build a new City Hall and to control the development of shops and lofts in the area. Masino said he’s also hoping a passenger rail line will be built from Atlanta to Gainesville with a stop in Suwanee.
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GWINNETT DAILY POST • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • 15P
What’s in store for 1 million Gwinnett shoppers? More open-air malls, specialty shops BY DOUGLAS SAMS STAFF WRITER firstname.lastname@example.org
LAWRENCEVILLE — When the ’80s began, Gwinnett had nearly 170,000 people, Pleasant Hill Road was lined with trees rather than retail centers and Gwinnett Place mall was still several years away. Slightly more than two decades — and more than onehalf million people — later, Gwinnett not only has three regional malls but one of them is the largest in the Southeast. As new residential development blossoms farther north into Jackson and Hall counties, could another giant mall already be in the works on someone’s drawing board? Or, as Gwinnett draws closer to 1 million people in the next decade will the openair center — the new trend in retail development — replace the traditional enclosed malls, such as Gwinnett Place, the Mall of Georgia and Discover Mills? “We think both retail concepts have a place in the future,” said Patrice Duker, spokeswoman for the International Council of Shopping Centers. “But you will no doubt see both the enclosed mall and the open air center evolve.” That evolution is already under way. The open air centers — much larger and often more upscale versions of the strip mall — may seem like the new kid on the retail block, but the concept has been around for a while, Duker said. However, especially over the past six years, the idea has been tweaked. The first outdoor centers were not anchored by department stores, but developers of the Forum on Peachtree Parkway in Norcross have made Belk as a
centerpiece. Mixed-use open-air centers are now a bona fide trend in Gwinnett, including the Forum and a new 56-acre development on Scenic Highway and Webb Gin House Road. That nearly 430,000-square-foot center, called the Avenues Webb Gin, is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2006. In Braselton, Gray Properties is blending upscale boutiques and shops with office development. Known as lifestyle centers, development such as the Forum and the Avenues are often built in more affluent areas — at least 75,000 in per capita income — and draw shoppers from at least five miles away. However, it is possible they could expand that range if the model is changed slightly in the coming years to add theaters — typically used as the major attraction at larger enclosed malls. When it comes to the traditional mall, it generally appears to be getting bigger, Duker said. At nearly 2 million square feet, the Mall of Georgia is the largest in the Southeastern United States. Malls such as Discover Mills in Lawrenceville also continued the new trend of blending shopping with entertainment — a relatively new approach. “The rule of retail is that consumers decide whether the idea is a success or a failure,” Duker said. “Sometimes, people get tired of the same-old thing. And the retailer that does not keep on top of the trends may see its sales grow weaker over time. That is why retail always has to evolve.” Brenda Reid, a spokeswoman for Publix Inc., said the grocery knows the importance of adaptation. Once, Publix and other gro-
NOW&THEN The Gwinnett Daily Post projected numbers and trends based on current statistics and growth figures. THEN NOW ■ Order food in line ■ Bar codes, scan one item at a time
The Associated Press
Retail sales, an important piece of Gwinnett’s economy, typically ranged from about $950 million to $1 billion monthly in 2004. In the future, Gwinnett consumers will continue spending their money at the traditional enclosed mall, but they will also have more outdoor retail centers, where shopping, restaurants and office development is blended together.
cery stores had Gwinnett, Jackson and Hall all too themselves, but the competition has grown much more intense in the past decade. At the same time, “the metro area has expanded beyond Gwinnett. Who would have ever thought Flowery Branch would have developed as quickly as it has.” That means Publix must introduce new models as the population not only grows in Gwinnett, but also becomes older and more diverse. For example, Publix has its signature 50,000-plus square-foot store in Hamilton Mill — among the
fastest-growing areas in Gwinnett for several years. Recently, however, Publix has started building a new store nearby that is about 45 percent smaller. The grocery chain has had success in Atlanta mixing large and small stores within a few miles of each other, and now that model is being used in the suburbs. German retailer Aldi plans to continue launching its 16,000-square-foot stores in metro Atlanta, and Wal-Mart has introduced its small grocery format — known as the neighborhood market — in other states. The influx of Asian and His-
■ Order food by automated menu ■ Smart labels, scan every item at once
■ Nine WalMart Supercenters
■ 12 Wal-Mart Supercenters
■ Trend is the Superstore
■ Trend is specialty stores
panic residents will also alter shopping in Gwinnett. Super H Mart, an upscale Korean grocery retailer, now anchors the Park Village shopping center at Pleasant Hill Road and North Berkeley Lake Parkway. It joins Nukoa Plaza, an Asian American shopping center less than a mile away between Old Norcross Road and Satellite Boulevard. Next door, an Asian Business Center with 121,000 square feet of shopping and at least one restaurant has the go-ahead. Also, Rhee Bros. is opening an Asian food and distribution center in the former Wal-Mart on Pleasant Hill Road at Koger Boulevard. As much as some things change, however, others will stay the same. The Supercenter concept the Wal-Mart perfected will almost certainly be around for many years, according to the Food Marketing Institute. The retail giant has nine Gwinnett Supercenters — not counting the newest under construction in Lawrenceville — per nearly 700,000 residents. Using that store-to-population ratio, the county would have at least 13 Wal-Mart Supercenters
when it reaches 1 million residents. Wal-Mart has also been a pioneer in self-checkout, which allows the customer to scan his own groceries or merchandise by bar code and pay without ever depending on a cashier. However, an upgrade to the bar code is on the way that could make long lines at the supermarket a thing of the past. While bar codes — around since the early 1970s — require scanning each item one by one, a new technology called smart labels use radio frequencies to communicate to a network, enabling many products to be tracked at once. The marketplace sees the advantages of radio frequency tags, and many companies are investing in the technology. Wal-Mart had asked its suppliers to adopt the costly technology. Research by the consulting firm AT Kearney last year found that large manufacturers would face at least $15 million in startup costs to blend smart labels into their shipping process. Critics warn the radio frequency tags will not only track products, but the spending habits of consumers, c creating a scenario similar to the film “Minority Report,” where retailers know who its customers are and what they want once they walk through the door. However, companies developing and marketing the smart labels want lawmakers to see the innovation as “friendly” technology. Whether consumers like smart labels is up for debate, but one thing is for certain: by the time Gwinnett reaches 1 million people — and if the marketplace embraces smart label technology — shoppers could walk out the door without ever having to wait in line to ring up their items.
16P • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • GWINNETT DAILY POST
: THE LAW
Many police precincts being built, renovated BY ANDRIA SIMMONS STAFF WRITER andria.simmons @gwinnettdailypost.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — Thanks to proceeds from the penny sales tax, most police precincts in Gwinnett will undergo renovation or be replaced by the time the county’s population crests 1 million. The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department will also be manning two new housing towers at the Gwinnett Detention Center to care for about 3,000 inmates. All this and more is a result of revenue from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved by voters for fouryear periods in 1997, 2001 and 2005. The latest penny sales tax is expected to bring in $105.7 million over the next four years for public safety, which includes law enforcement and the Gwinnett County Fire Department. The demand for police and emergency personnel services will continue to rise but whether urbanization brings in more crime remains to be seen. Dean Rojek, professor of sociology at the University of Georgia, believes that if current trends continue, the biggest problem for police by the year 2020 may be property crimes such as burglary, car break-ins and larceny, not violent crimes. “All signs are good,” Rojek said. “All violent crimes have been steadily dropping since the early 1990s. The question is will this continue. There is no way to know for certain.”
Some of the factors that can increase violent crimes are an ailing economy, a younger population and certain ethnic makeup. If Gwinnett property values remain high, crime will go elsewhere, Rojek theorized. “Lower class people are typically the victims of crime,” Rojek said. At the Gwinnett County Police Department, which serves 84 percent of residents in the county, there are now 489 sworn personnel, and the current ratio of police to population is 0.99 sworn officers to every 1,000 residents. Chief Charles Walters hopes to maintain a ratio of 1.25 officers per thousand residents in their service area as the county expands. That could translate into a police force of 1,250 sworn officers when Gwinnett’s population reaches 1 million. Funding from the penny tax approved by voters in 1997, 2001 and 2004 is being used to renovate or construct new facilities for the five Gwinnett police precincts — Central, Northside, Southside, Eastside and Westside — and a headquarters building in Lawrenceville. The Central precinct on Satellite Boulevard in Duluth was completed in 2003. The Westside precinct renovation off Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85 in Norcross was completed in 2004. A new Northside Precinct is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2005 at Mall of Georgia Boulevard and Woodwards Crossings Drive. A new police training center at Winder Highway and Martin’s
Chapel Road is scheduled to begin construction this spring and be completed in the summer of 2007. The building will include 27,000 square feet of classroom space, three indoor firing ranges and an emergency vehicle driving track. Designs for a renovation of Headquarters and construction of a new 911 Center at the Hi Hope Road location off Ga. Highway 316 are being drawn up now, but officials hope to have everything completed no later than early 2008. Construction is scheduled to begin on a new Eastside precinct in the next few months on property adjacent to Ga. 316 on Alcovy Road in Dacula. It will replace the old Eastside precinct at the former Dacula City Hall building. Gwinnett police also oversee operation of Animal Control and its shelter, which needs updating. Officials want to use seven acres of property already purchased on U.S. Highway 29 near Sweetgum Road to build a new 38,000 square foot kennel and administration building, said Wendy Tullis, director of administrative services for Gwinnett police. The facility would be adjacent to the new police training complex. Gwinnett police have a multiyear plan for improvements in all divisions that extends to 2010, said Officer Darren Moloney, spokesman for Gwinnett police. The plan includes the purchase of a state-of-the-art mobile command post. The vehicle would help police deploy resources during a large-
NOW&THEN Information for “Now” provided by Gwinnett County Police Department and Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department. Some information for “Then” based upon calculations by the Gwinnett Daily Post. The number of officers was calculated using 1.25 sworn officers per 1,000 residents; the Gwinnett Police budget is a theory based on Fairfax County, Va.’s police department, a suburban county which has 1 million residents. NOW Gwinnett County police officers* 489 Inmates bed spaces 1,274 911 communication system analog Gwinnett PD budget $90.6 million
THEN 1,250 3,002 digital $177 million * number is approximate
scale natural disaster, at the scene of civil disorder or other police incidents. The department also wants to switch its communications equipment from analog to digital within the next five to seven years, which allows for better sound quality and archives. To be more visitor-friendly, Gwinnett police plan to install a kiosk in the lobby of its headquarters that will allow citizens to access reports and copy them. Average police per 1,000 population was 1.63 between 1992 and 1998. If the county maintains that ratio, it would have 1,680 in all primary municipalities in Gwinnett. In Fairfax County, Va., an affluent suburban county that topped a million residents in 2003, there are 1,259 sworn personnel in the county police force alone. Municipal law enforcement expanding, too About 16 percent of the county’s population lives in municipalities with their own
police departments. City officials in Lawrenceville, Snellville and Duluth have recognized the need for a new police precinct, but they are all only in the early planning stages. Lawrenceville is expected to receive about $3.5 million for public safety over the next four years from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved by voters in November. Duluth will receive about $5.9 million, said Lisa Johnsa, county finance director. The current station in Lawrenceville at 20 South Clayton St. is an outdated building constructed in the late 1950s that was once a Ford dealership, Vaughn said. The new building may be located at the intersection of Jackson Street and Ga. Highway 124 after Jackson Street is widened. The building for Duluth police at 3578 W. Lawrenceville St. is also in need of replacement. A new
$11.5 million facility is under construction at the intersection of Buford Highway and Davenport Road. It should be completed by December, said Maj. Don Woodruff, spokesman for Duluth police. Snellville’s new police building would be built with $5 million from SPLOST next to the new City Hall, which is under construction, said City Manager Jeff Timler. Suwanee police plan to use $1,054,000 they are allocated from SPLOST to help upgrade their communications system from analog to digital, said Capt. Clyde Byers of Suwanee police. If any money is left over, it will be used to add mobile computers in patrol cars that can connect to the Georgia Crime Information Center to check vehicle tags and criminal background information. Suwanee officials are also discussing the possibility of building a new office across the street for city government workers, thus allowing the police department to take over the building they share on 373 U.S. Highway 23 in Suwanee, Byers said. Sugar Hill, which is on track to become Gwinnett’s third-largest municipality, could use $500,000 from 2005 SPLOST funding to continue paying for off-duty Gwinnett police officers to patrol the city. The council may also look at other options such as starting their own force, said City Manager Bob Hail.
Judicial system strives for efficiency as county grows BY ANDRIA SIMMONS STAFF WRITER andria.simmons @gwinnettdailypost.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — Processing criminal and civil cases may become quicker, easier and cheaper as Gwinnett County’s court system learns to streamline over the coming years. As Gwinnett County’s population stretches toward 1 million, its courts could follow the lead of neighboring Fulton County, which boasts about 818,000 residents. Fulton has implemented several programs or new technologies to make more efficient use of taxpayer dollars, said Greg Arnold, assistant director of research for the state Administrative Office of the Courts. “They have done a lot of things internally to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their court,” Arnold said. “They are voiding backlog like crazy, which means they are able to keep up with what is being newly filed each year.” Among those efforts, our neighbors to the west have begun expediting criminal hearings by doing them right out of the jail. The Superior Court judges hold hearings in the jail to allow a person charged with a crime to plead guilty or not guilty at the time of arraignment, Arnold said. Arnold said a rise in alternative dispute resolution outside of the courtroom may also help decrease backlogs in civil cases in both State and Superior Courts. Gwinnett County now has a total of 24 full-time judges, and there are part-time and senior judges who assist them. There are eight Superior Court judges and two senior judges who assist, five State Court judges, three Recorders Court judges, two Juvenile Court judges and one associate judge who assists, five Magistrate Court judges and 18 part-time magistrate judges who assist, and one Probate Court judge. Fulton County has twice as many State and Magistrate Court judges as Gwinnett and three times as many Juvenile Court judges, Arnold said. Chief Magistrate Judge Warren Davis said he would need at least three more full-time and several more part-time judges by the time Gwinnett’s population soars to 1 million. Superior Court in Gwinnett currently has 8 judges, although
NOW&THEN “Now” information provided by Gwinnett County Courts Web site www.gwinnettcourts.com. Some “Then” information provided by staff reports. For Superior Court “Then,” Gwinnett Daily Post projected the number of judges needed by using the state average of one Superior Judge per 45,000 residents. For State Court’s future, the number of Fulton County State Court judges was used. For Magistrate Court Future, Gwinnett County’s Chief Magistrate Judge Warren Davis’ projection was used. NOW Superior Court judges 8* Magistrate Court judges 5 State Court judges 5 Courthouse Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center on 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville Types of Courts
There are seven — Superior, State, Magistrate, Probate, Juvenile, Recorders and Drug
THEN 22 8 10 A county study recommended a new $300 million facility There will be at least eight with the addition of a specialized court to handle family violence cases.
*There are also two senior Superior Court judges who assist with the caseload.
it needs closer to 11 to handle its current work load, according to the Judicial Council of Georgia. Fulton has 19 Superior Court Judges. By the time its population reaches 1 million, Gwinnett will need about 22 Superior Court Judges, if we fall in line with the state average of one per 45,000 residents. Space constraints will hamper growth One aspect of the court system which could keep growth and efficiency at bay is the lack of space at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. It is generally agreed upon that there just isn’t enough space in the courthouse to expand. What no one can seem to agree upon is how to find $300 million to correct the problem by building a new courthouse. There are six different courts housed at the GJAC, including Superior Court, State Court, Magistrate Court, Probate Court, Juvenile Court and Recorder’s Court. The four-level justice and administration building consists of a common lobby that conQuality Fabric Care Laurette Joiner, Owner
nects 22 courtrooms, support areas and most county departments under one roof. The building was constructed on 61 acres. A separate county government building, One Justice Square, is located at the corner of West Crogan Street, Langley Drive and Constitution Boulevard in Lawrenceville. One Justice Square houses several offices of the Department of Public Utilities and Department of Planning and Development, and the fire marshal’s office. A voter-supported sales tax funded the construction of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in the late 1980s, but for the past eight years the penny tax has gone to parks and roads. Gwinnett officials decided not to put a new $300 million courthouse on the list of SPLOST projects after it was approved by voters in November. “From a professionalism standpoint, I would like to have more full-time judges that can dedicate all their work to the court and have less reliance on part-time judges,” said Chief Magistrate Judge Warren Davis.
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ing will have six courtrooms, according to Connie Hinson, director of support services for Gwinnett County. Right now, there aren’t enough courtrooms or offices for new judges in GJAC to work in even if more could be hired, Davis said. It’s a problem which translates to bigger case backlogs in all courts, more prisoners waiting in jail for disposition of their cases and more taxpayer cost to keep them behind bars, Davis said. Davis hopes the judicial sysFile photo tem of the future will operate Gwinnett County has eight Superior Court judges like an emergency room, where including Michael C. Clarke but may need as many as 22 it will triage cases. when the population reaches 1 million. “There are some that can be “The thing is, right now we’re between State and Superior done very quickly, and they can confined by space.” Court, Davis said. be fast-tracked,” Davis said. In the short term, there may Some of the crowding may be “There are some that take a be some relief. There are now also alleviated when Probate and medium amount of time, and two magistrate courtrooms at the Recorders courts move to new those should be streamlined. Gwinnett County Detention $16.4 million building which is Then there are some that take a Center, and renovations are cur- under construction on 115 Stone few years to try. The point is to rently under way to construct Mountain St., within walking triage the other cases that can be two more which will be shared distance from GJAC. The build- disposed of quickly.”
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GWINNETT DAILY POST • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • 17P
Predicting county’s economic future a tricky endeavor BY DOUGLAS SAMS
STAFF WRITER doug.sams @gwinnettdailypost.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — Economists make their living devising forecasts, but even they get nervous predicting how an economy will look 10 to 20 years from now. They can extrapolate in general terms based on current trends. For instance, they can say with confidence that an increase in computer brainpower will create more sophisticated artificial intelligence, and that trend would probably create more highpaying, high-tech jobs in the future. But it gets tricky predicting about specific economic developments. Who could have foreseen the explosion of Internet technology in the 1990s, the expansion of the high-tech bubble by 2000, or its eventual burst one year later? Author Steve Steinburg was certainly onto something when he said in 1994 that “video conferencing bears a terrifying promise: Distance will no longer be an excuse for not attending meetings.” Yet even he could not have predicted 10 years later that the Sept. 11 attacks and the economic recession, along with better technology, spurred corporations to embrace video conferencing. How many foresaw that seemingly all Americans would now carry a cell phone in their pocket or that once struggling Apple Inc. would climb to new heights thanks to a miniature jukebox called the Ipod? Despite the apparent folly of peering too deeply into the future, the Gwinnett economy will change by the time the county population finally hits 1 million people. Here’s how, according to the experts: Michael Wald, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said it is reasonable to think if Gwinnett has about 700,000 residents and about 300,500 people employed in the county now, when the population reaches 1 million employment could grow to about 435,000 — or by nearly 44 percent. That increase would put Gwinnett on par with the job base of Montgomery County, Md., in the Washington, D.C., metro area; Bergen, N.J., in greater New York; and Westchester, New York, also near the Big Apple. Montgomery County, for instance, has about 31,000 businesses that create 455,000 jobs and pay an average weekly wage of $940, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Gwinnett has about 10,000 fewer jobs now and its weekly wage is about $760. Gwinnett will not replace Fulton as the center of the Southeast’s economic hub, but it can become an even more powerful job engine in the region, Wald said. As the county’s population skyrocketed from about 70,000 people in 1970, so did the size of the county’s largest economic sector — its service industries. The most recent Georgia
The Gwinnett Daily Post projected numbers and trends based on current statistics and growth figures NOW 300,860 Gwinnett Public Schools Top manufacturers Scientific Atlanta, NCR Corp., EMS Technologies
Retail will continue to be an important part of the economy as we move closer to the 1 million mark.
Department of Labor data shows Gwinnett has 221,540 service-oriented jobs, such as cashiers at any local convenience store, teachers at Collins Hill High School or the medical staff including doctors, nurses and specialists at Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville. Alfie Meek, economist for the Gwinnett County Financial Services department, said the service sector will almost certainly remain the county’s largest when 1 million people live here. Health care services will lead the way, as they do now. That segment of the economy grew 18.5 percent to 18,231 jobs from March 2003 to March 2004, according to the Department of Labor. A key part for the surge is the aging population and the jobs needed to accommodate it. Each year, the demand aging baby boomers put on health care services increases, and that trend is expected
to continue. By 2030, the 65to-85-year-old population will have soared by nearly 60 percent in America, and Georgia is expected to grow and age faster than any other Southeastern state, according to a report issued late last year by the consulting firm Deloitte and Touche. “The county will need more staff for personal care homes, more doctors who specialize in the diseases affecting seniors, more pharmacies and pharmacists — simply more overall health care services in general to meet the demand of the rapidly aging population,” Meek said. The Gwinnett service sector is already growing at 5.5 percent, and the top seven county employers are service-based: Gwinnett County Public Schools (16,825), Gwinnett County Government (4,152), Gwinnett Health Care System (4,000), Wal-Mart (3,067), the U.S. Postal Service (2,440),
financial services firm Primerica (1,800) and grocery store chain Publix (1,778). Those numbers come from the major employers list issued each spring by Meek and the county’s economic Forecasting and Research Division. Manufacturing is also an important piece of the economy, but that sector lost about 300 jobs from the first quarter 2003 to the same period in 2004, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. Even so, Meek said the county has a strong hightech core, led by cable equipment maker Scientific Atlanta, retail technology company NCR Corp. and
communications firm EMS Technologies. High-tech manufacturing is positioned to grow, especially as computers become even more powerful. For decades, manufacturers have poured more computer brainpower into electronic devices. If these tiny brains, or microprocessors, continue doubling in complexity every two years — a theory known as Moore’s Law — then the advances could sustain Gwinnett’s computer, electronic and transportation equipment manufacturers, Meek said. One caveat: if servicebased jobs increase much faster than manufacturing jobs, that trend could lead to a wage gap, Meek said. Already it’s a concern. Of the 318 largest U.S. counties, Gwinnett ranked No. 303 in the amount of money its workers take home at the end of the week. Also, transportation improvements will play a vital role in the future economy. One example is the plan for raising Ga. Highway 316 to the quality of other intestates and perhaps also
making it a toll road. Known as the University Parkway, regional business leaders, county officials and academics want to transform the corridor into the next great research park. The corridor already has all the ingredients — water, sewer and freight rail lines, along with top academic talent and local universities and technical colleges. Georgia is already No. 8 in the United States in the number of biotechnology companies, according to Ernst & Young. Such firms — which form the heart of the chic biocapital industry — could line the Parkway from Athens to Lawrenceville, bringing high-paying jobs to the regional economy, officials say. Biotech companies are among the highest-paying jobs. They include pharmaceutical, medical research and health care technology firms. More than 200 of these life science companies with nearly 10,200 jobs are already in operation in the metro area, according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
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18P • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • GWINNETT DAILY POST
Performance groups look to expand their offerings BY RACHAEL MASON STAFF WRITER rachael.mason@ gwinnettdailypost.com
As the population of Gwinnett grows, so will the county’s focus on the arts. “The soul of a community is going to be found in the arts they have,” said Anthony Rodriguez, producing artistic director of the Aurora Theatre. The Aurora, Gwinnett’s only professional theater group, already has outgrown its 200-seat building in downtown Duluth and is making plans to move. The Aurora currently has nearly 2,000 season subscribers, with a goal of increasing that to 3,000. Without increasing the number of seats the theater currently has, the Aurora could serve up to 5,000 season ticket holders. “Obviously, people are moving to Gwinnett, so our audience base is going to increase,” Rodriguez said. Right now, the theater only performs Thursday through Sunday, with typical show runs lasting about five weeks. Performances days could be added to accommodate more ticket holders, and show schedules also could be increased, Rodriguez said. The Aurora also performs shows in Spanish, which target Gwinnett’s large Hispanic population. Rodriguez expects these performances to continue as the county becomes more diverse. “I think a portion of our program will always be dedicated to reaching out to the Hispanic community,”
people are moving to Gwinnett, so our audience base is going to increase.’’
Aurora Theatre producing artistic director
Anthony Rodriguez Rodriguez said. The theater will be making a decision on whether to move to Lawrenceville or stay in Duluth soon. But no matter which city the Aurora ends up in, the group will have a permanent facility. Others among the county’s community theater groups are still hoping to find their own homes in the future. Last year, the Lionheart Theatre Company used The Royal, a gallery and performing arts space in downtown Norcross. The Royal hosts 12 art shows each year and can accommodate audiences of about 50 for performances. The Lionheart soon found that The Royal was too small for its audiences. “They’ve
The Aurora Theatre has already outgrown its 200-seat building in downtown Duluth and is making plans to move.
grown so much that we had to leave The Royal,” said Tanya Carroll, co-founder of the group. The group is still looking for a larger venue, while planning to stage its next performance at Norcross Presbyterian Church, which will seat 100. In the future, the Lionheart Theatre hopes to have paid, rather than volunteer, employees, as well as a per-
manent home in Norcross. “I see us as the neighborhood playhouse for Norcross,” Carroll said. The County Seat Players also performed at The Royal last year, but has moved to another venue. The group’s most recent performance took place at the Berkeley Lake Chapel. On the biggest night, 56 people attended the show. The group expects to see
its audiences continue to grow, especially if the group can find its own facility. “The advantage of that — people know where to find us,” said Starshine Stanfield, the group’s artistic director. The County Seat Players wouldn’t mind sharing a building with another performing arts group. “A lot of the theater group are really willing to work with each other,” Stanfield said.
NOW&THEN Now and then numbers were provided by the Hudgens Center. NOW
■ The Hudgens Center receives 50,000 visitors a year
■ When the County’s population is 1 million there will be more than 70,000 visitors a year.
: GWINNETT CENTER
The Arena at Gwinnett Center celebrates their 1 millionth patron BY J ESSICA CARTER jessica.carter@ gwinnettdailypost.com
While many county planners have their eyes focused on the million-resident mark, officials at the Arena at Gwinnett Center recently celebrated a different benchmark: their 1 millionth patron. The milestone moment came during Tuesday’s Yanni concert. The fact that more than 1 million people have been drawn to the Arena in just two years is the strongest testimony to Gwinnett’s entertainment power, said Cheryl Ann Gee, director of sales and marketing for Gwinnett Center. “We really are getting the acts, getting the talent here,” Gee said, citing bookings by acts like The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Green Day, Avril Lavigne and Cher. “I think we’ve sort of carved out and proven this is market for midsize concerts that were looking for audiences in the Atlanta area,” added Gwinnett Center general manager Preston Williams. “We get our fair share of what we call the ‘A’ concerts.” Two of Billboard’s six top-grossing tours of 2004 — Bette Midler and Metallica — made stops in Gwinnett last fall, and Gwinnett Center hosted events on more than 200 days last year. But with a third more people living in the county, Gee believes the key to keeping Gwinnett Center a major player in the metro Atlanta market will be diversity. “The diversity and the growth of the county — I think we’ve planned for those really well,” she said. “I think the diversity that
The Gwinnett Arena just recently hit a milestone as the 1 millionth patron walked through the door. The arena will continue to bring in bigname acts such as Velvet Revolver.
‘‘I think we’ve sort of carved out and proven this is the market for midsize concerts that were looking for audiences in the Atlanta area. We get our fair share of what we call the ‘A’ concerts.’’ Gwinnett Center general manager
Preston Williams we’ve seen grow in the county is shown both at the arena and our performing arts center, and at the convention center.” The PAC at Gwinnett Center seems to have found its niche among many of metro Atlanta’s diverse ethnic groups. In 2004, the facility hosted cultural and arts events from groups including the The Russia House, The Latino Street Theater, Eve Hao Chinese & Taiwanese Dance Studio and Gujarati Samaj, a group that performs India cultural dramas. It even was home to the Miss Liberia pageant. But as the county grows, so will the need for Gwinnett Center to maintain its reputation the area’s premier entertainment venue, Williams added. It will be tough as the surrounding counties follow Gwinnett’s lead in opening facilities that cater to arts and cultural groups. Cobb County recently broke ground on a new performing arts theater, and as the suburban population grows, so will the competition. “I think I see our biggest
challenge as Gwinnett grows ... is to keep this complex as a recognized leader in keeping things fresh, keeping things edge on the technology,” Williams said. “It’s something that the county and the Gwinnett County Convention and Visitors Board feel very strongly about — to have a master plan, and continually update that master plan. Where are we going to be in the marketplace? What does it need to be 10 or 15 years down the road? “We’ve got the commitment from the county to do what we need to do to keep the facility in the mainstream.” One thing is for certain: If the opening two years are any indication, the next two decades should offer ample opportunities for Gwinnett Center to solidify its place in the entertainment landscape. “We’re already there. It’s just going to open up new doors and new avenues,” Gee said. “When I was first here, Sugarloaf (Parkway) was a dead end. I really feel like we were ahead of our time.”
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GWINNETT DAILY POST • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • 19P
: OTHER COUNTIES
Gwinnett’s expansion rushes counties to keep up BY ARIELLE KASS STAFF WRITER email@example.com
At a February meeting of the Barrow County Rotary Club, Chris Maddox warned the audience about Gwinnett. “Barrow County is mostly a blank canvas,” Maddox said. “Our threats are being outplanned and over-paved by others. Gwinnett County’s going to pave right over the top of us if we don’t do something about it.” Maddox, who chaired a summer summit on Barrow County’s growth, was adamant about the necessity for Barrow to take hold of its own future. Across the metro-Atlanta area, counties are feeling the effects of Gwinnett’s expansion — both good and bad. As Gwinnett has grown — from 72,000 in the 1970s to an estimated 700,000 today — its neighbors to the north and east have felt the county push out of its borders and into their own. Although the counties recognize that Gwinnett’s burgeoning growth has increased their own populations, county leaders worry about the rate of growth and the vital infrastructure that many of them are still missing. In Jackson County, for example, County Commission Chairman Pat Bell said the county is still working to pave roads and put in sewers at each of the I-85 exits. One of her goals is to build parallel roads along the Interstate, but the work is slow going. Many areas in Hall and Barrow counties are missing sewer systems, and Walton County Commission Chairman Kevin Little said he is worried about impending gridlock on many of the county’s two-lane roads. But each of the counties is experiencing exponential growth, and all must struggle to keep up with the rate at which people are moving in. Little said in Walton, schools are suffering the most. A new subdivision in the county can bring 500-600 students at once, far more than existing buildings can handle. Jake Grant, assistant superintendent of facilities for the Barrow County Schools, said schools are adding portable classrooms within a year or two after new ones are being built or old ones renovated. While the county likes smaller schools, Grant said they are just not economically feasible. “If a kid moves into Barrow County today, it’s three years until we see a dime. It’s the way the formula is set up,” he said. “It seems like we’re always chasing our tail.” Though many county leaders say they would be growing even without Gwinnett’s continued expansion, Little counts the boom of Gwinnett as one reason people are moving out to Walton — oftentimes, after Gwinnett has become too much to handle. “I know of full streets in Gwinnett that have come up and
Staff Photo: James Nedock
The expansion and growth of Gwinnett County is also affecting counties such as Barrow where Gwinnett’s growth is pushing into rural areas that are now being developed.
NOW&THEN The Gwinnett Daily Post projected numbers and trends based on current statistics and growth figures. NOW
■ Counties to the north and east of Gwinnett are mostly rural
■ Subdivisions will be popping up everywhere
■ Schools are using portable trailers
■ No one knows how many new schools will be needed — but you can bet it’s quite a few
■ Shopping and industry are limited
■ Business will expand dramatically so people could conceivably shop and entertain themselves without leaving the county
■ Many roads are unpaved and sewage systems don’t exist in a lot of areas
■ Two-lane roads will be expanded and sewage lines will be placed to attract businesses
■ Lots of greenspace
■ Greenspace shrinking
moved to subdivisions in Walton,” Little said. “We’ve had a residential boom, but we’re not yet getting an economic boom.” For Hall, Walton, Barrow and Jackson counties, increasing
work, shop and eat outside the county. In Barrow County, there is no movie theater, bowling alley or skating rink, things that County Commission Chairman Doug Garrison said are vital to the health of the area. In Hall County, Planning Director Bill Meyer said, construction of the Mall of Georgia in Gwinnett has precluded a lot of growth for business that cannot flourish in close proximity to the mall. All of the counties want to keep their small-town appeal — to remain a little bit more rural than Gwinnett, while containing their growth. In Jackson County, Bell said, there is a saying about the pace of the growth: If you don’t like a house, wait 15 minutes and they’ll build you one. County leaders are trying to buy up land for schools and parks, to keep pastures and greenery, but money for those
their business and industrial tax bases is imperative for ensuring that they do not become bedroom communities — places where people own homes that they only sleep in, while they
ventures is often hard to come by. Barrow County Schools Superintendent Ron Saunders called the farmers the county’s millionaires, and in many ways, landowners are able to sell their property — at the expense of some greenspace — to pay for their retirements. Maceo Rogers, deputy director of the DeKalb County Office of Economic Development, said the problems that plague the counties on Gwinnett’s borders must be seen as regional problems. DeKalb, which borders Gwinnett to the southwest, is already highly populated and has its infrastructure in place. People commute across county lines every day, Rogers said, so counties need to take a regional perspective to both their weaknesses and strengths. Though Gwinnett has long been the steam engine of Atlanta, Bell said, people are
now moving away from the traffic and strip malls and into quieter counties. Garrison said even some small businesses have relocated from Gwinnett to Barrow, and people have followed the businesses out for jobs. For Walton County and others, the importance of smart, quality growth has come to the forefront. Garrison, in Barrow, is advocating a rail connector between Atlanta and Athens, while Little is emphasizing the importance of providing good jobs in Walton so residents will spend their money in the county. In all the counties affected by Gwinnett’s growing population, it’s a rush to keep up with the population as is comes. “It’s a never-ending battle to keep up with growth,” Grant said. “We’re like a duck on the water that looks calm on top, but is paddling like get-out underneath.”
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20P • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • GWINNETT DAILY POST
Gwinnett must plan for growth, diversity
Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
Gwinnett’s tradition as a Republican power could continue as the population approaches 1 million, political science professor Adam Stone said.
Politics may not change much for 1 million people BY CAMIE YOUNG STAFF WRITER camie.young @gwinnettdailypost.com
LAWRENCEVILLE — How many officials will it take to represent 1 million people? Some say it may not be many more than the county has now. For example, Chairman Charles Bannister said he still believes the county government will have four districts and a chairman, although others are hoping to add more districts. Every effort to enlarge the county board in the past several years has been squashed. Gwinnett University Center political scientist Adam Stone said the county could probably use more commissioners by the time it reaches the milestone of 1 million in population. After all, the county chairman already has as many constituents as a congressman, and the four district commissioners would then represent 10 times as many people as a state House member represents now. In fact, it would be harder to be elected chairman in Gwinnett than governor in seven states — Delaware, Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. While the county has four congressional districts in it now,
NOW&THEN The Gwinnett Daily Post asked Gwinnett University Center political science professor Adam Stone to estimate the county’s political prowess when the population reaches 1 million. NOW THEN State Representatives 15 20 State senators 7 10 Congressmen 4 2* Votes during 244,179 350,000-375,000 a presidential election County commissioners 5 7-9 Political party in power Republican Republican *While the county has four congressional districts in it now, only one Congressman actually considers Gwinnett his home, and all represent several counties in Washington. Stone said that by the time the population reaches 1 million, Gwinnett could have two congressmen focusing almost solely on the county.
only one congressman actually considers Gwinnett his home, and all represent several counties in Washington. Stone said that by the time the population reaches 1 million, Gwinnett could have two congressmen focusing almost solely on the county. While the number of House and Senate members is proportional to the state’s total population, Stone said Gwinnett’s power on the state scene is already growing as power shifts from rural Democrats to suburban Republicans. By the time Gwinnett reaches 1 million, one of its residents could become governor, Stone said. “You can see Gwinnett politicians getting the kind of press of people from Fulton County or
Cobb,” Stone said. “Gwinnett has a huge reservoir of voters. Candidates are going to come out to Gwinnett looking for votes. “You’re going to see Gwinnettians in statewide office.” That is, if Gwinnett acts as a voting bloc. For two decades that has been the case, with many of the county’s elections decided during the Republican primary. But Democrats made a strong showing in 2004, hosting more candidates than ever. Few of the candidates made it through to office, with many losing by 20 percentage points. But party Chairman Mike Berlon sees a bright future for the Democrats in Gwinnett. “If you look at all the demo-
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graphics, it indicates Gwinnett will ultimately become a Democratic county,” Berlon said, referring to the influx of minorities and working families in a county becoming more urban, during an interview after the 2004 election. “It’s a function of time more than anything else.” GOP officials disagree. After all, they gave the Democrats a clear stomping in this past election cycle. “Republicans are doing better among minority voters,” GOP Chairman Buzz Brockway said. “That will undercut what the Democrats are trying to do. “It’s still a solid Republican county.” And Stone agrees. “The Democrats will have more votes, but whether that will translate to a higher percentage remains to be seen. There’s a lot more Democratic votes, but not necessarily more Democratic power,” he said. Stone explained that, while Gwinnett is gaining large numbers of minorities and minorities generally vote with the Democrats, people in the suburbs tend to define themselves as suburbanites before defining themselves by race or party. “I see it remaining as a Republican bastion for a while. It could be indefinitely.”
opulation changes in three ways: people are born, people die, or they move. Since the late 1960s, Gwinnett County’s population has been driven by new residents, and they have played a key role in Georgia’s and the county’s recent growth. Gwinnett is a suburban, bedroom community of the city of Atlanta. The county has experienced unprecedented growth since the late 1960s, and is part of the Atlanta metropolitan area — the second fastest growing metro area in the nation behind only Los Angles. Gwinnett’s giant population growth was spurred by the wide-range of jobs in and around the Atlanta area. Because of these employment opportunities, Gwinnett has attracted a large number of new residents, and many have been young professionals who wanted to start a family. For years, these residents were affluent, educated and primarily white. However, in the late 1980s and picking up steam in the 1990s, the county’s demographics changed significantly, and many of the recent new residents are Hispanic, African-American and Asian. They are still young, but generally they tend to have lower educational and income levels than previous migrants to the county. Thus, from a social, economic, educational and racial standpoint, Gwinnett is no longer uniform, but extremely diverse. Most traditional population projections lack adjustments for growth from new residents, so those methods must be used cautiously. Even population projections that do take net migration into account may fail to consider other important facets of growth, including development attitudes, land-use regulations, new highways, large manufacturing and retail projects, traffic congestion, economic recession, air pollution regulations and property tax increases. All of these ingredients help drive population, and all of them are difficult — if not impossible — to quantify. Based upon the projection technique used here, by the year 2018 Gwinnett County’s population is projected to reach 1 million, but remember there are lies — d--- lies — in population projections! A county with 1 million people is typically quite dif-
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ferent from today’s Gwinnett. Those counties are dense “urban centers,” and they have an abundance of “high rise” developments. But Gwinnett’s most prevalent housing developments are traditional family dwellings and suburban apartment buildings. Gwinnett is a large county, and its eastern sections still have a relatively significant amount of undeveloped land. Thus, the county can continue growing through the shortterm without radically changing its housing architecture. However, unless a major departure from the previous architectural form takes place — for example a change to high or multistory structures — the county’s population will, in all probability, begin to level. For example, with a population of 1 million residents, Gwinnett would have nearly 2,290 people per square mile — ranking it among the most densely settled counties in America. Growth from new residents depends on many issues that form a certain quality of life — a healthy supply of jobs and housing, pollution levels kept in check, measures to ease traffic congestion, freedom from growth regulations and restrictions, and access to parks. These are the factors that “pulled” new residents to Gwinnett. But, if they are not present, they “push” people out. Although the exact threshold for these livability measures is not known, one fact is evident: Gwinnett County will continue to experience growth and change, and this means decision makers and citizens must plan how to manage growth. My favorite philosopher, Al Capone, summed it up succinctly, “You only need three things in life — a gun, a smile, and a plan.” Gwinnett County, you need a plan. Douglas C. Bachtel is a professor of College of Family and Consumer Science at the University of Georgia
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GWINNETT DAILY POST • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • 21P
Center may see growth in enrollment, course offerings BY JAIME SARRIO STAFF WRITER firstname.lastname@example.org
LAWRENCEVILLE — No one knows for sure what Gwinnett will look like when the population hits a million, but what is even more uncertain is how the college community will develop as the growth continues. The mystery is due to changes planned for the Gwinnett University Center. Georgia higher education officials want to transition the center into a full-fledged college — the first public college created in Georgia in 30 years. The school would open in 2006, if its gets the OK from lawmakers and would take the place of undergraduate programs currently offered by institutions such as the University of Georgia and Georgia Perimeter College. The Gwinnett University Center houses the University of Georgia, Georgia Perimeter College, Southern Polytechnic State University and Medical College of Georgia. The current enrollment is 8,000 students — up 14 percent over last year and 95 percent over the last three years, according to Rob Watts, interim director for the center. Watts said he expects the growth to continue as Gwinnett approached 1 million residents. “We expect to see tremendous growth,” he said. “We expect to double in size in the next four years. That is our goal.” The school would have to add additional buildings to accommodate the growth. The sprawling 177-acre campus located on Ga. Highway 316 is large enough to accommodate several new buildings, according to school officials. Gwinnett State College would offer degrees in education, health care and information technology — professions that are highly demanded in Gwinnett, he said. It will probably be one of the largest higher-learning institutes in the state. Admission requirements would be the same as a twoyear school and tuition would be comparative. This is to ensure students academically or financially unable to gain entry to a research university, such as the University of Georgia, would have another option. About 7,000 students graduated from Gwinnett’s public high schools last year. With more people flooding into the county, and the elementary school-aged population maturing, thousands more seniors are expected to pour into the local college. “Kids are more well prepared coming out of Gwinnett high schools,” Watts said. “I think Gwinnett County will have one of the highest post-secondary graduation rates in the state.” The University of Georgia would still offer graduate degrees, even though other degree programs would be nixed, said UGA President Michael Adams.
NOW&THEN The Gwinnett Daily Post projected numbers and trends based on current statistics and growth figures. NOW THEN 4* 1 (Gwinnett State College) High school seniors 7,000 <10,000 Gwinnett Tech Enrollment 7,800 about 15,000 Colleges
*University of Georgia, Georgia Perimeter College, Southern Polytechnic State University and Medical College of Georgia.
‘‘We expect to see tremendous growth. We expect to double in size in the next four years.’’ Gwinnett University Center interim director
Rob Watts facilities to accommodate the growing student population. The Child Development and Teacher Preparation Center is breaking ground this spring with an anticipated opening date of summer 2006. A 13,500 square-feet classroom building will be added to the existing Busbee Center with a projected construction date of 2008, according to school officials. The school also plans to beef up its online education program, which would limit
Georgia higher education officials want to transition Gwinnett University Center into a full-fledged college — the first public college created in Georgia in 30 years.
Here are the 5 reasons we are number 1!
(left to right): Katrina Winberg, Tom Dorman, Jordan Samsel and Jeanette McCreary.
Gwinnett Banking Company is ranked number 1 in dollar volume of loans on the list of Top 25 Lenders for the State of Georgia for 2004 under the SBA Program. Call our SBA Department at 770-754-0001 and let them explain the SBA loan criteria and available programs.
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Technical education Gwinnett Technical College also plans to add new
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Gwinnett Daily Post
the number of students on campus. The college’s anticipated enrollment growth rate should match that of the county, increasing enrollment by 30 percent by the year 2008, bringing the anticipated enrollment to more than 6,000 students, according to school officials. Based on that growth rate, enrollment in 2024 — the year Gwinnett could hit 1 million — would be around 15,000 students.
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22P • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2005 • GWINNETT DAILY POST
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