Grayson Parkway development moving ahead
The area of Grayson Highway (20) at Grayson Parkway (84), one of the main entrees into Grayson, has long been characterized by being the home of the old Post Office, and an unremarkable road that leads past city hall to the city park.
A few years ago, that image changed a bit with Graft restaurant and Grayson Coffee House settling in and calling the road “home.” Both establishments are popular with locals and have brought a more upscale, trendy feel to the area. Recently, restaurant Sam’s on Main settled in where the old Post Office used to be, and the destination quickly became a popular hotspot known for good food and friendly service. But if developer John Lange has anything to say about it, Grayson Parkway and Grayson Hwy will be getting a much-needed, well-planned facelift.
Lange and his wife Angela have lived in Grayson for about 20 years. “I live here, so I want to see this area become something that we and the Grayson residents are proud of,” said Lange, proudly rolling out detailed plans for a development that will be known as The RailYard. The 7.3 +/- acres, of which 3.68 acres is planned open space, is on the drawing board to include restaurants, boutique-style shops, leased office and retail space and fee-simple residential units. Currently, there are a few existing businesses in the 7+ acre area: Sam’s on Main, Reliable Heating & Air, Newscapes, Bulldog Plumbing and Quality Awards.
“I was driving down Peachtree Industrial Boulevard one day, and I saw that somebody was building a Live-Work-Play community. I thought, ‘It’d be nice if Grayson had a gathering area like that, a place for the community to meet and get to know everyone.” Lange had that thought about 10 years ago, and then the bottom dropped out of the real estate market. About a year ago, however, Lange talked to Mayor Allison Wilkerson and the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) about that stretch of Grayson Parkway, and they asked him to come up with a master plan for developing it.
The Lange’s have appropriately named their development, The RailYard, which was once traveled by the L&L Railroad.
The growth of the Grayson community in the late 1800’s and early part of the 1900’s is contributed to the construction of the railroad in 1898. The L&L (Loganville and Lawrenceville) Railroad passed through Grayson and neighboring farms between cities in Gwinnett and laying over in Loganville each evening. The train tracks ran in an area by Britt Street, crossing over Highway 20. The train carried passengers, mail, animals, farm products, and other goods.
Initially, the train was operated by the Georgia, Carolina, and Northern Railway and purchased later by Seaboard Airline Railroad. Grayson was never a major stop along the railroad, but there was a small passenger station built in the area of then Grayson School (currently Grayson Elementary) in the early 1900’s.
It’s fitting that Lange’s The Rail Yard may be the beginning of another significant economic catalyst after the railroad stopped running in 1932 resulting in an economic and physical loss for Grayson.
In 2009, the City of Grayson submitted a 2030 Comprehensive Plan based on the preparation of three reports: (1) A Community Assessment Report, (2) Technical Appendix, and (3) A Community Participation Program. Adopted by the Downtown Development Authority and revised in 2015, the Grayson Downtown Development Authority district provides a road map for future development. This overlay district concentrates from the corner of Hwy 20 and Grayson Pkwy, down to what is now the Grayson Library, about a 1/2 mile from Hwy 20 and Grayson Pkwy.
Lange’s The RailYard is poised to be the first organized development stemming from the 2030 Comp Plan and Overlay District. It encompasses the corner of Hwy 20 and Grayson Parkway to Britt Street, down Britt Street to Pine Grove Avenue, and back to Hwy 20. “We are excited with the direction this re-development is taking. We are appreciative that the historic section will get some much-needed improvements to make these spaces more viable and updated commercial opportunities,” said Grayson’s Community Development Director Gail Lane. “It’s an important part of the plan for those of us who want to retain the remaining pieces of Grayson’s first economic boom!”
Lane added, “We like to think of ourselves as more of a boutique town set amidst big-box cities, and we’re hopeful that this development will reflect that.” Lange agrees. “We’re trying to create a local place, with local markets and local businesses,” he said, suggesting businesses such as dress shops, a meat market, and local-business offices. “We should end up with about twenty office units and one approximately 7000 sq. ft. office building. I foresee four truly retail units and four new restaurant locations.” With respect to residential space, Lange is planning 32 lofts and one single family detached house. His plan is to create a pedestrian-friendly community park and shopping experience, even planning to connect the planned open space with the city park via sidewalks.
According to the development proposal, the finished community includes a total of 495 parking spaces, 203 of which are off-site shared parking, as desired by the City indicated in the City of Grayson Comprehensive Plan. One hundred one of those spaces are after-hours parking located at Grayson Elementary School. One hundred two are public parking shared with the city of Grayson. Some parking is located along Britt Street and Pine Grove Avenue, encouraging non-motorized traffic throughout the City.
“I don’t want this to be a strip center. We already have enough of those. I want The RailYard to have a cozy, hometown feel, and I want people to know the shop owners and other customers,” Lange said, adding, “We have the incomes. We have the land. There’s no reason we can’t answer these needs.”
According to the City, there are no official city documents or plans forecasting land use beyond the 2030 comprehensive plan (formulated in 2009).
What do city leaders see on the horizon on developing other areas of Grayson? “We have not officially updated our 2030 comp plan,” said Mayor Allison Wilkerson. “Grayson has been lucky to have quality developers looking to locate in town and become part of our community.”
“We know of just a few more plots that might be developed as housing, and of course we’d love to see more commercial development,” Lane said. “We do have a quiet but active campaign to recruit businesses to the city. Our DDA has been seeking out developers and what we think might be a good fit for our community. The idea of bringing skilled jobs to Grayson so that our residents can maintain a higher quality lifestyle by working close to home has been a DDA directive from their inception.”
“As metro Atlanta continues to grow and deal with increasing traffic congestion, more and more people are going to seek opportunities to avoid long commutes by working closer to home,” said Grayson DDA Chairman Chip Mitchell, adding that the DDA hopes to bring more office and professional jobs to Grayson to achieve that end. “A robust business environment will also provide new opportunities for our existing companies, such as increasing lunch business for local restaurants.”
“I think the main thing is that we want to develop in a way that makes sense to our small community,” Lane said.”
Currently, FMR Investments, LLC, owns the property to be developed as The Rail Yard. Trip Shops is the developer of record.
The city’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan can be reviewed on the city’s website, www.cityofgrayson.org. The City of Grayson’s Comprehensive Plan Community Agenda (which includes a historical narrative of Grayson and other pertinent information) can be viewed at https://www.dca.ga.gov/largefiles/OPQG/2009/GraysonCi.CAg.pdf.