As the second oldest city in the greater Atlanta area, Lawrenceville began in 1821, as a bustling center for commerce and community. In the 200 intervening years, the county seat of Gwinnett continues to be just that. Lawrenceville keeps expanding its commerce with a growing list of new shops and restaurants while creating a downtown that draws residents in to shop, dine, enjoy the arts and attend exciting events. With a downtown that is the envy of many other cities, Lawrenceville leads the way as others take note and take steps to match the energy it has created in its downtown area.
“It’s flattering to know folks want to replicate what you’re doing,” Lawrenceville City Manager Chuck Warbington said. He is often contacted by planners from other towns and cities asking about Lawrenceville’s downtown growth. Most recently, the city opened the new Lawrenceville Arts Center which houses the award-winning Aurora Theatre.
“We have doubled down on the arts in our community both with the arts center and the school of the arts that opened this year,” the city manager said. “The Lawrenceville Arts Center and the Aurora Theatre—they are a draw and a force multiplier bringing folks to the downtown area and capturing the money related to restaurants. We feel like it is very important that they are part of the fabric of our downtown community.
“Couple that with the city council and the school board’s commitment to adding the School of the Arts at Central Gwinnett High School as a magnet of the best of the best fine arts in Gwinnett County. I think there are 300 students and they audition on an annual basis. You have students from Grayson and Brookwood attending Central Gwinnett. They have some incredible teaching talent recruited from all over the U.S. teaching art there. We love having that partnership with the school system and the Aurora Theatre. It continues the positive transformation of being downtown.”
In addition to the Lawrenceville Arts Center, the SouthLawn development and the opening of many new restaurants and shops along the square and other streets downtown, even more projects are on the way. Warbington said the foundation has been laid for a new boutique hotel in downtown Lawrenceville. He expects construction to begin in early summer on The Lawrence, part of the Hilton Tapestry brand. The hotel is named after Captain James Lawrence, War of 1812 naval commander.
Along with the new hotel, Warbington said a new condominium development on a strip of land on Crogan Street and tied to the parking deck and adjacent to the Lawrenceville Arts Center is underway and will feature 28 condos ranging in price from $600,000 to $1 million. This project is named The Winn after Elisha Winn, who was born in Virginia in 1777, died in 1842, and is buried in the old Lawrenceville Cemetery. From 1820-25, Winn was an Inferior Court judge for Gwinnett County and a state senator for Georgia from Gwinnett during the 1830, 1833 and 1837 sessions. His historic home, the Elisha Winn House built in 1812, is located in Dacula and was the site where much of the planning for the new county of Gwinnett took place.
A native of Gwinnett County, Warbington says much has changed since he was a boy. Growing up, he remembers the population density and traffic were much less than they are in the area today. “That’s anywhere you go where there is a thriving community,” he said. “You have to deal with traffic and congestion. The negatives show you’re a thriving community. There’s no traffic in Detroit because fewer people want to live there. From a positive standpoint, there’s more opportunity. When I graduated Dacula High School and went to Georgia Tech and wanted to come back to Gwinnett County and work as a civil engineer, I had very limited opportunities. For graduates today, you have your pick definitely in Gwinnett County and beyond. There’s a plethora of job opportunities here. It’s amazing to see that transformation. I see it as a positive.”
To serve its growing number of area residents, the City of Lawrenceville has created a busy calendar of events designed to bring together the downtown community. Visit www.downtownlawrencevillega.com for complete information on the following upcoming events: May 7, Free Comic Book Day; May 13, Feature Friday; May 20, Live in the DTL Concert Series; May 25, DTL Happenings; June 3, Feature Friday; June 17, Live in the DTL Concert Series; July 1, Prelude to the Fourth; July 15, Live in the DTL Concert Series; July 29, Feature Friday and Back to School Drive; Aug. 10, DTL Happenings; Aug. 19, Live in the DTL Concert Series; Aug. 26, Feature Friday; Sept. 9, Summer Concert Series Finale; Sept. 9-10, Around the World in the DTL; Sept. 24, Southern Wilds Festival.