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Smart City Expo Atlanta — Putting Peachtree Corners on the Map

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What Makes a City “Smart?”

The advancement of technology coupled with rapid urbanization continues to press for local and state governments to create better solutions for urban development. Today’s metropolises are characterized by intelligent infrastructure, early-stage investments and open communication between residents and government. Smart cities leverage data to spur progress and inform better policies and processes. Can a city as relatively new and as small as Peachtree Corners be a smart city?

Does PTC Make the Grade?

City Manager Brian Johnson revealed how Peachtree Corners is uniquely positioned to have all the “smarts!” A lean operating budget, a perk of being a young city, allows for more “discretionary funds” with which the city is able to add value back to the community.

The Corners Connect app, already up and running, can tell you the local weather, traffic, events, sales, and soon it will even guide you to the nearest open parking spaces in Town Center and The Forum. Residents can pull up the app to report problems in real-time, put in a service request and then track its status. “Providing services and communication in a more convenient way for citizens,” that makes us a smart city.

If you choose to enable it, Peachtree Corners has the ability to geofence. That means the app knows your location once you cross into the corporate city limits and it can automatically send you helpful information. Internally, the city uses this to monitor and improve its delivery of services. This makes our city “smart” too, and I haven’t even mentioned the giant screen on the Town Green yet.

The city can turn on the 22 feet wide by 12.5 feet tall NanoLumens video wall and accompanying audio system in three seconds, at the request of a resident, as we witnessed during the recent World Cup Soccer games, when one resident asking resulted in a multitude of our neighbors gathering on the Town Green with friends to watch and enjoy the big games on the big LED display. It’s a testament to Peachtree Corners’ investment in smart city infrastructure.

Yet what gets Peachtree Corners a solid A+ is the important investment it has made in Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners. Johnson shared, “There are direct and indirect ways smart city technology is benefiting our residents. We look to stay at the cutting edge of smart city technology in a way that [is] both responsible and cost-effective…We haven’t borrowed any money to do it. We [don’t need] to implement city property taxes to do it, it’s within our budget. But it is providing a value add…that our residents are seeing now and will continue to see in the future.”

Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners

In keeping with its history to develop around technology, and the city’s slogan, “Innovative & Remarkable,” very soon, visitors and residents of Peachtree Corners may feel like they’re in an episode of the Jetsons as they find themselves driving alongside autonomous cars or otherwise novel vehicles on a 1.5 mile stretch of our roads in Technology Park. The vehicles are being tested by the ground-breaking Curiosity Lab — the first autonomous vehicle and smart city living laboratory and test track of its kind in the country, featuring “not just cutting edge, but bleeding-edge technology,” as City Manager Brian Johnson describes it.

This state-of-the-art testbed for smart city technologies is attracting movement to Peachtree Corners, which is precisely what city officials had envisioned.

Johnson explained, “We’re deploying the Lab as a way to attract activity to Peachtree Corners. That activity is what’s going to keep Peachtree Corners a great community, a community that has a healthy retail/restaurant climate, stable, high property values. It’s a place where people want to come work, live, learn and play because we’re giving people reasons to come to Peachtree Corners.”

The Curiosity Lab will draw businesses from across the country interested in testing the limits of their next-generation mobility technology in a real-world, 5G and IoT environment, unlike traditional closed tracks where everything is level, predictable, controlled and confined to a parking lot-type setting. According to Betsy Plattenburg, Executive Director of Curiosity Lab, they’ve had interest from delivery and logistics companies seeking to test the delivery of food and packages in an automated fashion, using both the roadway and potentially, the sidewalk.

She also mentioned talks with some interesting drone companies, adding: “Drones can use the infrastructure and are permitted to fly as long as they’re under 400 feet.” Most importantly, Plattenburg revealed, “We are just going to be making a public announcement next week that we are partnering with the Smart City Conference.”

If Curiosity Lab was born to attract activity to the city of Peachtree Corners, one might say it has already met with great success in its infancy. We’ll soon see Fira de Barcelona — the world’s leading conference on smart cities and smart urban solutions — cross the pond and arrive on our shores for the first ever American edition of Smart City Expo World Congress, debuting in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center from September 11 to 13, 2019. So how does Peachtree Corners get the spotlight in the midst of an international conference of such magnitude?

Johnson described a long-standing relationship between the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Fira de Barcelona. When Fira was looking to expand to regional conferences in Asia and North America, the Metro Atlanta Chamber welcomed the chance to make a pitch for Atlanta to host the inaugural smart cities conference in the U.S.

Having spoken in Barcelona last year, as part of the U.S. delegation there, Johnson’s pride could not be mistaken, “Smart City Expo Atlanta has recognized Peachtree Corners and the businesses that operate within our corporate limits, as being important to the greater metro Atlanta area and this conference.”

A 3D model of the 1.5 mile track that will be on display at the Smart City Expo Atlanta

Peachtree Corners to Kick Off Smart City Expo Atlanta

Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners has been named the official offsite demonstration location, in addition to having an important presence in the exhibition hall at the Congress Center. On the first day of the Expo: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 10-11:30 a.m., prior to the opening events at the Georgia World Congress Center, Expo attendees who purchased tickets to the Smart City Expo and signed up to attend the demo will have been bussed to Peachtree Corners City Hall on charter buses. There, they’ll witness live demonstrations of some avant-garde technology on our test track which allows for interaction with everyday vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

A number of state dignitaries are expected to be present, as this event will coincide with the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the inauguration and grand opening of Curiosity Lab. Afterwards, charter buses will return participants to the Georgia World Congress Center in time for the opening plenary of the Expo at 1 p.m.

What to Look Out For

The demo on September 11 should be something to behold. Plattenburg and her team put out a national casting call for companies who have “proven technology that is viewable,” in the interest of making the demo on the morning of the Smart City Expo more exciting.

Plattenburg described the test track: “The outside lane will become the test lane. The inside lanes will be where human drivers drive. So, it’s almost like a regular road exists in the middle, and the testers will be on the outside. They’ll be separated by flexible bollards. The road will be painted dramatically differently on the outside lanes, and there will be excessive signage, digital and otherwise, letting you know that you’re entering a test environment. So that people driving, the human drivers, you’ll know that something is different. The test vehicles will be there.”

“That should get people off their phones!” ■

Patrizia hails from Toronto, Canada where she earned an Honors B.A. in French and Italian studies at York University, and a B.Ed. at the University of Toronto. This trilingual former French teacher has called Georgia home since 1998. She and her family have enjoyed living, working and playing in Peachtree Corners since 2013.

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BRACK: Peachtree Corners to lose Peterbrooke Chocolatier

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Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson.
Scottt Gottuso and Geoffrey Wilson. Photo provided.

Peachtree Corners will soon lose one of its most iconic, popular and tasty businesses.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier, run by Geoffrey Wilson and Scott Gottuso, has been told by Peachtree Forum landlords, North American Properties and Nuveen Real Estate, that its lease will not be renewed. The last day of business will be July 25.

Meanwhile, Peachtree Forum is getting several new stores. They include Kendra Scott, Sucre, and The NOW Massage. Previously announced were Alloy Personal Training, Cookie Fix, Gallery Anderson Smith, Giulia, Lovesac, Nando’s Peri-Peri and Stretchlab. Wilson adds: “We are not in their big picture.”

Wilson has operated Peterbrooke at the Peachtree Forum for 14 years and Gottuso has been there nine years. They have made the chocolatier profitable and doubled sales. Wilson says: “We turned it around through community involvement and made relationships. We worked with the schools, gave donations, did a lot in the community, and made a difference. We produce most everything we sell in the shop, so it’s labor intensive. We make European-style chocolate treats from scratch from the very best ingredients, package it, make gift baskets, and also sell a lot of gelato.”

Key items include truffles, hand-made caramels, cherry cordials, chocolate-covered cookies and pretzels and strawberries hand-dipped in their own blend of chocolates. (They are all good!) One of Wilson’s and Gottuso’s most iconic products is chocolate popcorn. Once you try it, regular popcorn is tasteless. “We sell a lot of it.” Wilson adds: “Gelato sales have carried us in the summertime, since there are not many chocolate holidays in the summer.”

Peterbrooke now has five employees, and would like to have 10, but it is difficult to hire people with the skills in chocolatiering. A key part of its business is corporate companies, such as Delta Air Lines and Capital Insight. The Peachtree Corners’ Peterbrooke has corporate customers as far away as Cleveland, Ohio.

The operators were surprised when the Forum owners did not renew its five year lease. “The big decisions were made in Charlotte or Cincinnati, not locally,” Wilson feels. “We were no longer in their big picture. They want new and glitzy, shiny, fancy and trendy.”

The operators plan to start their own chocolate company, to be called “Scoffrey,” and initially sell online, plus have pop-up locations during holidays, and possibly have a booth in other merchants’ stores on occasions.

“Whatever we do would look different. We might rent a space somewhere close by so that people can still have the good chocolate experience with us, but we won’t have a regular audience walking by.”

Another element: the price of chocolate futures has spiked this year, with a bad crop production year. Wilson says: “That is key to our business and a huge cost increase. That doesn’t help.”

Wilson adds that the forced closing of the Peterbrooke location “is something like the death of a friend. But you go to the funeral and to the wake, and in six months or a year, It won’t be so bad.”

Have a comment?  Send to: elliott@elliottbrack

Written by Elliott Brack

This material is presented with permission from Elliott Brack’s GwinnettForum, an online site published Tuesdays and Fridays. To become better informed about Gwinnett, subscribe (at no cost) at GwinnettForum

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North American Properties Revitalizes Avenue East Cobb

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North American Properties (NAP) has revamped the Avenue East Cobb shopping center in Marietta, boosting its appeal to suburban residents.
The Andrews Brothers performing at Avenue East Cobb via Instagram @avenueeastcobb

North American Properties (NAP) has revamped the Avenue East Cobb shopping center in Marietta, boosting its appeal to suburban residents seeking a more urban lifestyle. Now, it’s being honored as part of the Atlanta Business Chronicle‘s “Best in Atlanta Real Estate” coverage.

NAP is known for transforming properties like Atlantic Station, Colony Square and The Forum.

According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the redevelopment involved demolishing part of the main building to build a public plaza with a stage surrounded by restaurant patios.

A new concierge facility was also added, including a canopy for drop-offs. Additionally, smaller retail buildings were created for standalone tenants. The business mix was updated to include names like Warby Parker, Lululemon and Peach State Pizza.

NAP also increased community engagement by partnering with at least 10 local organizations for social events. These efforts have proven successful. Over the last two years, Avenue East Cobb has seen a 36% increase in sales per square foot thanks to a major rise in foot traffic.

More news from North American Properties can be found here.

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North American Properties Secures 3 New Brands for The Forum

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North American Properties (NAP) and Nuveen Real Estate announced three new businesses are planting flags at The Forum Peachtree Corners.
Sucré – A Sweet Boutique

North American Properties (NAP) and Nuveen Real Estate announced three new businesses coming to The Forum Peachtree Corners (The Forum). The new brands include Kendra Scott, Sucré, and The NOW Massage.

“We’re excited to keep expanding our merchandising mix with more experiential concepts that motivate guests to extend their time on property. In addition to these new leases, several tenants are on track to open over the next few months, and we can’t wait to see the impact,” said Brooke Massey, director of leasing at NAP.

Here are the latest deals to be signed at The Forum:

Kendra Scott ­­– Known for its plethora of accessories and customizable Color Bar experience, jewelry brand Kendra Scott blends classic designs with modern sophistication. Kendra Scott jewelry celebrates individuality and self-expression.

The growing brand has also donated over $50 million to local, national and international causes since its launch in 2010. The 2,284-square-foot space, situated next to Lovesac, opens later this spring, marking the retailer’s fourth location in the NAP portfolio.

Sucré – Founded in New Orleans, Sucré is a gourmet patisserie known for its macarons, gelato and other handmade, French-inspired desserts.

The sweet boutique will occupy a 1,718-square-foot space on the north end of the property and is slated to open later this year. Georgia is the brand’s first out-of-state venture, with The Forum being its third metro Atlanta location and eighth overall.

The NOW Massage – This brand is helping people discover the healing benefits of massage therapy.

The customizable menu offers guests three signature massage styles and a variety of exclusive enhancements like Deep Tissue, Herbal Heat Therapy, Hemp Calm Balm, Gua Sha, Gliding Cupping and more. Located near Mojito’s, the 2,414-square-foot massage boutique debuts late summer. 

These businesses join:

 Alloy Personal Training (opening this month),
Cookie Fix (open),
Gallery Anderson Smith (opening this month),
Giulia (opening this spring),
Lovesac (open),
Nando’s Peri-Peri (coming winter 2024), and
Stretchlab (open).

Since acquiring the property in March 2022, NAP has executed 39 deals with new, existing and temporary tenants alike.

To stay up to date on the latest happenings at The Forum, follow on Facebook Instagram, and X or visit theforumpeachtree.com.

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