Bax­ter coming could help Cony­ers devel­op­ment

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­news.com

Plans are mov­ing for­ward on a mas­sive mixed-use res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial devel­op­ment in Cony­ers, and, although the project isn’t aimed at Bax­ter In­ter­na­tional em­ploy­ees, project of­fi­cials be­lieve the mod­ern devel­op­ment could ben­e­fit from the med­i­cal com­pany’s ar­rival.

A 300-plus acre tract of land lo­cated in south­west Cony­ers is sched­uled to be built out with 1,400 res­i­den­tial units (sin­gle and multi-fam­ily) and 580,000 square feet of com­mer­cial space dur­ing the next 10 years.

The land, bounded be­tween Flat Shoals Road and Iris Drive and bounded by John­son Drive, is owned by Four A In­ter­na­tional, whose devel­op­ment di­rec­tor David Roeper said con­struc­tion could start by late 2013 and the first phase could be com­pleted by 2015.

The project is back in the news be­cause the com­pany re­cently filed a Devel­op­ment of Re­gional Im­pact study with the Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Com­mu­nity Af­fairs; the study is re­quired for devel­op­ment projects over a cer­tain size to see how they will af­fect an area’s traf­fic and water sup­ply and qual­ity, among other things.

Mean­while, Bax­ter has al­ready bro­ken ground on its $1 mil­lion med­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing cam­pus near So­cial Cir­cle, and is ex­pected to open by 2018, with its first build­ing also sched­uled to be built by 2015. Bax­ter ex­pects to hire around 1,500 em­ploy­ees by the time it opens.

Bax­ter’s plant would be lo­cated about 20 miles from the Cony­ers devel­op­ment, ac­cord­ing to Google Maps; both lo­ca­tions are lo­cated close to In­ter­state 20 ex­its.

“It’s not re­lated per se,” Roeper said Wed­nes­day. “If it doesn’t do any­thing else, it brings more at­ten­tion to the I-20 east cor­ri­dor. That news clearly im­pacts us.”

Com­mu­ni­ties all around Bax­ter’s plant have al­ready been try­ing to re­cruit the med­i­cal man­u­fac­turer’s ex­ec­u­tives and em­ploy­ees, many of whom are ex­pected to be highly ed­u­cated, well paid and civi­cally en­gaged — the type of core ci­ti­zens com­mu­ni­ties crave.

Cov­ing­ton has a few apart­ment com­plexes but doesn’t have many high­end units or any of the large live-work-play com­mu­ni­ties that are part of the mod­ern plan­ning de­sign move­ment. Clark’s Grove is a live-work-play com­mu­nity, but it isn’t fully built out and has pre­dom­i­nantly sin­gle fam­ily homes.

In a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view, Genevieve Comp­ton, ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the New­ton County Home Builders As­so­ci­a­tion, said there’s ev­i­dence from other plants that Bax­ter em­ploy­ees are will­ing to live within a 30-mile ra­dius.

New­ton and other sur­round­ing coun­ties don’t have large in­ven­to­ries of medium to higher-priced homes that Bax­ter em­ploy­ees mak­ing $60,000 or more a year will likely want.

Even if the Cony­ers devel­op­ment didn’t di­rectly at­tract Bax­ter em­ploy­ees as res­i­dents, the re­tail com­po­nent will ben­e­fit from the in­flux of high­paid work­ers. Of course, if other com­pa­nies fol­low Bax­ter to the area that will only in­crease op­por­tu­ni­ties for res­i­den­tial and re­tail de­vel­op­ments as well.

The 300-plus acre tract is part of 600 acres owned by Four A In­ter­na­tional, which is part of The Al Batha Group, a pri­vate, multi­na­tional busi­ness in the United Arab Emi­rates.

Four A has owned the land since the early 1980s and re­cently devel­oped 100 acres of the prop­erty in a sim­i­lar mixed-use style, when it opened Vil­lage at Al­mand Creek Apart­ments in 2003 and the Cor­ner Mar­ket re­tail, restau­rant and of­fice devel­op­ment in 2008. Those de­vel­op­ments are lo­cated at Flat Shoals and Parker roads.

Ac­cord­ing to the web­site for this newly devel­op­ment, new­choice­for­cony­ers.com. Roeper said th­ese mixed-use, com­pact de­vel­op­ments are clearly in de­mand.

“What those ex­pe­ri­ences, plus mar­ket stud­ies and de­mo­graphic trends, all point to­wards is an in­creas­ing de­mand for com­pact, walk­a­ble, mixed-use en­vi­ron­ments that en­cour­age healthy liv­ing,” he said on the web­site.

Roeper said the Devel­op­ment of Re­gional Im­pact study would take about four to six months to com­plete and would re­sult in a set of rec­om­men­da­tions from the de­part­ment of com­mu­nity af­fairs. Four A is also still work­ing on re­zon­ing the prop­erty, which has sev­eral nat­u­ral features, in­clud­ing streams, wet­lands, old hard­wood trees and gran­ite rock out­crop­pings. Roeper said the in­tent is to build those features into any devel­op­ment.

The Y of Metro At­lanta ear­lier this year said it is con­sid­er­ing build­ing one of the area’s largest fa­cil­i­ties on that prop­erty.

Rock­dale News Ed­i­tor Michelle Kim contributed to this story.

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