BRACK: Sugar Hill marks topping out ceremony for massive E Center

Photo by Marc Cohen.

By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher  |  Walking out of the Sugar Hill City Hall about 5:30 p.m. on Monday, there was a distinctive sound. From the cemetery across the street, a recorded bell was peeling a song. It was beautiful, signaling the end of the day in some respects, and also was a nice touch to hear after the City of Sugar Hill had just celebrated a “topping out” of its new E Center.

The sprawling E Center, immediately south of the city hall’s parking lot, is a 150,000 square foot, four-story structure that is expected to be finished by the summer of 2018. It will include a 400 seat theatre, one of the largest in Gwinnett; a multi-sport gymnasium; 43,000 square feet of retail space; plus up to nine restaurants. There will even be a roof-top bar that will overlook the City Hall and the Bowl, the city’s outdoor amphitheatre.

It’s massive, and aims to put Sugar Hill higher in everyone’s sights.

Sugar Hill invited people up to the Topping Out, with a short indoor ceremony before walking out back to see the Topping Out. Such custom dates back ages, some pointing to Scandinavia in the year 700  A.D., for this tradition. The Topping Out is held when the last beam is placed atop a structure. It consisted of an evergreen tree plus American flag riding atop the giant I-Beam, as the red crane, capable of lifting 250 tons, hoisted the beam above the steel superstructure into its high placement. (The crane is massive, some 220 feet tall.)

So, just as seen in New York and other big cities with major steel construction projects, here was Sugar Hill holding its own ceremony. Such Toppings Out mark the completion of the skeleton of the building.

We talked to Rob Dunn, executive vice president of New South Construction Company of Atlanta, the contractor in the project. “That Topping Out means that we are about halfway through the erection of the building. It’s a milestone of the completion of the basic bones of the building.

Photo by Dakota Mathis.

“Next we get to the guts and heart of the building, with crews making the area into open space, put up the walls, perform the electrical, the heating and air conditioning, and make the space workable. Shortly the roof will go on, and then we’ll pick up speed in making the area livable. For once the roof is on, we can dry the area in, and control our destiny without worrying about the weather. We’ll really turn up the pace and manpower, adding the dry wall, the paint, the floor….items people can feel and touch.”

Dunn, a Macon native who grew up in Columbus, is a 1990 Georgia Tech graduate who joined New South directly after college. His firm does work all over the Southeast, but mainly in Georgia. Much of the work is at the airport.  The company has 212 full time employees, but on big jobs, such as the E Center, will bring on many sub-contractors. Soon there will be up to 175 people working on the Sugar Hill project.

The city’s E Center was designed after the community, in many public sessions over 10 years, determined the type of facility that Sugar Hill citizens wanted. It is the backbone of the downtown Master Plan. Scheduled to come later to the immediate area near City Hall will be condos, more restaurants, a high end hotel, niche grocer and senior living facilities.

In effect, Sugar Hill is reaching for new heights, which the Topping Out ceremony and tolling of the bells signaled!

APOLOGIES to the City of Lawrenceville. That city was somehow left out in a list of local cities providing debris pick-up.  Lawrenceville has one of the more liberal policies for trash (limbs, leaves, etc.), with a weekly pick-up service. It runs its leaf pick-up services weekly from October through April.