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Capitalist Sage: Business Leadership in Your Community [Podcast]

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Summary

On this episode, Karl Barham and Rico Figliolini sit down with Lisa Proctor and Brad Kluesner, leaders within the Peachtree Corners Business Association. We discuss the benefits of joining the PCBA, how it can turn the city into a home and community, and how businesses can get involved and give back to their communities.

Resources:

Peachtree Corners Business Association: https://www.peachtreecornersba.com/

“And all I can say to people is, plug in. There are some things that I would not have known, that there’s business opportunities in the future that maybe didn’t give me that immediate sale. Or that – you know, I always say to people because I work nationally and locally, or internationally, I may not give a direct sale because I went to a meeting. But the relationships that I built were invaluable.”

Lisa Proctor, President, PCBA

ABOUT LISA PROCTOR, President, PCBA

Lisa Proctor is the President and CEO of Sanford Rose Associates – Lake Lanier Islands providing executive search and consulting services in the placement of mid to senior level executives, C-Level Management, and high-level individual contributors across multiple industries including Financial Services, Banking, Insurance, Technology, Business Services and Professional Services on a national level.

Lisa is an Executive  Founding Member of the Peachtree Corners Business Association.  She served two years as the Membership Chairman and now serves as the President of the PCBA.  Her primary focus for the PCBA includes Member Engagement, Business Networking and Growth, and continued support and growth of Community Outreach.

Lisa and her husband Jay have lived in Peachtree Corners for over 25 years.  When they are not volunteering or working on JP’s fishing jigs, they enjoy spending time at Lake Lanier boating, fishing and relaxing. 

ABOUT BRAD KLUESNER, Chair of Community Outreach. PCBA

Brad Kluesner is a Financial Advisor here in Peachtree Corners with an office in the Forum.  He and his wife Amy moved to the area from Indiana when she was recruited to an Atlanta law firm.  Brad’s career focus has been financial services and education in different states around the country.  After running schools for the past seven years, he became excited for the opportunity to return to finance and run his own business.  He attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN  and graduated with bachelor’s degree in philosophy and earned two master degrees from the University of Notre Dame in education. 

Brad has been active this past year in the Peachtree Corners Business Association, the Friends of the Gwinnett County Public Library, Inc. and the Rotary Club of Peachtree Corners.  He also volunteers through the Catholic Charities Leadership Class 2017, St. Pius X Advancement Committee, and different ministries at St. Brigid’s and Mary our Queen Church.

Podcast Transcript:

Karl [00:00 ]: Welcome to the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors, and my cohost is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets digital marketing and the publisher of the Peachtree Corner Magazine. Rico, how are you doing today?

Rico [00:17 ]: I’m doing just great.

Karl [00:19 ]: Why don’t you tell folks about our sponsors?

Rico [00:22 ]: Absolutely. We – they just opened this week. Gwinnett Medical Center’s primary care and specialty center here at Peachtree Corners. So they just opened on the – just Tuesday, I think it was. So they’re joining this community. They’re going to be providing premier services, and they are a sponsor of the pod – of this family of podcasts – Capitalist Sage, Peachtree Corners life. So we want to welcome them as part of the one. Atlanta Tech Park of course. This is the place that we’re doing this podcast out of. This is a great place. I mean – I – it’s just phenomenal. The activity that’s here, the amount of workshops and – there’s something that’s actually going to be staged tonight that’s here also.

Karl [01:05 ]: Yeah. They’ve got events here all the time. I think it’s one of their cyber events. Fintech – and I think they have coming up – Women in AI – is coming up. And in a couple of months we’re gonna have cryptocurrency workshops here. And if you’re really interested there are even a little bit of improv professional free workshops offered every month.

Rico [01:28 ]: Really? There you go. So this is a really hopping place and a great place to do these podcasts, which we do twice a month here. And as well – the third sponsor – well, it’s more of a media sponsorship for us because we are a media sponsor for Smart City Expo Atlanta. That’s coming in September. It’s the first North American expo and offshoot of the Barcelona World Congress Expo that happens. And Curiosity Lab, Prototype Prime, will have for the first time here, an offsite demo of the 1.5 mile stretch that’s going to be the autonomous vehicle lab. So we’re proud to be a sponsor of the Smart City Expo Atlanta, and you can find more information just by googling that or go to SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com and that’ll take you there.

Karl [02:21 ]: For folks who don’t realize what Smart City – if you think about what information and data do cameras and so on is able to do in a city – improve service, helps us direct traffic if there’s an accident and so on. The companies that are leading in developing the technology for the next generation of cities are coming into Atlanta and we’re being featured here at Peachtree Corners for that, which is fun and great to know.

Rico [02:45 ]: Yeah. And that stretch of land, well at least up until City Hall, will be completed to a degree, so there will be a lot of things going on on the day – on the first day of the expo here.

Karl [02:55 ]: Fabulous. And that’s in September, right?

Rico [02:58 ]: September 10th – well actually 11th through the 13th.

Karl [03:02 ]: Okay, that looks good. Well, today’s guest is Lisa Proctor and Brad Kluesner from Peachtree Corners Business Association. They’re here to talk to us a little bit about what these associations due to help local communities – business communities – the community overall. And let’s start off by just having you guys introduce yourselves and maybe some of the roles you play in the organization. Lisa?

Lisa [03:27 ]: Sure. My name is Lisa Proctor, and I’m the president of the PCBA. I started with the organization as a founding member when the organization was created in 2012, and made the – volunteered to be the membership chair and did that for a couple of years and then stepped into the role as president. So I’ve been doing the president role now for a couple of years and always love to continue to build and grow the town and the organization.

Karl [03:56 ]: Fabulous. Brad, how about you?

Brad [03:58 ]: Yes – a couple years ago I joined the Peachtree Corners Business Association and I just said to myself, “I want to meet people who live and work and play here.” And the best way to do that is, I’m just going to go to every meeting every month. And I didn’t know anybody and eventually, I knew one, and another person, and a year later, Lisa asked me to volunteer to be the chair of the community outreach. So this is my first year on the board connecting businesses to the community.

Rico [ 04:24 ]: Wow. You mentioned something about volunteering. The organization – how is that structured around the members?

Lisa [04:30] : The organization is all 100% volunteer. Which creates its own little challenges because trying to coordinate everybody’s schedules and everything, but the great things about Peachtree Corners and the greater metro Atlanta area is – we actually recruit volunteers, and we say to people, “You don’t have to recruit or be part of the organization 100% every day, every month, every – tell us what you can do, but what you commit to, please do what you commit to. And if you can only do it for one month, if you can – if you want to be on a committee – if you want to just help check people into an event. Tell us that’s what you want to do, we’d love to have your help.” But that way, I think it’s a great way for engagement. The reason I volunteered to do the membership is – I have lived in Peachtree Corners for over 25 years, and because I work nationally and internationally with my day job, what happened is, I discovered I didn’t have children in school, I didn’t know people, so it was a great way for me to get to know the community. So just sitting at the membership, checking people, seeing those faces together, getting to know people – kind of like Brad – is saying, I’m going to the meetings, I’m learning who these people are, and I discovered I got to make some great friends and some great business associates just by putting myself out there and doing some simple things. So I think that’s the best way to do it.

Karl [05:54 ]: I know for folks that worked in large corporation and corporate environments, you build a social network within your company and you can always tell it by LinkedIn – you’ll see how many people they’re connected within their same company. But if you’re a small business owner, you don’t have that advantage of all these people to be connected to. So I could see how being a part of a business association that gives you connection with other business owners that are like yourself is a good way to build your network around that – around that.

Lisa [06:24 ]: It is. Not only is it – what you find is, you don’t have to have the answers to everything, you don’t have to have all the solutions. You will meet people or you will get to know people that say – “You know what, I have somebody you should meet.” So it’s not necessarily who you meet at the event, it’s taking the time to get to know people who feel comfortable enough referring you to people that you need to know. And I think those are the best relationships.

Brad [06:50 ]: Yeah, I would say, you know for me, good business starts with relationships where you trust somebody and you know them. And then they can help you or you can help them, and it just becomes a community of givers, really. And that’s what I’ve seen.

Karl [07:05 ]: So your great example of when you started this, of started joining and being a member of the organization. Were there specific things that you saw helped you personally as you started venturing into your own businesses?

Brad [07:21 ]: Well for me, I was a little bit of the opposite of Lisa. I just moved here just a couple of years ago. A lot of people are moving to this Peachtree Corners area. And you get here, and you didn’t grow up here, and you don’t know anybody. And so, you want to know leaders in the community. You come to these events, and you just start with a conversation. And for me, it became a home. You know, I lived here first, I had a house. But then the Peachtree Corners Business Association made it a home and a community for me. And for a guy from a small town, that’s important.

Rico [07:52 ]: Where’d you come from?

Brad [07:54 ]: I came from – I grew up in a little town called Jasper, Indiana, but I moved here from Indianapolis.

Rico [08:00 ]: Small town, right? Not too big. You know what I like about Peachtree Corners Business Associations and some of the other, you know, associations and chambers around the city is that, if you really want to, like you did, be involved – it’s one thing being a member of an organization, so you feel like you’re there and you show up at some events and stuff, you’re fine sort of doing your thing. But it’s always better to be part of – part of the group and it does consume some time, but it becomes fun I think, and it also provides better connection to the group – to the leadership.

Lisa [08:39 ]: Absolutely. Well in fact, one of the biggest things is, when people are saying “what organization should I join, and how do I decide?” My first question to them always is, “What do you want to get out of it? Why do you want to join it? Because if you just want to take in – pay a check, we’ll take your money. Happy to do it. But you’re not gonna – next year, when it’s renewal time, you might not renew because you didn’t get anything.” So come to things, get engaged in things. We try to do events different times of days, different kinds of things, just to say, we’re not going to solve everybody’s schedule – we’re not gonna do that. But we want you to feel comfortable engaging on that works for you.

Rico [09:18 ]: You know what I find that – since we started the magazine, and this used to happen before, too. But now with the magazine, we’re pro-businesses – new businesses – and some of the same questions – “What do you think we should do to get more involved in the community?” You would think they would know. But, you know, so you encourage them. So the first thing is the PCBA, you have the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber – those are certain places you should join, and then they will help you get out into the community because giving into the community is always the best way to reach the community.

Lisa [09:53 ]: Well, and I think you hit it also when you said, with small businesses, one of the things that was really important to me when I started my business was – part of our mission statement is to be very philanthropic in the communities. And we make donations in our clients’ communities, but what we found was that the outreach committee and having that part of the organization – that’s why we built it – was a way for all the businesses to have a meaningful impact in the community. Because as a small business, I can’t write a check to sponsor every single thing – the parade, the festival, the run for the corners or light up the corners – all these things and here comes the high school and here – but the great thing is, with the business association, we’ve donated over $75,000 back into the community since we created the committee in 2013, is when we created it. So, you know, and you’ve seen it. With being able to do scholarships and things like that, as you look at that, what have you seen?

Brad [10:53 ]: Well, every recipient has been so moved because the need is so great and nonprofits are such tight budgets that they just say, “Anything you can do to help us, we’ll appreciate it.” And so we give them a voice in the community, we give them recognition by coming to the events and sharing their stories, sharing some of the causes that we’re working with to the whole business community. And if you don’t know what’s going on, nobody’s gonna be able to help you. And so that has been very impactful for them.

Karl [11:27 ]: I talk to business owners – they’re always asking about ways to improve their business. And one of the top things is always the top line and revenue and how can I get more revenue. And I always explain to them – what are they doing to get more known, build awareness? And a lot of businesses have figured out how to use community involvement, charity – whether or you’re sponsoring a high school team – to help generate awareness for the product and services that they provide. What I like about these business groups and organizations – it gives you multiple ways to get in front of different – but they’re also helping you vet the organizations that actually make more impact with each dollar that you donate or each service that you do, so you don’t have to go and be a researcher and figure out, “should I provide money to this cause or that cause?” These groups have been there for years, they know the organizations and the types, and you can talk to them and consult and say, “this is the type of impact – it’s education. Here are four ways you can give back to education.”

Lisa [12:29 ]: Right, well, it’s so funny that you say that because one of the things I continue to find is I find that there are so many great charities in Peachtree Corners or the greater Peachtree Corner area that support our community. And I didn’t even know about them. I don’t know if you did, but we started looking at the list, and I said – “We’re gonna have to categorize them because they’re getting so long on our website that all of a sudden you’re like, I’m getting lost in the weeds.” There are so many – by the time you look at the schools and you look at the assistance league – most people didn’t know when they opened and we did the ribbon cutting for the Assistance League. They’ve been in existence in the greater metro Atlanta area for years – I didn’t even know what they were. And so it allowed me to say, “oh my gosh, they do so many things.” And really help them and they’re all volunteers as well. But it’s just something to learn.

Brad [13:21 ]: And what I love about the Peachtree Corners Business Associations is you get to meet the leaders of these local charities and nonprofits – they’re a lot of causes nationally, and you always send in money, and you know you’re helping a great cause. But at this, here in our community, the leaders come to their events and you know them and you know their character and you know their story and they’re helping your neighbors, and that’s very powerful. That’s what I like.

Karl [13:45 ]: I always like introducing the concept of, every small business owner should have a board of directors. But the trick is – people that could advise them on business – I have one area of expertise and Rico has another – and if you want to talk about marketing strategy, you want to talk about financial strategy or legal tactics, you want someone that you could have a conversation with, and most often you have to pick up a phone or google or pay a fee. But part of these organizations will allow you to build your own personal board of directors. There are people that have done what you’re doing – they’re five years, ten years ahead of you – there’s people with different subject matter expertise. And you can start forming those relationships where you and pick up the phone and say, “Hey Brad, I’ve got a question about X.” Or “I’ve got a question about Y.” And you can have a conversation and see if you need further help and they can help guide you with that. Is there any other advice that each of you can give to a person of something that they can benefit when they join organizations like this?

Lisa [14:44 ]: Go ahead.

Brad [14:45 ]: I was gonna say – you have to have that relationship so you can pick up that phone. You know, I met Karl at one of these events when I was on a tour, and now I’m on the podcast, and that starts with that relationship. And now, you feel comfortable calling me, I feel comfortable calling you. But if you call me and I don’t know, I might know someone in the Peachtree Corners Business Association that I’ve met and had lunch with them too, and I think that is the real value of the association.

Lisa [15:09 ]: And what I find is, if all you’re gonna do is go to the event and do what I call the drive by – the business cards and you’re handing them all out and you never follow up or you never do those things, and it’s getting to have those conversations that are the casual things – understanding what people do. It’s amazing to me how many things that I don’t even realize the number and depth of the connections I have, and somebody will say, “I’m about to start this” and I – there’s a staffing firm, and I won’t tell you who, but she was saying to me, “Lisa, I’m about to go after this in the market.” And I said, “well let me just share my experience. I did the same thing, and if you do this better than me, let me know how that works for you, but I wasted a lot of time and got a masters degree on the street doing the wrong things.” And I was happy to share that because I could tell she was excited about what she was doing and she was just ready to do it. And I – she was going after the financial surface industry and I was like, “that’s very regulated, and if you’re not that familiar with it, you need to know.” So I think you’re spot on with – you know, people who are willing to give back to others – um, my natural tendency is, I’m happy to give back because, you know what? Somebody did that for me. I didn’t learn all these things because I’m brilliant. I learned the hard way. But I had some great mentors and great leaders that helped me along the way.

Rico [16:34 ]: That’s great. I feel like – I mean, I love talking shop. I love talking about business, about start ups, it’s just – I feel – when I see other people – especially younger people – getting into business and launching something, I feel like I wanna help them. It’s just like – it’s cool, it’s exciting. I’ve been there before, I’ve done different things, so that’s what I find also – that network of business people – to be able to just talk shop sometimes and share what you know.

Lisa [17:02 ]: Well, what I’ve also found is how much I can learn from them. Because when they tell me what they’re going to do, what I’ve learned is, I’ll say, “Tell me why you’re gonna do that.” And it’s interesting to find out that I’m not always the expert, I don’t always know anything. And sometimes when they tell me, I say, “Hmm, that’s an interesting way.” And so, it’s caused me to be more open thinking the other way, and not just assuming that I am that person who knows and can do that. And it’s been pretty humbling, especially when it comes to technologies and all the things. Cause I’ll say, you know, let me run this by you. I’m about to put this piece together for marketing, and they’ll look at it and go, “Hmm.” And I’m like, “You don’t think so?” And they’re like, “Well, it’s probably wonderful, but I wouldn’t use it or I wouldn’t read it or I wouldn’t do – ” And so I think that’s the part that I love is – having more of that ability to collaborate in a safe environment. And you don’t always have to feel like you’re the know it all of everything. You can actually ask other people very safely, even in your role as you’re listening to them – I’ve probably learned as much from listening and hearing what they’re talking about, saying, “What makes you think about that?” Or just asking those questions and going, “You know, I was so busy doing all this, I didn’t think about that.” And that’s a good wake up call.

Karl [18:20 ]: You’re tapping into something when you think about just personal development. Most owners of business or anybody in small business – the thirst for development can make their – they don’t have peers that they can have conversations with. Most people report to them, no one’s gonna be frank with feedback on ideas. They’re gonna tend to want to agree. You’re both in leadership roles within the organization. How is that helping you develop personally, getting involved in leadership?

Brad [18:50 ]: Well, for me, I like learning from the mission driven leaders of organizations. And so, you know, we’ll give a $500 check to a nonprofit, and then I’ll kind of follow up and go on a tour and see what the operations are like and see how the executive director is managing the people, sharing the story and the vision in the community, and I think to myself, “What am I doing to make the community a better place? What is my personal mission? How can I help more people and how can I collaborate with more people around me like that person’s been doing?” So I’m always trying to learn from others who are successful. And that’s been one thing that I’ve gotten out of it.

Lisa [19:36 ]: And what I find is, it’s helped me broaden and learn more from people where – what happens when you’re in your little focus and your head’s down and you’re running business, you surround yourself with people that think like you do. Cause it makes it fast, and what I’m finding is, it challenges me to think more out of the box and step back from things before I just go ahead and do the ready, fire, aim. It makes me say, “Wait a minute, let me – it’s okay to take a step back. It’s okay to do.” And just as you were saying is, so many times, you forget to invest in yourself. And realize the cobbler’s kid has no shoes. And the thing I’ve learned is it gives me that of – “You know what, I need to step back. I need to learn that technology. I need to listen. I need to – it’s okay to take time to do this class, or, you know, go to this launch or go to this thing.” And for me, I have a bad habit of not giving myself permission to make the time.

Rico [20:33 ]: Do you find that because, I mean you’re a small business. How many people?

Lisa [20:39 ]: I have basically a staff of three. And then I have some contractors who work with me for about another four. And what helps me a little bit is, I also happen to be part of the Sanford-Rose franchise. So we have a hundred offices and I have two hundred people that are there to back me up, but at the end of the day, it’s still my P and L, what I’ve gotta do – I’ve gotta deliver. And so, at the end of the day, yes you’re big over here, but yeah you’re pretty small over here.

Rico [21:11 ]: And that’s why I think – you know, if you have your head down when you’re working, and because you’re a small business, you have to really work at taking that step back for a minute and say, “you know what, you’re right. Let’s go to that dinner or let’s do this thing” and not just working all the time.

Lisa [21:28 ]: Exactly. Well, and I think that that’s what we find when we tell people you need that engagement, you need to give that time. I think with entrepreneurs, you end up wearing so many hats that sometimes, you forget, “Wait a minute, I am supposed to be the leader. I am supposed to basically replenish my mindset and what I’m learning, and I can’t do that if I can’t get my head out of my computer, off my phone or, you know, getting out and talking to people.” And so it really, for me, that’s when people say, “It’s so much work.” And I go, “Well it is.” But I’ve rarely had anybody get me to do something that I didn’t choose to do. So for me, it’s a choice. It’s not a duty, or I don’t feel like it’s something I have to do. I choose to do it because I see the value, and I do think it’s helped me learn so much more. Look at how the city has grown in the last seven years and all that’s going on. And I don’t know if I would have been as aware of this stuff if I hadn’t been really in touch with it. And all I can say to people is, plug in. There are some things that I would not have known, that there’s business opportunities in the future that maybe didn’t give me that immediate sale. Or that – you know, I always say to people because I work nationally and locally, or internationally, I may not give a direct sale because I went to a meeting. But the relationships that I built were invaluable.

Karl [22:55 ]: It’s interesting, and if you think kind of individually about it, I’ve noticed we’re – at the state of the city – the mayor – a lot of people there are learning, listening about the city. How does these business organizations like Peachtree Corner Business Association help influence policy, help give input from a collective voice to the leaders in the political sphere but within the city? Because Peachtree Corners is going through a transformation, and it’s growing and there’s a lot of interesting things. What role can PCBA have in that?

Lisa [23:33 ]: I think that’s an awesome question. That’s actually one of our founding principles of why we created the PCBA. Is because it was unbelievable to me- 80% of the people who work in Peachtree Corners do not live in Peachtree Corners. So they can’t vote in Peachtree Corners. So if they don’t take advantage of the business association – we as an association don’t always agree on every policy, but what we can provide you is you have those opportunities – those city council – those mayors – we bring in speakers – we bring in in a very casual, business after-hour speaker type thing where you get to know those people. And you can actually talk to them and tell them what’s important to you, and if you didn’t have that forum, I don’t know if you would ever really do it. It’s amazing, like, when you mentioned the city – state of the city – I’m not sure how many people in that room were business people versus community people. I was there, and I went, but that’s been always one of our challenges is saying to the business people, “Plug in and know what’s going on. They do listen and there’s some real things” –  in fact at the Lazy Dog ribbon cutting yesterday, one of the challenges that Lazy Dog had is that they cannot serve food to the dogs, which is part of their business plan, because of a Guinnett County health code issue.

Rico [24:59 ]: It might be a Georgia state – 

Lisa [25:00 ]: It maybe also Georgia. I don’t know how much. But as they were talking, the city council were there, they were actually talking to them, saying, “Help us. We understand that it’s not just the city, but who do you know?” And something that basic and that easy – when people are in the community getting to know each other, that’s where they can have it. Now, whether that will change or not, you don’t know. But those things don’t happen if people don’t start those relationships.

Karl [25:28 ]: It’s funny, I think maybe all of us were at the State of the City. And you learn a lto of stuff that’s going in, but I think you had a good point – the mix of business folks to folks that might just be more living in Peachtree Corners was nice to see the mix there. And some of the vision of the city really impacts and is centered around business. Is there an area that you’re seeing in Peachtree Corners – we got local – where we could do better when it comes to supporting the business community?

Lisa [25:58 ]: I was gonna say – that’s a great question. I think it continues to be the way that we try and communicate to the business community. The thing that I’ve run into and maybe you’ve seen it as well – there’s so many ways that people can communicate. But it doesn’t mean they’re actually engaged. So what I have found has been a big help to us has been the Peachtree Corners Magazine, or doing podcasts, or doing different ways, cause people learn differently, people communicate differently. And I think being open to whatever those ways are provide the platform. So I think trying to figure out how we provide that – I think the town center – some of that central communication has helped. But we’ve got a long way to go. 

Brad [26:48 ]: And I would say that, as a leader in the business community, take initiative. You know these causes are here, and take initiative and make a donation or volunteer. Don’t just wait for someone to ask you and then the event goes by and you say, “Well nobody asked me.” You’re leaders, you’re entrepreneurs. Take initiative and jump in.

Karl [27:08 ]: Well, I wonder what you got going on. I know there’s lots of events that are happening there, and maybe just tease up a few events that people should be aware, how they could find out more about the events with the Peachtree Corner Business Association.

Lisa [27:23 ]: Absolutely. Our website is PeachtreeCornersBA.com and all our events are listed out there. Probably a couple of the events that are nearest and dearest to our hearts is August 22nd, we have our annual charity event, and we are going to be doing Island Castaway beach party, Gilligan’s island style. And so their registration event is there. You can register for the event, find out the details. On September 26th, we’re gonna do business after hours at Anderby Brewing, which is our new brewpub in Peachtree Corners. And we’re super excited. And on October 24th, for those business people who need to build their personal brand, they get to come here, who is the LinkedIn guy – if you don’t know who he is, don’t miss out because he can help you build your personal brand as well as your business brand. And we also have our coffees – the second Tuesday of every month. Don’t – just very casual, very easy conversations like this, and you don’t have to be a member to come. And then stay tuned for some more of our upcoming business lunches. So we’ve got a lot of ways to do.

Karl [28:37 ]: Fabulous – so if you’re a business owner in Peachtree Corners, there’s so many ways to get plugged in. And starting out with a small business step – go to one of these events. Meet Brad, meet Lisa, talk to them about it, meet some of your neighbors, and you know, step up and be a leader in the community and get out there and get involved. So really appreciate – I want to thank both of you – Lisa and Brad – for your time today and just helping, kind of exploring, the different options around joining groups, being involved in the community and how collective action in the business group can really impact the community. We’d also like to think Atlanta Tech Park for hosting the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We enjoy our time here – beautiful facility to visit and take around. I thank Brad for introducing me to Atlanta Tech Park a while ago, one on the many ways that connection to these groups have helped me personally and to develop the business. Rico, anything we got coming up?

Rico [29:41 ]: Um, I mean, should – the last issue that just came out. Let me just put that up here. Peachtree Corners Magazine just covered this city’s big video and film industry in the surrounding areas, which is, you know, a three-part article, so it was kind of neat to cover that. Plus we covered a few other things like Anderby Brewery that just opened, which they have a dozen square-foot event space also.

Lisa [30:11 ]: It does – that’s where we’re gonna do it.

Rico [30:13 ]: There you go. So there’s that, and then the Peachtree Corners swim team – first time champions from Peachtree Corners for Guinnett Swim that happened just recently. So there’s a bunch of things in here – Fipe high school, high school kids that are doing it big out there in the world. One of them works for Space X right now. So I kind of made a lot of articles in here especially about Smart City Expo that’s happening in Atlanta. So there’s that. 

Karl [30:39] : And if you wanted to check out some of these things digitally, where would I find that?

Rico [30:44 ]: Sure. You would go to LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. And if you go there, you’ll find the digital edition of the magazine, you’ll find – we post there every week, sometimes every other day, different articles on there. And you’ll find all the podcasts there. So back history of these podcasts with Capitalist Sage, Peachtree Corners Live and the stuff I do with Brian Johnson, City Manager, which is that once a month Prime Lunchtime with the city manager.

Karl [31:10 ]: So you can listen, you can read, you can go online, you can find out what’s going on here. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisor with Atlanta Peachtree. We help people, advise people on the best way to understand the value of their business. And when they’re looking to make a transition with their business, we help them with that, finding both buyers and helping sellers with that. And Rico – Mighty Rockets –

Rico [31:34 ]: MightyRockets.com. I do a lot of creative services, so anything that deals with social media marketing, online content, videography – I’ve been doing a lot of product videos lately for our companies in Charleston and Kentucky, so that’s been fun. And, so, a bit of that, we do a lot of creative services, of course the magazine also takes up a lot of time now, too. But it’s been fun, and these podcasts are – you’re the heavy lifter on the Capitalist Sage, so it’s been cool doing these podcasts.

Karl [32:05 ]: Oh, absolutely. It’s great to have great guests come in, local. You could find folks in the community – say hi to them in Sprouts or Engels when they’re out and about, set up a coffee and find ways to grow and improve your business. It’s the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We look forward to chatting with you some more on some future episodes. Have a nice day everyone.

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The Makings of a Renovation Boom

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my secret garden
My Secret Garden. Photos by Isadora Pennington.

If home is indeed where the heart is, then home improvements and proper maintenance must be the life blood. And as many homeowners in our community have had unprecedented extended time at home between social distancing and remote work, we have seen an uptick in families investing time and money into additions, landscaping and other enhancements to make their time at home that much more enjoyable.

“I researched our permit records and found that in 2020 there were 157 permits issued for residential remodeling. In 2019, that number was 101,” reported Peachtree Corners Community Development Director Diana Wheeler. “And five years prior, in 2015, there were 99 residential remodeling permits issued. These numbers indicate that in 2020, residential remodeling increased about 50% over previous years.”

For those of us looking to freshen things up this spring, there are numerous local businesses doing great work in the area. We have collected a sampling of those here.

My Secret Garden

My Secret Garden lets you dream about big plans for your next gardening or landscaping project. This boutique garden center services the Peachtree Corners and Norcross area with a variety of plants, trees, custom design services and more.

My Secret Garden Owner Sonya Harrison. Photo by Isadora Pennington.

Owner Sonya Harrison’s love and loyalty to all things green is evident as she speaks about her work and the current increase in landscaping installations she has seen.

“It’s mostly people who want to enjoy their backyard, not as many front yards. People want to sit on their patio, enjoy their backyard or what they see out of their kitchen window, living room or screened-in porch. So, I would say it is definitely more focused on the backyard, so they can cook out and be with their family,” Harrison said.

For anyone wondering what to plant this year, My Secret Garden presents countless choices. They’ve completed their annual yard sale on March 13, but there are always plenty of lovely plants available for purchase.

My Secret Garden. Photo by Isadora Pennington.

“Being born and bred in Georgia, I am a firm believer that you can never have too many hydrangeas in your yard,” Harrison said. “I love hydrangeas, especially multi-blooming hydrangeas. The traditional hydrangeas only bloom once and then they’re done for the summer.”

Other favorites include azaleas, for their color, and gardenias, for their heavenly smell. But there is a little something for every gardener to keep their thumbs green. For more information, visit mysecretgardenga.com or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Premier HVAC

Heating and cooling are commodities that we might take for granted until the air goes out in the heat of summer and we need blessed relief.

Premier HVAC is a second-generation family-owned business located in Peachtree Corners and operated by Peachtree Corners residents. Jackie West serves as the Director of Operations, while her husband Steve West drives the professional expertise necessary to provide exceptional HVAC service.

Premier HVAC owner Steve West and his son Grayson.

“We have seen an uptick in people replacing their units and things like that because they have a more flexible schedule at home, and don’t have to take time off work to meet with the estimator, to see what they have in their homes, to suggest new products, new systems or options on what they might want,” Jackie West said.

“We actually did more service last year then we did replacements, because of the pandemic, because people didn’t have $3,000 to $6,000 to replace a unit unless absolutely necessary, because that is a big expense,” Jacki said.

Premier HVAC services most makes and models of HVAC systems. To learn more, call 770-696-4189 or visit premierhvaccorp.com.

Peachtree Corners Remodeling

Owner Todd Hudson has been in the interior remodeling business with Peachtree Corners Remodeling for a long time, and he has certainly noticed growth recently as kitchen and bathroom projects continue to fill up his schedule.

A recent remodeling job by Peachtree Corners Remodeling (photo courtesy of Todd Hudson)

“This has been my best year by far, with 20+ years of doing this kind of work. I’m booked into June,” Hudson said. “I attribute it to people wanting to live in Peachtree Corners and there is no inventory of houses, so they improve what they already have.”

For more info about Peachtree Corners Remodeling, visit ptcornersremodeling.com or call 770-873-9245.

Renovation Solutions

Operating out of nearby Suwannee, Renovation Solutions covers all manner of renovation work related to home improvement, landscaping, handyman services, welding and fencing. Renovation Solutions Owner Mario Fuentes has been around the block a few times, even working on two televised HGTV projects over the course of his 15-year career (while he worked for other businesses).

“I have been busy, busy, busy. In January — when everybody is slow, and this year the most, but especially this January and February — I have seen more business,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes mentioned recent work in commercial spaces, working on lobbies in hospitals. He also mentioned patio work and room renovation, focusing on homeowners’ desires to drive up house values.

“People are mainly concerned about how much it is going to bring the house value up. There are some things that will definitely bring value,” Fuentes said.

More information on Renovations Solutions can be found at renovationsolutionsrs.com or by calling 770-376-5384.

EV Remodeling

EV Remodeling serves the Greater Atlanta area but has made Peachtree Corners its home base. The business’ primary service offerings are home additions and deck repair and construction, as well as kitchen and bathroom remodeling.

Owner Eli Vaknin noted an increase in calls about kitchen remodels, as well as patio and deck builds or improvements. He attributed this increase, in part, to more homeowners working in the home and noticing things they would like to change.

Eli Vaknin

“I see a lot of outdoor living and also a lot of office additions, renovating existing space and turning it into an office or finishing part of a basement to turn it into an office,” he said.

Vaknin has noticed an “increase in volume” of kitchen and bathroom remodels “because people aren’t traveling as much, going out as much, so they are going to use that money on that ‘ugly’ kitchen they have been cooking in for a year because they couldn’t go to restaurants.”

EV Remodeling has received the “Best of Houzz” service award for the last five years, since 2016. For details, go to evremodelinginc.com or call 678-822-7573.

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First Mixed-Use Project under the New Ordinances Appears Before the City Council

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First Multi-use Development in Peachtree Corners under the new MUD ordinance

Development could bring housing, improvements to the area

A pending mixed-used project along the Peachtree Parkway commercial corridor promises to give a new look the area while bringing to vivid life the “live-work-play” concept undergirding such developments. More than 300 apartments and townhomes are planned, along with office and retail, said officials.

Project under review

On March 23, the Peachtree Corners City Council got the first official look at the proposed rezoning stretching from 5672 through 5720 Peachtree Parkway. It would convert a 9.25-acre swath from M-1 (light industry district) to Mixed Used Development (MUD) for the proposed multiple-use complex. The project’s housing stock is targeted to workers in the nearby Technology Park area.

City officials said the proposal will be back before the council for a public hearing and possible final approval April 27. The city planning commission signed off on it March 16.

The application from Alliance Realty Partners is the first to emerge since the council approved substantial revisions to the city’s existing multi-use ordinance in February. A couple of the key provisions provide that such developments have a minimum mix of three uses instead of the former two. The changes also allow developers to earn so-called “density bonuses” allowing them to increase the number of residential units per acre in return for pledging project enhancements drawn from a city-approved list.

The proposal falls nicely into line with both provisions.

With the revised ordinance in mind, “The developers have taken advantage of it, we believe, for the betterment of the entire project,” said City Manager Brian Johnson during the Prime Lunchtime city podcast. “Due to communication that happened prior to the project being submitted and some changes since, it actually has less units than the developer originally requested.”

First Multi-use Development in Peachtree Corners under the new MUD ordinance

Project improvements

Representative for Alliance and attorney Shaun Adams said the original proposal called for nearly 60 more units than the 295 multi-family apartments and 26-single-family attached townhomes ultimately settled on. He said the pullback will provide for a more “boulevard-like” entrance into the project from Peachtree Parkway and increase the development’s setback from the main road.

“A lot of it had to do with the changes in the MUD ordinance and because of feedback we received from the community,” he added.

The earlier ordinance change caps residential density at 32 units per acre. In this case, Alliance would be permitted to increase density to 34.69 by pledging to preserve 1.75 acres of green space, providing for underground stormwater detention, promising that highly visible public art will be incorporated and including the adaptive re-use of an existing building.

But the text of the zoning change points out that that the 321-unit configuration is not a done deal. The plan is contingent on on-site conditions, zoning compliance and whether fully-fleshed-out engineering plans meet regulations.

Clean-up and makeover

The existing structure being retained is a three-story office building on the site that dates from the early 1980s. It will get a substantial makeover, said officials.

Johnson said the refurbished building will contain “something similar to ‘We Work’-type office space. There will be some amenities for the local residents like clubhouse amenities, and I think they have templated a coffee shop to go in there.”

Also currently on the property are a number of single-story commercial condos which are largely, as the manager put it, “in a very degraded condition” with many of them empty and plagued by break-ins. Those will be swept away.

A couple of other esthetic/environmental considerations also come into play, said Johnson. “All of the trees along Peachtree Parkway are remaining and at the end of project there will more trees because of replanting than they started with,” said the city manager. He said also worth noting is that existing impervious surface on the site will be reduced.

Potential retail

Johnson said the exact amount of retail space tucked into the multiple-building complex is a moving target with discussions ongoing between the developer, its representatives and the city.

Adams agreed, saying they’re working on a configuration of about 2,000 square feet for that aforementioned coffee outpost — but stay tuned.

“You and I could be like ‘it would be great to have a mini-shopping area there,’” said Johnson during the podcast. “But if the developer can’t fill it, nothing would be worse than a development that started off with too many square feet of retail that they can’t fill — and that has happened.”

Adams said that with plenty of retail nearby, the emphasis won’t be on competing with that existing landscape. Instead, he said, “Let’s bring the housing to the area to support the jobs within Technology Park. That will bring more people to support the surrounding commercial and retail.”

City officials have said that the multi-use approach brings several advantages, such as providing more housing types and choices while boosting walkability, thus decreasing automobile trips. They’re also seen as especially appealing to millennials and empty nesters.

As Mayor Mike Mason said in an earlier interview with Peachtree Corners Magazine, “those are two segments of our population that are not currently well-served with regard to housing options.”

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The New Multi-Use Development, Townhouses & Cornerstone Academy

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Peachtree Corners Podcast

On this Month’s Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager, Brian Johnson

Learn about the new proposed 9.2 acre Peachtree Parkway multi-use development, new townhome application for at Peachtree Corners Circle and Jay Bird Alley, and Cornerstone Academy’s expansion plans.

Timestamp, where to find it in the podcast:
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:14] – Cornerstone Expansion
[00:08:08] – Townhouse Rezoning
[00:12:38] – 9.25 Acre Multi-use Zoning
[00:24:06] – Low Emissions Grant
[00:28:59] – Closing

“This is the first application of the very first of our mixed use development ordinance. The developers have taken advantage of it. And we believe to the betterment of the entire project… it does have certain incentives within that ordinance that we all win.”

Brian Johnson

Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini. Thanks for joining us for Prime Lunchtime

with the City Manager, we’re going to be discussing three major things that just happened this

past city council meeting. One of them was voted on two of them we’ve done what’s called a first

read and consideration. So there’ll be coming up in the next council meeting. But we’re going to

be covering the cornerstone Christian Academy application for a change of variance. A change

of conditions for their property and expansion of the private school. Also, we’re going to be

discussing the town home rezoning of from our R102 Townhouse that’s happening at Jaybird

Alley and Peachtree Corner Circle that may happen. And also we’re going to discuss a rezoning

application for 9.25 acres along Peachtree Parkway that’s looking to become a multi-use

development. Before we get to that, I just want to say thank you to Hargray Fiber for being a

great sponsor of not only this podcast, but the family of podcasts that we do in supporting

Peachtree Corners Magazine. They are a company here in the Southeast that provides internet

capabilities to small companies, as well as enterprise businesses. Along with the tools, office

tools that you can use to run your business better. Fast internet service. Not like the cable guy.

They’re also a great supporter of Curiosity Lab in the city of Peachtree Corners. They’re really

local and they provide a lot of community support. So check them out. Hargray fiber is the

company. HargrayFiber.com is where you can see them. So before we go any further, let me

bring on of course my guest Brian Johnson, City Manager. Brian, thanks for being with us. What

we’re going to be discussing is a bunch of different things. I’m acting as engineer right now. So

bear with me.

Brian: [00:02:12] No worries.

Rico: [00:02:14] We do this all the time, but there we are. All right, cool. So I know that things

have been crazy going on in the city and stuff, lots of new things going on. I won’t even get into

one of the things we discussed pre-show a little bit which has been in the AJC. And that’ll be a

separate video that I’d like to discuss with some people and talking about what’s going on. And

the horrendous thing that deals with that I cannot believe a government official is allowed to do

essentially. So I’m just going to vent on that on a separate video from this. But let’s dig a little

deep into what is going on in the city. And some of the things, some really good things and

some things on that have taken advantage of the new multi-use ordinance and such. So the first

thing on the agenda for today, is just a quick discussion of Cornerstone Christian Academy, the

private school here in the city of Peachtree Corners. One of the best schools out there. They

just got the best, company for best place to work I think from the AJC that we just covered in our

website. And which is, you know, not easy to get from what I understand. So it’s a great, great

thing for them. So tell us a little bit Brian about, what the application was for, and I’m going to

slide some images on as we talked about it, or at least one.

Brian: [00:03:28] Well, you know Cornerstone, well Peachtree Corners as a community, as a

municipality, we’re very blessed. We have a number of great school options within the city,

Cornerstone being one of them. We’ve got a great public school system offering. We’ve got

Wesleyan and we’ve got Cornerstone. And so it’s, I think sometimes as a community, we

overlook the fact that if you live here, you’ve got some pretty, you got some great options and

those options allow you to keep your world as small as possible. So you don’t, your commutetimes are shorter and your quality of life increases. If you’ve got kids that are active, you can

keep them close to home. And it’s nice. So cornerstone is one of those great options. They have

been doing well. Their enrollment has been such that they’ve been able to, with that and some

fundraising, look at creating a more permanent campus from what they started. They started by

acquiring a commercial office building and expanded from that into multiple buildings. That were

assembled in parcels that were contiguous. So they’ve got a mini campus.

Rico: [00:04:42] In Technology Park.

Brian: [00:04:44] Right. And what they’ve done is when you’ve got these, this assemblage of

buildings that were originally constructed as just standalone office, commercial office, they want

their campus to actually start feeling like a real campus versus just an assemblage of

commercial office buildings. So they are taking one of the buildings and they’re demoing the

building and creating a quad in the middle of other ones. And they’re also expanding that, or I’ll

call it joining that, with adjacent property that is across the street from Peachtree Corners

Baptist church.

Rico: [00:05:29] Now, for the people that don’t know. They, and I don’t have a slide

unfortunately, I thought I did. That’s the property, the parking lot across from the church, that

also has the athletic fields and a little pavilion area on the side.

Brian: [00:05:42] And so Cornerstone has acquired it. They, I guess just have use rights for a

while from PCBC and so they’ve acquired it. So now they’re just creating that campus and that

kind of locks in that part of it. They’re going to continue to use it in the way that it was when they

were just using the property and not owning it. So it’ll still be used for recreational purposes.

There’ll be some parking there, there is a little bit of, there’s plans for a gymnasium on the

property. And then a little, I guess you call it, a clubhouse associated with the ball fields. And so

they have some expansion plans for the property, but it’ll still be used in the way that it has been

so far. We’re excited to you know, have a school here that has done well enough enrollments

such that they can put deeper roots into the community than they had before and expand and

make this educational offering that much more, enticing than it was before this plan came out.

Rico: [00:06:46] Yeah, I’m excited for it. I’ve seen Cornerstone start from a really small school. I

think it was actually within Peachtree Corners Baptist originally. Yeah, I think so. And then they

got the one office building, then they expanded to two. And I think, I guess now it’s three. So it’s

exciting to see that. And if I remember correctly from the plan, the proposed plan, is that the ball

fields would probably stay where they are, the baseball field. The soccer field will probably be

reoriented a little bit. And then that gymnasium is going to be, if you’re facing the property, that

gymnasium building is going to be on the left side of the property. These have taken up probably

two or three rows of parking spaces along that side. Away from residential, obviously there’s

you know, that. And close to the street side of Peachtree Corner circle. They have a great

school. I don’t think there was any opposition to that. I can’t imagine to that request.Brian: [00:07:46] No, there wasn’t. Especially when they’re using it for the same purpose,

everybody has accepted that it’s a recreational use. It’s associated with the church and other

areas too. It’s a known commodity. Yeah, from the city’s perspective, we were very happy to see

their plans and we’re glad that we were able to help facilitate them getting this and moving it

forward.

Rico: [00:08:08] Yeah. I’m excited about it and we’ll be covering that a little bit in the next issue,

not this issue, but the June-July issue of the magazine, Peachtree Corners. We’re going to have

a little profile about, a little story about that. And maybe possibly some of the renderings of

what’s going to be, what’s planned for that. Let’s go on to the townhouse rezoning or the

rezoning of a property at the corner of Peachtree Corner Circle on 3755 Jaybird alley. From

R100 large residential land plot, right? To townhomes. I’m going to slide this on, tell us a little bit

about this. And there was opposition to this. I’ve got to say there were probably 239 in

opposition to this. I don’t know of how many people showing up at the city council meeting, but

there was quite a bit opposition, I think, singed in letters and such. So tell us a bit about this

rezoning.

Brian: [00:08:57] Well, I mean, you know, this is typically what you get when you get a developer

who comes in and is looking to maybe take property, assemble some parcels or take something

that already exists and oftentimes redevelop into something else. This one is one of those

purposes you’re looking at. The easiest way is just to put a townhome community on it. I will say

at this point, that it was just the first read. And so council, there was no discussion. The

discussion and vote will be at the April council meeting. They did have, the developer did have

multiple appearances in front of the planning commission prior to getting to this point. It was

tabled for some inner, for some further interaction with local residents that had some concerns,

at least once. And I know there have been some changes to it. But while this has been going

on, I can attest to, because I’ve pretty much been receiving the same thing, is the local

community there is very interested in this project. And has been expressing things of concern or

at least things that council needs to take into consideration when this is being discussed. So

there is a lot of interest from the community on this project. And mayor and council have

received all of the communication. It’s been organized in a way that, we know how much and

what they’re saying and what are the key points that are being brought up and council is

prepared to discuss it from an educated perspective. Both from what staff provides counsel and

what the community provides. So I look forward to them debating this and, you know, making an

up, down vote on it.

Rico: [00:10:44] Right. What actually butts this development on the other side of this? Not the

roadside, but the other side.

Brian: [00:10:53] It’s a triangle piece. I mean, I guess there’s a subdivision on the other side of

Jaybird Alley from this. A single family, detached residential community. There are at least, I

think two individual, single family homes that are in this triangle piece of property that are, I

guess it’s, what is it? Jaybird, Spalding and Peachtree Corner Circle. I believe is the three roadsthat form the kind of parcel that they’re looking at, or some of it. Now there’s a, yeah, those are

the three.

Rico: [00:11:31] So it butts up to residential, that’s actually probably R100 I’d imagine. So that

would on the face of it to me, I know you may not be able to say anything on it yet. Since

planning commission, did they, did the planning commission actually give a recommendation?

Brian: [00:11:47] They did. Did they recommended denial.

Rico: [00:11:49] Okay. Which makes sense to me, cause by taking a townhouse butting up to

one R100 is just such a drastic change. Usually it’d be like, let’s say R60 maybe or moving,

slightly higher and not going that far up in density next to an R100. That doesn’t make sense.

Brian: [00:12:09] You are right. That is one of the probably most common concerns raised by the

residents, is the increase in density that this would allow in the area where there’s not really the

same level of density. And council has received that message loud and clear and has not

dismissed this lightly. They’re prepared to, they’re probably to a point on this that they would

have, could have voted Tuesday night. It’s just, it was just the first read, so.

Rico: [00:12:38] Sure, sure. Alright. Then the next item that we’re going to talk about is the 9.25

acres along Peachtree Corners Parkway. There’s a request for zoning and this makes sense.

Because we’ve been discussing in the last few meetings, podcasts, about the multi-use

ordinance and the changes that happen in the ordinance. And this is actually being affected by

that ordinance. Their application, from what I could tell is taking full advantage of the credits that

they could get for high density and all that stuff. They have a laundry list of things that they’re

doing that help them compile their density. And it’s, these are basically office buildings. This is

basically Technology Park. The, on that side.

Brian: [00:13:25] Yeah. So this is on Peachtree Parkway. It is just North of the new signal at

Engineering Drive in Peachtree Parkway. Where the racetrack and the liquor store are. The

immediate building to the North of that. It’s a three story building that sits off from the road,

existing commercial office building. And then it’s that parcel and then it’s the parcel or maybe

parcels, but all of those single story, commercial condos, those old ones. There was a physical

therapist and life insurance, and it’s all of those and that existing one, the existing commercial

office building. So that’s the, just under 10 acres or essentially 10 acres. And it’s, you know,

what you see is this is an example as you’re showing here. This is the first application of the

very first of our mixed use development ordinance. Like you just said, the developers have

taken advantage of it. And we believe to the betterment of the entire project. And by that I mean,

given communication that’s been happening prior to this officially being submitted and some

changes since then, the project has actually got less units than the applicant originally

requested. Mixed-use development ordinance steered them down a road that ultimately resulted

in less density. And then it does have certain incentives within that ordinance that we all win.

They’re donating land for green space, there’s adaptive reuse of existing office buildings. They

are going to demo in that photo right there, those single story. And that’s what it looks like now.And if you go to the next one, that’s what it will look like. The couple of things of note. And I don’t

know, do you have any of the other ones? So that’s the single…

Rico: [00:15:33] Yeah. Let me pop one of the other ones.

Brian: [00:15:36] God knows how that will look. And then you have the, there’s the existing three

story office building set back off the road back there. And they’re keeping that and they’re, that’s

not the view. That’s a different, do you have any more? There’s another view.

Rico: [00:15:53] I think I do have this other view here. Hold on. There’s this.

Brian: [00:16:00] That’s on the inside. That’s the interior. I may have had, been privy to a view

you didn’t get. But anyway, that office building is going to be kept. That one right there is going

to be kept.

Rico: [00:16:11] Now, that’s a 1982 building built, I guess. That’s what I understand.

Brian: [00:16:17] Okay. And they’re going to be basically gutting it, reusing it in a number of

ways. Including some similar to like we-work space type of thing. Some of that will be, there’ll

be some amenities for the local residents in there. Clubhouse amenities type of thing. And I

think there’s, and then I think they have templated a coffee shop to go in there.

Rico: [00:16:43] So when they’re talking retail, so this is another view. I think this is the some of

the, I’m not sure if those are the townhouses. I think those are.

Brian: [00:16:52] They are.

Rico: [00:16:53] There’s going to be 26 planned townhouses, 295 multifamily apartments

essentially. And when they say, so they’re going to reuse the three story building, like you said.

Which was a 1982 buildings, so it’s fairly old building. So that makes sense. It’s I guess recall,

gutted out their building, not recalled, what was it? Brightree. And rebuilt there. It’s a beautiful

building by the way now.

Brian: [00:17:16] And they’re doing something similar to that. So the good thing here is there’s a

couple things of note. One is we have an adaptive reuse of an empty building, a building that’s

been empty for five years. And it’s also going to remove those single story office condos, which

if you’ve been back there, they are in a very degraded condition. In fact, most of them were

completely empty as well. The only ones, you know, we never noticed it if you’re driving by

because the front units still had some tenants in it. But man when you went back, it was empty.

People were breaking in. It was, it needs help. So that’s good. Second thing is all the trees

along Peachtree Parkway are remaining. And at the end of the project, there will be more trees

because of the replantings then they started with. And they also are reducing the impervious

surface that’s on the site. So when you get into the existing, all the existing parking lot and

rooftop. And when they remove all that and construct anew, there will actually be lesspavement when the project is done then there currently is. So those are some good aspects of

this project that we’re excited about.

Rico: [00:18:41] With the project you mentioned, obviously there’s, we’re talking about, it says

partial, some retail. Are they, is it just the coffee shop or is it?

Brian: [00:18:52] I’m not sure exactly. I’m not sure they even know at this point. Because again,

the way these things work. And there’s still a few things, a few little details that are even being

discussed, that will probably tweak the final version that council is voting on. And again,

planning commission serves a great, extremely important role here. And that is, they are the

best vetting tool that the city has of getting a project as close to possible as the project that

council wants to approve. Sometimes it’s impossible to get there and council, again, denies the

application. But sometimes, I would maybe even say a majority of the time, planning

commission is able to influence the developers at their stage in a way that then the developers.

Continue to make modifications to their site as a way to enhance the product before council

votes on it, which makes it easier for council to make a decision. Again, sometimes it’s just a

bridge too far and they can’t come to that. But anyway, there’s a little bit there, but on the retail

side, you can’t fill it. You can’t know exactly because they don’t have the zoning approved yet.

Rico: [00:20:19] But don’t they have to give you a plan to say, we’re going to have 10,000

square feet of retail.

Brian: [00:20:24] Yeah. And they do. I just don’t know that off the top of my head. They do,

because mixed use development ordinance has to have three different uses in it. And so they

are going to, their application does have square footage. I’m just saying that right now, before

council that number’s probably changing as we speak right now because the developer is

hearing some feedback and making modifications. But there will be a square footage dedicated

to retail, and here it will be depicted on where it will be. Some to commercial and some to

residential. And if the rezoning is approved, then of course they go out and they try to lock up

some leases. And those uses could be anything from a coffee shop to a sit down restaurant, a

dry cleaner.

Rico: [00:21:14] And it makes sense to me, obviously multi-use is going to be like that. It just

doesn’t make sense to me if there’s only one little 2,500 square foot coffee shop, and we’re

calling this development a multi-use development. When in fact that’s just like the minimal part

of it, right?

Brian: [00:21:31] It is. I mean, of course all projects have to have a minimal. So sometimes, you

don’t get as much as you want. Now we’ll say that the balancing act here on a mixed use

development on just anything, but on this one in particular, is to try to achieve a balance that’s

achievable. By that I mean, It would be great if there was a bunch of retail. Maybe we, you and I

are like, man I would love to have like a little mini shopping area or whatever. That’d be great.

Just for purposes of illustrating this. If we wanted it, that’d be great. But if the developer can’t fill

it, nothing would be worse than for there to be a development that started off with too manysquare feet of retail than they can fill. And that has happened. And so there’s also sometimes

you have to be careful about making somebody try to fit a square peg into a round hole. If the

timing’s not right, if the area’s not right. And retail’s the one that’s the most difficult right now

because retail nationally, internationally is undergoing a unique metamorphosis with the

Amazon’s of the world. So we don’t know where it will be. And so bricks and mortar retail is

scary sometimes to developers if you have too much.

Rico: [00:22:55] And the good part about this though, is that it’s not like they have an anchor

place. That’s 30,000 square feet of retail. So small shops, coffee shops, a couple of small

restaurants, I can see that. Especially if they’re bringing, the whole idea is bringing in over 300

families essentially into there. Whereas the town center doesn’t even have that yet. The

apartments where, the apartment and the Indigo hotel, where the original component of this and

who knows where that is right now. Because that’s still not being talked about. Because that was

almost 300 apartments or 260 apartments I think that would sit right over town center and that’s

not there yet. Which could probably help the retail, the restaurants and stuff like that. The whole

idea of that energy. Energized environment of people just being, I’m going down to get

something for breakfast and, just like you would in the city. In Atlanta, let’s say or Brookhaven. I

did want to ask about this. So the office building in the back, that’s not being converted to this.

This is a whole new building though that would be on there. This five story residential building.

Brian: [00:23:58] That’s a whole new building. That’s correct.

Rico: [00:24:00] Okay. And that would be set back. And the front part would be townhouses or

any of the retail?

Brian: [00:24:05] That’s correct.

Rico: [00:24:06] Alright. Cool. Great. So we’ve covered that a little bit and we’ve got a little bit

more time. So I thought maybe we’d just quickly talk about the, you guys did a resolution to do a

matching grant. Thought that was a great idea that had to deal with EVA, low emissions. Do you

want to talk a little bit about, give a couple of minutes on that?

Brian: [00:24:27] Yeah. So, just to step back real quick. The city, when it comes to economic

development has seen some really good success with Curiosity Lab being the magnet to attract

companies here. And we’ve seen it with Brightree and ASHRAE and some others. We’re seeing

it with some other activity within our innovation center that maybe is only temporary, but it is still

active. And so we have realized though that for us to continue to innovate, for us to continue to

keep market share of being, one of the only, if not only living laboratory of our kind in really the

world. We’ve got to keep doing things to stay out front. And what we’re seeing is, we’re starting

to compete with cities that are way outside our weight class. And the only way we can compete

with cities, like Jacksonville, Florida, just within their own general fund appropriated, I think it

was like $25 million towards autonomous vehicle research and testing on a location of the city.

They’re doing things. And Miami’s thrown, tens of millions of dollars of things. And those are, we

can’t compete with that directly. So what we’ve decided to do was we decided to be moreaggressive at identifying and going after grants. Because that’s the one way that if we are more

aggressive at trying to find and go after them, that’s one way for us to ultimately punch outside

our weight class. Above it is to have other people give us some money to be able to compete

with that. So we have started that process and we’ve gotten some consultants to help us identify

some grants. And we just happen to have one that we identified. It’s a low emission electric

vehicle research and development grant. That has a due date of April 12th. And so we weren’t

going to have another council meeting before then. And the reason council needed to be

involved is it’s a federal grant and the federal government generally wants to see a resolution of

support from the local jurisdiction so that they don’t, what has happened in the past, award a

grant to a community that ultimately, maybe doesn’t support having it. Maybe mayor and council

didn’t want to go after it and staff did, and then you get it and there’s not the community support.

So they’re looking for some measure of proof that the community would support something like

this to make it worth while, and to make sure that they’re appropriating it to communities, that

this would be a big deal. And clearly we think we have a competitive one with our electric

vehicle charging hub, the second largest in Georgia. Largest in Metro Atlanta. The solar

roadway, electric vehicle, or the autonomous vehicle activity we have. And we are looking to get

some more soon, all autonomous vehicles or electric vehicles. And then with partnership with

Georgia power and testing, what electric vehicles do to the power grid. And all that stuff feeds

into the very reason that we had Curiosity Lab and it feeds into economic development, which is

about activity. And activity is what we want here because activity of people, however temporary,

they feed our local economy. Because they’re either eating in our restaurants and are staying in

our hotels, renting office space, renting apartments, and some cases moving here permanently.

And so this grant would help us over a two year period, we would use the grant to get five

autonomous vehicles, which would be electric vehicles here from three different companies. And

those three companies would come out here and in coordination with Georgia power do testing

on the burden to the power grid, interaction with each other, maybe testing of charging in the

roadway. All sorts of things like that, but with all those things come support personnel. They

come technicians, they come with their own partners, other people who want to come out here.

Our resolution of support would be, we will support it monetarily or otherwise if we get awarded

the grant. So that’s why there was a resolution.

Rico: [00:28:59] Cool. Exciting stuff that’s happening in the city between development and EVA

and Curiosity Lab. I think people should be excited that the city is moving the way it is. You guys

are doing a great job. I think that’s it really. We’ve, we could go on and on I’m sure. I don’t want

to keep you too long. Brian, I do appreciate you coming out, helping explain some of these

important issues and things going on in the city. Thank you. I appreciate you being with us.

Brian: [00:29:25] Thanks for letting you know, creating this communication vehicle for us to get

some information out.

Rico: [00:29:30] Sure. So we’ve been listening to Brian Johnson, City Manager of Peachtree

Corners. Listen up for more podcasts coming out. And we have, we’re going to be doing a

podcast soon on the Wesleyan Artists Market, going from a real artist’s market to virtual. That’ll

be coming up next week. Actually, depending on when you’re listening to this. But thank you forjoining us. And again, I want to thank Hargray Fiber for being a sponsor of this podcast, as well

as the family of podcasts and the magazine. Check out Peachtree Corners Magazine in another

week or two, and you will see lots of stuff. Our biggest issue yet. See you then

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