Photo Credit: Lee Becker
Atlanta developer Frank Bishop plans on building an expansion of Epps Bridge Centre across the Oconee Connector from the current shopping center that would nearly double the size of the development.
Bishop applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month for a permit to mitigate watershed damage from the development by purchasing credits to protect wetlands in Greene County.
Plans his company submitted with the application call for a 370,000 square-foot development, including a large standalone anchor tenant, two buildings with smaller retail spaces and seven outparcels, to be built in two phases.
Phase 1 of Epps Bridge Centre, which opened in 2013, is approximately 450,000 square feet, so the next to phases would bring the total size to more than 800,000 square feet (the size of eight Walmarts).
Bishop said in an interview today that he plans on starting construction within the next 12–24 months.
“It depends on when we can get our permits,” he said.
The anchor tenant space is rumored to be the future site of a Costco.
“We have talked to a lot of potential tenants,” Bishop said. “We do not have a commitment from any tenants.”
Epps Bridge Centre has been a topic of controversy in Clarke County because it has drawn several businesses away from Atlanta Highway, including Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Pier 1 Imports, Old Navy, the Gap and Party City.
However, Bishop said he anticipates that tenants in the second and third phases of the development would be “new to the market,” rather than moving from other parts of the Athens area.
“It’s good for the region,” he said. “It’s a regional location, is the way most tenants view it.”
The 114-acre parcel where the new phases of Epps Bridge Centre are planned is currently owned by the Gordy family, but Bishop said he has it under contract.
Construction is dependent on Oconee County building a road running from Kohl’s behind the Walmart and Lowe’s to the Oconee Connector, which would open up land behind those stores for development. The county commission tentatively approved the $4 million road last August.
Bishop has not filed any plans with Oconee County yet.
“The development, from our standpoint, has been completed,” planner Brad Callender said.
Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mike Hamby, who chairs a study committee on the future of Atlanta Highway, also said he was unaware of the future phases.