Saturday, March 11, 2017

Parkway Boulevard Will Be Ready To Open By End Of Month, Oconee County Public Works Director Says

Stores Not Ready

Parkway Boulevard Extension will be paved and ready to be opened by the end of the month, Oconee County Utility Department Director Emil Beshara told a meeting of the regional transportation planning body.

Work on the project “is going very well,” Beshara told the Technical Coordinating Committee of the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS) at its meeting late last month in Athens.

Beshara said he isn’t sure when the road actually will be opened to traffic, however, because none of the commercial development the road is designed to spur has been built.

Epps Bridge Centre Phases II and III, the chief beneficiary of the county’s financing and construction of the roadway, will be before the county Development Review Committee on Friday with a revised Preliminary Site Plan for the project.

Beshara’s Report

Beshara, a member of the Technical Coordinating Committee of MACORTS, the regional transportation planning body, gave his update on county road projects, including Parkway Boulevard Extension, at its meeting on Feb. 22 at the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department auditorium in downtown Athens.

Plaza Parkway, Oconee Connector, Parkway Boulevard (L, C, R) 1/17/2017
Roof of Sleep Number/Vitamin Shoppe At Bottom Right

“We moved a phenomenal amount of dirt in a very short period of time,” Beshara said. “And the project has gone on very well.

“I don’t know that we’ll actually open the road up once we complete it because there’s really no destinations along there, and there will still be construction traffic for the Epps Bridge Centre II and III projects.

“But we’ll make the determination as we get closer to that time,” Beshara said.

Industrial Development Authority

The county, through its Industrial Development Authority, borrowed $4.3 million to extend the existing Parkway Boulevard in front of Kohl’s with the Oconee Connector opposite the existing Epps Bridge Centre.

Plaza Parkway, Oconee Connector, Parkway Boulevard (L, C, R) 2/26/2017

The three-lane road will split Epps Bridge Center Phase II from Epps Bridge Center Phase III and will open up additional land for commercial development between the expanded shopping center and the county border at McNutt Creek .

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners in January of last year approved a $3.35 million contract with Simpson Trucking and Grading Company of Gainesville for construction of Parkway Boulevard Extension.

The county borrowed the $4.3 million to include contingency funds, right of way acquisition and $200,000 for the beautification of Mars Hill Road, currently under reconstruction, and Parkway Boulevard itself.

Though the Industrial Development Authority sold the bonds for the project, the county is obligated to make the payments on those bonds.

By using the IDA to borrow the money, the county didn’t have to get voter approval of the bond sales.

Not Enough Dirt

Some of the dirt that Simpson Trucking and Grading moved as part of the project, as well as additional dirt from adjoining properties, was to be used to level the 51-acre site for Epps Bridge Centre Phases II and III.

In an email message on Jan. 27 of this year, Philip Cranmer from The Bishop Company, developer of Epps Bridge Centre, told Oconee County Planner Sandy Weinel that it will be necessary to adjust plans for the expansion of the shopping center because of the smaller than expected supply of dirt.

“We have been working to adjust the site after not receiving as much dirt from sources, other than the road project, as we expected,” Cranmer wrote.

“The site was lowered which shifted the location of the site,” Cranmer wrote.

Those changes will be reviewed by the Development Review Committee, which is made up of representatives of departments in the county affected by development, such as the Fire Department, the Utility Department, Public Works and Planning.

Building Changes

The Preliminary Site Plan for Epps Bridge Center that will be reviewed by the DRC also subdivides a building in Phase II of the project and adds a building in Phase III of the project.

Preliminary Site Plan Epps Bridge Centre II & III For DRC 3/17/2017

The revised plans show five buildings in Phase II, which is bordered by Parkway Plaza, the Oconee Connector and Parkway Boulevard Extension.

A 55,000 square foot retail building on the earlier plans was divided into two retail stores, one of 30,381 square feet and the other of 19,800 square feet.

In Phase III, the size of the identified anchor store was reduced from 54,244 square feet to 45,600 square feet, a building housing a collection of six shops was increased in size to accommodate eight shops, and a new building with 6,000 square feet was added to the mix.

Grocery Store

Phase III under the new configuration dated Feb. 1, 2017, will include four separate buildings, rather than the three in the plans dated June 27, 2016.

Both configurations included a single outparcel on Phase II of 2.7 acres.

The Utility Plan for both configurations lists the large building in Phase III, at 46,600 in the Feb. 1 configuration, as a grocery.

No other details are provided except for allowance for a drive-through pharmacy operation.

Phase I Restaurant

On Jan. 27 of this year the county issued a build-out permit for a Charlie Graingers Hot Dogs, Briskett and BBQ restaurant in suite 420 of the existing Epps Bridge Centre.

The company, franchised out of North Carolina, will operate a limited service restaurant in the 1,133-square-foot suite.

According to the permit, construction will be completed by the end of May.

Charlie Graingers will be between Bellagio Nail Bar and di’lishi Frozen Yogurt Bar.

According to Oconee County Utility Department records, the restaurant will have 26 seats.

Drone Shots And Videos

Chris Greer shot the aerial photos above with his drone.

The gap between the two shots of only a month shows how rapidly work on the roadway and on Phase II of Epps Bridge Center is progressing.

Phase III is to the right of Parkway Boulevard Extension in the photos.

The video from the Feb. 22 meeting of the Technical Coordinating Committee of MACORTS is below.

Beshara’s comments start at 9:50 in the video.

Beshara reports first that right of way work on the Mars Hill Road/Experiment Station Road widening is complete and the county is waiting on a decision by the state on construction funding.

This second phase runs from Butler’s Crossing to the U.S. 441 bypass of Watkinsville.

OCO: MACORTS 2 22 2017 Complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo.


Anonymous said...

I would hope the Parkway Boulevard Extension would be open as soon as it is complete. I thought it was about moving traffic, not about the construction of the Epps Centre Phase II and III. I would certainly use it to avoid the intersection at Lowe's etc. to get to Kohls or Walmart and even when going on to Athens since there is a light at the bottom of the hill. How can it not be opened? Everyone should contact the members of the BOC to let them know our expectations and displeasure if it is not opened immediately. The construction crews for the Centre will just need to stay off our road.

Anonymous said...

Open the road. In the meantime, I am still stuck on thinking about $200,000 borrowed for the "beautification of Mars Hill Road." Does anyone drive on Mars Hill Road to look at the "beautification"??? With all the traffic, who could look at the "beautification" anyway??? When will the people who decide to spend the money just STOP wasting it???

x said...

That taxpayer dollars were spent on and for this project is ludicrous.
It was clearly and unambiguously for the benefit of this builder, and
not for the transport of traffic through from Point A to Point B.
The previous administration thus bears the serious appearance of impropriety.

Zippity said...

Yes, we paid 4.3 MILLION for a road for the developer and they even got the dirt for free. Must be nice to have such government friends. Meanwhile, nationally Kohl's is not doing well and may be closing stores in the future and shopping centers in general are losing money as people increasingly shop online. I guess they'll have to survive on restaurants and we the taxpayers will never get our 4.3 MILLION back.

Anonymous said...

With restaurants as the sole means to realize a profit in shopping centers and retail going away to internet sales, Oconee may want to invest tax dollars in the Parks Department for additional walking paths and exercise facilities. It will be interesting to look at the health stats of Oconee County in 10 years.

Anonymous said...

May want to take a look at how much money is already spent on P&R. We are well ahead of anyone in the region

Anonymous said...

does anyone really believe that the road was built for traffic reasons? It was built for Bishop and only for Bishop. When will there be a board with the nerve to say "no" to these tax payer funded private developments?

Let'sGoOconee said...

Not to be knee jerk, but Anon 1:33 pm is incorrect. Oconee is well behind Athens and Gwinnett in per capita parks & rec spending.

The Parks & Rec Department has an extremely high participation rate in youth sports. Registration fees pay for umpire/referees, uniforms & supplies; there's no "fluff". The more participants, the higher the spending, but the higher the revenue in return.

The Parks & Rec Department was one of the reasons why Caterpillar moved to the area. It is one of the best in the state, and is one of the most prominent quality of life attractors in this county, along with schools, location & public safety.