Maintaining Green Space while Building a City

By Varessa Butts, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, City Of Sugar Hill

The landscape of the City of Sugar Hill is about to drastically change. As the population continues to grow, so does the need for restaurants, retail shops, office, and residential space. The city has epic plans for developing these areas starting with The EpiCenter. This multi-use facility will feature a 326-seat theater, full gymnasium with basketball and volleyball courts, retail, restaurant, commercial space, and a roof-top bar. A development like this will certainly change the footprint of the downtown area. The EpiCenter will be flanked by three other large developments totaling nearly $275 million dollars. The city will be gaining residential space that will be attractive to millennials, as well as senior-living options.

With all of these projects on the horizon, it is important to maintain the balance of the “built” and the “unbuilt,” as the President of the Trust for Public Land, Will Rogers, describes it. Sprinkled throughout the new development plans are pockets of luscious green space. The EpiCenter will have picturesque water features surrounded by equally aesthetic plant-life. The plans for future residential space and pedestrian friendly mobility options include pocket parks, as well as golf cart and pedestrian friendly mobility options.

The city has had this “green” goal in mind as planning has progressed. In 2012, when the city built its 1800-seat outdoor amphitheater, known as The Bowl @ Sugar Hill, they built a beautiful park surrounding the venue. The park has a lovely pond, which doubles as storm water retention, and is home to gorgeous greenery and wildlife. Upgrades to The Bowl are scheduled to be complete this summer. They will include a splash pad and lawn space for guests to enjoy the outdoors. Director of Recreation, Andy McQuagge, is committed to the idea of mixing green space and commercial.

“Green space and recreation opportunities are essential for the live, work and play initiative. Providing such places as the Bowl, Town Lawn and splash pad in the downtown corridor gives those who live and work in this area spaces to unwind after long days and weeks. Green spaces attract many people to gather and bring vitality and life to an urban downtown and the businesses who support it,” McQuagge said.

The city’s parks are also known for their beautiful green spaces. In addition to the natural grass fields at Sugar Hill’s Gary Pirkle Park, the park is home to forest-like, shaded walking paths that are reminiscent to a Robert Frost poem. The park also boasts a community garden where residents can come to enjoy the outdoors, vegetables, and get to know their neighbors.

Sugar Hill Golf Club, which is also owned and maintained by the city, is a state-of-the-art, 18-hole course surrounded by quiet wooded areas. The course is a perfect escape from the hustle of the downtown, or a great way to wind down a busy week. Proving their commitment to “unbuilt” space, Sugar Hill has developed plans for the “Sugar Loop,” which is 12 miles of natural trail connecting all of Sugar Hill’s parks with the downtown area. The Sugar Loop will encourage walkability in the downtown area and throughout the entire city.

Sugar Hill is also looking forward to another huge green project, The Retreat at Orr’s Ferry. This 77-acre property is adjacent to the Chattahoochee River and will provide a perfect retreat for those looking to experience the great outdoors without venturing too far from home. The Retreat will feature bike trails, ziplines, etc, and it only sits three miles from City Hall. It will also be a destination for visitors to the “Sweet City.”

The Chairman of Sugar Hill’s Downtown Development Authority, Taylor Anderson, shared his thoughts on the importance of the “unbuilt” environment. “Green space in an urban downtown setting takes a different form from green space in a suburban or rural environment, but is just as important, if not more so. With that in mind, our efforts in incorporating green space into our more urban downtown has been a constant and critical piece of our planning. Green space provides the community the critical opportunities for gathering, relaxing and natural beauty in our downtown.”

The city’s strategic development and desire for green infrastructure will quickly turn the growing community into a hotspot for economic growth. When you add in the city’s summer concert series and free community events, it is clear that Sugar Hill will soon transition from being a hidden gem to becoming one of the most desired destinations in Georgia.



Varessa is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the City of Sugar Hill.  Sugar Hill is busy controlling its destiny and Varessa is happy to be involved in the growth!  When she isn’t helping with City events or preparing newsletters, she spends her time with her husband Ryan and two young children, Charlie and Eliza. 

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