Oconee County expects to open Parkway Boulevard from the Oconee Connector to Kohl’s by the end of May, county Public Works Director Emil Beshara told a meeting of the regional metropolitan transportation planning organization on Wednesday.
Construction on the roadway is “winding down,” Beshara told the group, with work remaining only on such things as pedestrian islands, guardrails, and striping.
The roadway will allow traffic to flow from Epps Bridge Parkway just inside Oconee County at the bridge over McNutt Creek to one of the entrances to Epps Bridge Centre or on to SR Loop 10 and SR 316–or the reverse.
The county decided to spend $3.35 million to build the roadway not as a means of relieving traffic but to open up the area for further commercial development.
None of that development is ready to open, but aerial video of the roadway shows that extensive site preparation for the Phase II expansion of Epps Bridge Centre has been completed.
Update By Beshara
Beshara had told the Technical Coordinating Committee of the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS) in March that the roadway would be completed by the end of that month but said he wasn’t sure when it would be opened to traffic.
|Plaza Parkway, Left, Oconee Connector, Center,|
Parkway Boulevard, Right
Epps Bridge Centre Phase II In Cleared Area
Speaking to that same group on Wednesday, he said “I think we’re just going to open it, probably in about three weeks, four weeks away.”
The meeting took place in the auditorium at the Planning Department of Athens-Clarke County.
Beshara and Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department Director B.R. White represent the county on the Technical Coordination Committee.
Beshara gave his report when asked by Committee Chairman Brad Griffin of Athens-Clarke County to provide an update on transportation activities in Oconee County.
Chris Greer, who lives in Lake Wellbrook subdivision, launched his drone this morning from the parking lot of Epps Bridge Centre to provide an aerial tour of the roadway motorists will get to see at ground level shortly.
Greer flew the drone from the intersection of one of the exists of the existing Epps Bridge Centre on the Oconee Connector to Epps Bridge Parkway.
I’ve provided a narrative for the flight in the video below.
OCO: Parkway Boulevard Tour April 30, 2017 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.
Greer shot a video of the same route in September of last year as work was just getting underway.
I’ve added it again here for comparison.
OCO: Aerial Tour Of Parkway Boulevard Extension from Lee Becker on Vimeo.
Phase I Nearly Built Out
On April 25 Oconee County issued a build-out permit for the second last available space in the existing Epps Bridge Centre, now labeled as Phase I.
|Epps Bridge Centre Phase I From Parkway Boulevard|
Planet Smoothie is scheduled to move into the empty suite between Groove Burgers and Alumni Hall.
Planet Smoothie is an Atlanta company featuring the thick beverage made from blended raw fruits and other ingredients.
On Jan. 27 of this year the county issued a build-out permit for a Charlie Graingers Hot Dogs, Briskett and BBQ restaurant on the opposite side of the existing Epps Bridge Centre.
That leaves available for lease only the space behind Banana Republic. Children's Place had been identified as the future tenant of that space, but the company has not moved to Epps Bridge Centre and Epps Bridge Centre is listing the space as available for other tenants.
Phases II And III
The Preliminary Site Plan for Epps Bridge Center, reviewed by the county’s Development Review Committee in March, updated earlier plans for Phases II and III of the shopping complex.
Changes to the preliminary site plan resulted in part from insufficient fill for the project, forcing the developer to lower the project on the 51-acre-parcel.
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.
Plans For Phases II And III
No permits other than for ground clearance have been issued by the county for Phases II and III of Epps Bridge Centre.
Online marketing materials for the Bishop Company of Atlanta, developer of Epps Bridge Center, also do not list any potential tenants for new phases of the shopping center.
The Oconee Enterprise reported in its April 27 edition that Frank Bishop, owner of the Bishop Company, has said that Hobby Lobby will relocate from Athens to the expanded shopping center.
Planning and Code Enforcement Director White told me on Friday that the county has not yet received any documents related to those plans.
The video from the meeting of the Technical Coordinating Committee of MACORTS is below.
Beshara’s comments are at 6:23 in the video.
Beshara also said that the county has shifted away from its plans to do a transportation study of the SR 316 corridor in favor of a county-wide transportation study.
Former Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis had championed the more narrowly focused SR 316 corridor study as part of his efforts to promote a flyover of SR Loop 10 by the Oconee Connector to connect with Daniells Bridge Road.
OCO: MACORTS Technical Coordinating Committee 4 26 2017 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.
Higher Quality Video Tour
The video of the tour of Parkway Boulevard Extension deteriorated in the editing process, during which I added the narration.
The video below is the original and is of a higher quality, but there is no narration.
OCO: Higher Resolution Aerial Tour Parkway Boulevard from Lee Becker on Vimeo.
The drone tour is an excellent presentation of the project. Kudos.
We hope the powers have guessed correctly the return on investment of taxpayer money. The fancy paperwork and oversight of money flow will be crucial.
Meanwhile, the rest of the county's other programs fight for every dollar.
I just wish that some how, some way, the property owners of the county could benefit from a tax reduction because of all of this development.
Unfortunately, development leads to increased costs as well as increased income. Costs include infrastructure (as noted by the cost of this road), sewage needs, water needs, traffic control needs, police needs, etc. So the costs eat up much of the increased income. Nevertheless, politicians seem to love development as they see $ to oversee and spend.
I ask this: as development expands the 'tax base' (the politicians always proclaim) when was the last time any of us recall our taxes going DOWN as the result? All we hear is we need to expand the 'tax base', but we are never told who the beneficiaries are.
In rapidly growing suburban areas like Oconee, development NEVER lowers our taxes. Just more congestion, fast food, inconvenient stores, and taxes going up / up / up. Forever up. We finance the mess.
And we, the citizens, just never learn to say NO. We keep electing these folks, who really represent the developers, and then complain about having to pay for it all.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, who's to blame?
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