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Town Center mix seeks to help stop ‘leakage’ of Newton shoppers
Town Center sign

COVINGTON, Ga. — Harry Kitchen and wife Charlotte have been Covington Town Center's master developer since the project's beginnings in 2016.

With announcement of a major component of the planned multi-use development, Publix supermarket’s anchoring of its initial retail section, South Carolina-based The Foxfield Co. is on its way to developing the 180-acre mixed-use project after almost five years.

The project will include residential development, hotels, retailers, restaurants and offices when completed on the site that fronts Alcovy Road between City Pond Road and Ga. Highway 142.

Kitchen said last week the objective "is to identify the 'best in class' of each use type, whether it is hospitality, residential, office, restaurant or retail."

“I don’t think the community really knows the extent of how special Covington Town Center is going to be and what a great destination this is going to be for them and to people outside of Newton County that will come there,” Kitchen said.

“Instead of losing leakage of people leaving the county to shop, we’re going to retain that but we’re also going to draw people from outside the community to come to Town Center.”

At buildout, the Town Center area around I-20 and Alcovy Road will see a major increase in traffic as customers fill the area for shopping and lodging.

He said his company’s market study found that more than 31,000 vehicle trips per day would be taken to Covington Town Center.

In addition to Publix and other retailers, it will include three hotels, including Residence Inn, Courtyard By Marriott and Stay Bridge Suites. Ground was to be broken for Residence Inn this week, Kitchen said.

Developers recently hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the project’s first apartment complex, The Cove at Covington Town Center, which will be a 26-acre, $57 million project that will provide 350 “Class A” apartments starting in 2022.

Kitchen compared what is planned in Town Center to the upscale apartment complexes surrounding Ashford-Dunwoody Road in north DeKalb County.

“The closest $57 million apartment complex is probably Perimeter Mall (in Dunwoody),” he said.

In addition, Covington City Council recently voted for zoning changes for an increase in the amount of the Town Center's residential space — from the current 350 units to 625 units. That will allow the addition of 275 townhomes to the residential mix, Kitchen said.

Those residents — and anyone else — will have more than four miles of sidewalks available to access shopping and other amenities, he said.

Berkley Development President Mike Cohn — which is working with The Sembler Co. to develop the retail area — noted Kitchen’s company saw a piece of land that many considered “undevelopable” because of factors like its topography, and developed it.

The Foxfield Co. moved just under 1 million yards of dirt, including 160,000 yards of rock, in completing the grading for the Covington Town Center site, Kitchen said.

The city of Covington, meanwhile, had spent more than $1 million on such infrastructure as gas mains and lighting for the project by early 2020.

Covington City Council also voted in early 2020 to waive $1 million in permitting costs and water and sewer tap fees along with $456,000 electric infrastructure costs to spur construction of the complex. 

However, Kitchen said about 1,550 new jobs will be created amid its final cost of $300 million to complete the Covington Town Center project.

Kitchen had originally planned more office space in the area but added more residential uses in recent months.

He told the City Council — to the apparent chagrin of some council members — he believed the demand for rental residential units from workers at area industries would outpace the need for new office space, which is also planned for inclusion in the project. 

Workers are traveling from as far away as Augusta to be part of the daytime population of Newton County because of the lack of multi-family space in Newton County, industrial recruiters have said.

The COVID-19 pandemic also convinced Kitchen to change some plans, he said.

He said he planned to reduce the more than 100,000 square feet of office space planned for the area — citing decreased demand after many employers found their staffs could successfully work remotely from other locations as part of safety precautions during the ongoing pandemic.

Construction is expected to begin by this summer on the Publix-anchored center with completion targeted for the spring of 2022.

The Florida-based grocer's second Newton County location will include 48,387 square feet within the Town Center retail area's 63,000-square-foot first phase. 

The additional 14,400 square feet of small shop space "will offer a complementary mix of services, restaurants, and retail designed to meet the needs of the city of Covington and Newton County’s growing residential and employee population," a news release stated. 

Cohn said that Sembler and Berkley already are planning a second phase of the shopping center that will add 100,000 square feet of retail space.