The Varsity Restaurants announced its plans to build a new store in Oconee County in a full-page advertisement in the Athens Banner-Herald on Sunday, followed by a posting on its Facebook page on Monday.
That Facebook posting led to a story at the top of the front page of the Banner-Herald on Tuesday. The paper had written several stories about the recent closing of the restaurant on West Broad Street at Milledge Avenue.
The Oconee Enterprise also put the announcement in a short story on the front page of its Thursday edition.
Both the full-page advertisement and the Facebook posting said the company will open two stores, one on Parkway Boulevard in Athens (although Parkway Boulevard is in Oconee County), and the other at the Gateway at University Parkway in Bethlehem in Barrow County.
The Gordy Family LP owns two parcels in Oconee County, one consisting of just less than 22 acres on Parkway Boulevard and the other of 13.5 acres at the corner of Plaza Parkway and the Oconee Connector.
The Gordy Family also owns The Varsity Restaurants.
Though the Facebook post says The Varsity will “break ground soon” at the new locations, the company has not filed any paperwork or plans for development of either of the Oconee County sites.
If The Varsity Restaurants goes ahead with plans to build a new store on Parkway Boulevard, it will be only the second business to locate on the roadway since the county built it to stimulate additional commercial growth in that pocket of the county in 2017.
Gordy Family Properties
The two Gordy Family properties are the remaining parts of what was a larger tract of undeveloped land between what is now the Oconee Connector and McNutt Creek, the border between Oconee and Clarke counties.
Epps Bridge Centre II and undeveloped Epps Bridge Centre III are on property formerly owned by the Gordy Family.
The larger of the two properties–the one actually fronting on Parkway Boulevard–is 21.86 acres, according to county tax records.
The smaller parcel, consisting of 13.52 acres, is at the corner of Plaza Parkway and the Oconee Connector, across from the site in Epps Bridge Centre II long identified as a possible home for a Costco.
Both Gordy Family properties currently are zoned for agricultural use and would have to be rezoned for commercial development.
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners in February of 2016 agreed to borrow $4.3 million to build Parkway Boulevard to promote further commercial development in the Epps Bridge Road corridor.
The commissioners agreed to have the county’s Industrial Development Authority do the actual borrowing.
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The schedule for the bond called for payments totaling $4.9 over the 10-year terms of the bonds.
At that time, Parkway Boulevard ran from Epps Bridge Parkway to just beyond Kohl’s. The new three-lane road linked that existing road with the Oconee Connector.
As such, it provided access to Epps Bridge Centre II, then under construction, and Epps Bridge Centre III, which has not yet been built.
So far, Hobby Lobby is the only tenant in Epps Bridge Centre II.
The new road also provided access to the larger of the two Gordy properties.
Options For The Varsity
If The Varsity sticks to its plans to build its store on Parkway Boulevard, it could go into Epps Bridge Centre II rather than on the undeveloped land the Gordy Family owns on Parkway Boulevard.
Deanna Ruark, Development Review Committee coordinator for Oconee County, said in an email message on Monday that the county Planning and Code Enforcement Department has not received any plans for development of either of the Gordy Family properties.
The Facebook announcement by The Varsity said “we...are excited to break ground soon at our new locations in Athens and Bethlehem.”
Planning for the restaurant in Barrow County seems to be more advanced.
Promotional materials for The Gateway at University Parkway show a “sold” marker for a property in front of the AMC Theater with the name Varsity on it.