By Alicia Couch Payne
The City of Sugar Hill is progressive and has invested resources into making sure the city continues to grow strategically. In order to stay competitive, the city’s management knew that they needed to create a larger business footprint in the downtown area. The residents wanted a place where they could shop, get a bite to eat, and find entertainment all in one area. After intensive research, surveying and collecting feedback, the City Council approved the construction on the new E Center in 2016. The new mixed-use project will include retail, restaurants, office space and a few more surprises.
I was given the honor of being the first member of the media to tour the E Center, which is nearing completion and is slated to open later this summer. My tour guides were City Council Member Brandon Hembree, Communications Coordinator, Varessa Butts, and Economic Development Director Mercy Montgomery.
We started our tour in the new Eagle Theatre, which will be home to the Sugar Hill Player’s Guild as well as the Broad Street Concert Band. Organizations within the community may also request to use the 406-seat, art deco style theatre. The theatre is well designed with ample room, amenities, and functionality while being pleasing to the eye. It is evident that designers have meticulously planned every detail, right down to the decor in the restrooms. City officials decided to take inspiration from the Mars Theatre after touring the Springfield theatre several years ago.
The E Center is comprised of three floors, including a parking garage. City management has taken great care in planning every aspect of the complex. It is aesthetically pleasing with the use of interesting architectural details, brick pavers in lieu of concrete walkways, large planters throughout, and thoughtful landscaping. Black wrought iron is the metal of choice and it is incorporated into all the patio railings as well as in the stairwells. Officials have taken great care to hire lighting specialists to make sure the center has appropriate lighting and that the fixtures are beautiful and interesting. The complex is also wheelchair-friendly with wide walkways, and elevators. Ample parking is available in the lower-level parking garage and patrons have easy access to nearby parking spaces along the street. The center is also connected by a large footbridge to the parking deck at the city hall.
The heart of the E Center has the potential to house nine restaurants and several retail/office spaces. The city has conducted extensive studies to make sure they are bringing in restaurants and retail shops that residents want to see. The city was very quiet about the exact identity of the businesses that would call the E Center home. However, I was promised access to tenant identities as soon as are released. A little teaser, however, is that the theatre will house a gourmet coffee shop.
I was shown several different restaurant spaces, each one with a unique feel, many featuring outdoor dining. One such space I was told would be a tavern type restaurant with a large patio. An artisan pizza restaurant would also occupy a prime restaurant spot within the center. One restaurant space will provide diners a rooftop dining experience complete with beams signed by residents at city hall during construction. The city staff wanted a river walk-style dining experience which was accomplished with waterfalls that fall from the second-floor plaza and cascade into a ground-level pool. Diners can take their alcoholic beverage out of the restaurants and walk along the recently passed entertainment district that extends from Temple Avenue to Sugar Hill Bakery.
The retail and office spaces vary in size and will be finished out by the tenants, but each one will have the same overall look as the entire development. Several prime retail spaces will open up onto balconies on the second floor and on the ground floor many have direct access to the brick-lined pedestrian areas.
The side of the center furthest from city hall houses a recreation center complete with a large gymnasium and a second-story walking path. The center will have offices for the city recreation employees as well as classrooms, locker rooms, and office or retail spaces. Pickle ball and basketball leagues will be played in the gym with the potential to add volleyball later on. Classes that are currently provided at the community center will be held in this new facility.
I was thoroughly impressed with the center and how well city officials thought out every aspect. No doubt the E Center will be a busy, vital part of the city where residents will go for top-notch dining, retail, and culture. The North Gwinnett Voice will continue to update our readers as city hall releases more information leading up to the grand opening.