By Varessa Butts
Tucked away just minutes from the North Georgia Mountains and approximately 30 miles Northeast of Atlanta is a place where life is just a little sweeter. Sugar Hill was once known as “the hill where the sugar spilled,” a name acquired after a wagon load of sugar broke down in the area. With a growing downtown and a booming social scene, the city is quickly becoming a destination for weekend getaways and entertainment.
The saying “If you build it, they will come” may not be true for every situation, but in Sugar Hill’s story, the adage holds some value. The city was not known for having great restaurants or nightlife. Residents were forced to travel to neighboring cities for entertainment. Sugar Hill was quiet. It was quaint. The city was charming, but lacking.
In 2014, the city underwent a few changes. City management built a gorgeous outdoor amphitheater with a picturesque water feature that doubled as a stormwater retention pond. City staff set forth a plan to bring people into the downtown area while the area was being developed. Staff created an event lineup that would have something for everyone. The city’s concert lineup is unmatched in Gwinnett County, with acts like Travis Tritt, Blues Traveler, and Third Eye Blind. The city had become a destination even without a large downtown infrastructure.
City management knew that this was the beginning of a beautiful downtown plan. They began immediately planning the next step, a 30,000 square foot multi-purpose facility featuring restaurants, retail, class-A office space and a community center with a gym and second floor walking track. Plans also included a 351-seat performing arts theater. The project would be city-owned and operated and would be an integral piece to the downtown master plan. The project, however, would also put Sugar Hill in debt. The city had an excellent credit rating and was in excellent fiscal shape. The decision to go into debt was not taken lightly. City council carefully considered the risks and benefits and decided to make the leap. The decision turned out to be life-changing for Sugar Hill residents.
When word got out about Sugar Hill’s initiative and innovation, investors took notice. Within a few short months of the announcement, three different investors had contacted the city about developing property in the newly formed downtown. The downtown footprint started to take shape with a four-star, full service, 140-room Wyndham hotel featuring a conference center, niche grocer, retail, restaurant and condos. A senior living developer’s interest was piqued by the walkability of the downtown and will be breaking ground on a property to be used for senior care and senior living as well as offer retail and restaurant space. Yet another project on the horizon, Nexus @ Sugar Hill, with shopping, dining and living options breaks ground in 2017.
These projects, in conjunction with the city’s state-of-the-art parks and recreation facilities, make Sugar Hill unique. The city is now a place for families to escape, relax, and enjoy a little bit of the city outside the Atlanta city limits. Whether they are in town for a wedding at one of the beautiful local venues, or traveling from out of state for a concert, Sugar Hill wants guests to be able to sit back and enjoy the taste of the sweet life.