A year after construction workers first broke ground, the new shopping centers on both sides of Ga. 400 south of the Dawson Forest Road intersection are finally nearing completion and many stores are opening for business.
One of the centers, Dawson Crossroads, will host several national chains including anchor store Publix and the popular family restaurant Chili's, as well as PetSmart, Great Clips, Brooklyn Joe's Pizzeria, Lee Nails,Totally Running and Top Cleaners, among others. Some of the stores, like AT&T and Aspen Dental, are already open and receiving customers.
Dawson Crossroads is located on the east side of Ga. 400 between Carlisle and Dawson Forest roads.
According to Dawson County Development Authority Executive Director Charlie Auvermann, Publix is scheduled to be open in mid-October, and Chili's will open around that time as well.
The other shopping center, Dawson Marketplace, is located south of North Georgia Premium Outlets at the southwest intersection of Ga. 400 and Dawson Forest Road on a 100-acre site.
Dawson Marketplace will be home to the largest Kroger Marketplace store in the state of Georgia at 123,000 square feet, along with a nine pump Kroger Fuel Center. The center will also contain retail giants Ross Dress for Less, Marshalls, PetCo, Hobby Lobby and Famous Footwear.
Auvermann said that Kroger is scheduled to open mid-November, and other stores like Ross and PetCo won't be open until after Christmas, in early 2017.
Other spaces at Dawson Marketplace will be taken by smaller businesses.
"Eighty percent of the buildings are leased at this time, and the smaller buildings will take more time to fill up," Auvermann said. "Smaller stores like boutiques and dry cleaners will take those spaces, and it will probably take into next year for that to happen."
Auvermann said that he views Dawson Marketplace as a positive development for Dawson County.
"Everything is going well and soon people will see that not only can they buy locally, and don't have to go to Gainesville to buy these products, but that the tax revenue is extremely beneficial for our county," Auvermann said.
The new Kroger location has also been forecast as a top contributor of tax revenue for the county, with up to $450,000 in sales and other taxes expected to come in each year of the store's operation, he said.
Kroger may have moved to a bigger space, but they won't be leaving the old building empty for long.
As part of the bond agreement between the store and the Dawson County Development Authority, Kroger must continue to maintain their former building.
"Kroger has to pay rent and taxes on the building until they find a tenant for the building, even after they move to the new location," Auvermann said. "So Kroger has tremendous incentive to fill the old space."
A committee has been formed between the Development Authority, management professionals from Kroger and the owners of the shopping complex in order to find a tenant for the old building.
"We're working on it and we're hopeful that we will have someone soon, but there is no party that is seriously interested in it at this time," Auvermann said. "Deconstruction of the gas pumps is supposed to start after the Kroger moves to the new store, and we think this will help bring someone new in."
The work on the shopping centers has been coupled with the major roadway work being done on the Dawson County Ga. 400 corridor.
Public Works Director David McKee said that the Georgia Department of Transportation has planned five new traffic lights in the area.
Three of the lights, one located on Ga. 400 at Carlisle Road and Whitmire Drive by the Racetrac, another at Quill Drive, and a third at the entrance to North Georgia Premium Outlets on Dawson Forest, have been put up, but are not currently in use.
The other two lights are planned for Hwy. 53 near the Sonic, and the other near Burger King.
Roadwork on Dawson Forest Road has also been causing delays near the southern entrance to the outlets and onto Ga. 400.
The road has undergone construction as part of a SPLOST-VI rehabilitation project by the county.
The construction covered three sections of Dawson Forest Road, from the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area to the intersection at Hwy. 9, from the intersection at Hwy. 9 to the roundabout at the Lumpkin Campground Road intersection, and on the opposite side of 400 from Power Center Drive to Hwy. 53 East.
There is a small section from Power Center Drive west to the roundabout at Lumpkin Campground Road that was not part of the planned repairs, because developers of the two new shopping centers are already working on the road there.
"Private developers are doing significant upgrades in that section from the roundabout to Power Center Drive. There's a huge coordinating effort there," McKee said.
Traffic has remained open on Dawson Forest for the duration of the project.
According to McKee, the county's work on the road is 99 percent complete.