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Lorri Christopher, Her Vision for Peachtree Corners

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Lorri Christopher Peachtree Corners GA

On this episode of Peachtree Corners Life, we get the chance to hear from Lorri Christopher. Lorri was one of the original founding city council members of Peachtree Corners. Listen in as Rico and Lorri discuss technological advances in the City, park improvements, and why she is running for re-election to Post 5 city council.

Resources:
www.Re-electLorri5.com
www.PeachtreeCornersga.gov
Social Media:
https://www.instagram.com/lorrichristopher/
https://twitter.com/lorri504
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Rico: [1:01] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, I’m the host of Peachtree Corners Life. I appreciate you joining us. Whether it’s Facebook live or if you’re listening to us on iTunes or Spotify or iHeart Radio, thank you for joining us. Before we get into our guest today, I just want to say thank you to Atlanta Tech Park here in Tech Park Atlanta in the city of Peachtree Corners right on this miraculous one and a half mile road, that’s part of the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, which is the autonomous track that just opened just recently. But Atlanta Tech Park is an accelerator similar to some degree to Prototype Prime down the block which is an incubator. Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, Bright and Prototype Prime is part of that. Now the original was separate, but now it’s all together. Thanks Lorri. But we are in the podcast studio here at Atlanta Tech Park, and I want to thank them for allowing us to use the studio. It’s a great place lots of things here. Lots of workshops, the ability to find and connect and network here is unbelievable. Next month is going to be a tech showcase that’s happening November 14th I believe. An ATS I believe it is and you can find information on LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com or just Google Atlanta Tech Park and their website will pop up. So thank you for these facilities for us to use and now for my guest today a City Council Person. City Councilman, we discussed how we should do that right. City Councilman, Lorri Christopher. Lorri, thanks for joining me.

Lorri: [2:38] It’s an honor to be with you.

Rico: [2:40] I appreciate it. Lori is the original, one of the original, founding city council people that started with the city of Peachtree Corners and actually prior to the city. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about that and about yourself?

Lorri: [2:53] Well a little bit about me. I’ve lived in Peachtree Corners since 1983, the whole time. I worked in Peachtree Corners in the 70s and 80s in the Summit Building. We had our technology firm, Boris, was located there where we developed financial applications for the world, but we had over 400 people in that facility. So I’ve seen Tech Park when it was at its heyday. I’ve seen it since and it is so exciting, about what’s happening now.

Rico: [3:25] Yes, it’s like full circle almost right?

Lorri: [3:28] We’re getting there.

Rico: [3:29] Lorri has an impressive background, I’ve got to say. MBA Emory Finance, Georgia State, Global Commerce, e-commerce. IT graduate work at Georgia Tech, Hofstra University, Undergraduate math. A long history not only of schooling but also of a long history of being involved in all sorts of things. She’s back from Africa, 14 days there as well.

Lorri: [3:56] Well I was there doing a service project with a school. We had partnered with the local Rotary Club, the Arusha Rotary Club in Tanzania, and they had identified a number of projects that they needed help with. And so along with three other people, we went over with some money and some computers.

Rico: [4:18] And you told me you lugged in your luggage, actually.

Lorri: [4:20] We took them all over in our luggage and they all made it. And we were fortunate to be involved with a group that wanted to give in that community as much as our area wanted to give in terms of making the project a success. Sometimes you get engaged in these projects and it’s a one-way street. But the people we worked with were equally as committed in spite of the challenges that they face. And that’s kind of how I view some of the things sometimes we face as a city councilman because we’d like to do everything but our funds only go so far.

Rico: [4:59] This is true and the good part is that the city’s somewhat debt free of things, right?

Lorri: [5:04] We are.

Rico: [5:05] Yeah, the town center we’re debt free there?

Lorri: [5:07] The town center is debt free.

Rico: [5:10] The millage rate is zero.

Lorri: [5:12] That’s true.

Rico: [5:13] For a small city that’s only, how old are we now? Six years old? Well what it says seven there.

Lorri: [5:19] We’re seven plus years old. And the bottom line is we’ve been able to do some things that we hadn’t planned because we didn’t plan to buy the property where the Town Centre is now. We had other initiatives in place at that time, but because of the citizen input and desire, they did not want that turned into garden-style apartments. So we ended up buying the property and we tried for a long time to sell it. That didn’t go really well. We were just coming out of a recession. And so the city chose to build a town center there as a place for people to gather and be together. And it’s debt free. The other thing is how fortunate can we be when we bought the town hall, our city hall, because we have a tenant on the top that pays the rent for us. So our mortgage basically is being paid by a tenant. So in my opinion, we work really hard at keeping the millage zero and being fiscally responsible.

Rico: [6:31] It’s interesting, one of the few cities that haven’t built their own city hall for example, lots of cities around here, Duluth, Suwannee, others. Not saying that’s a bad thing for them to do, but they went out they built their own city halls and stuff. And rather you took, the city decided to take a building already existing in technology park, in the hub of the city.

Lorri: [6:53] Well it was important to us to bring Tech Park back and make it successful again because it was the heart of the area during the 80s and early 90s. And it attracted people to our community. And if we had made an investment in Tech Park, I don’t think we would look that
good because we’re asking business to do it and we wouldn’t. And then to renovate something that’s there, I think it’s an important thing to do.

Rico: [7:25] Yeah. And I mean, it’s proof in the pudding if you will. I mean we went from a twenty-six percent vacancy rate and we’re now, we’re under 20. 19 I think. So things are coming back.

Lorri: [7:37] Property taxes, property appreciation has gone up over 10% during the period we’ve been a city.

Rico: [7:46] Now do you think that you, do you think that’s part of what the city’s done? Do you think that the reason for that?

Lorri: [7:52] Well it’s some of the things the city has done has spurred innovation. Have spurred growth in the city and attracted people to our community. And we’re trying to create places where people can live, work, and play because they don’t really like getting caught in traffic. The challenge we have is we have a major highway running through the middle of the city that we have no, really, control over other than figuring out if we can do anything to maximize the thruway part. So we’ve worked on light streaming so that we partner with our neighbors and Johns Creek and further north to sync up the lights to keep things moving when it goes through.

Rico: [8:42] Because it’s the Georgia State Highway, I believe isn’t it?

Lorri: [8:45] It’s a State Highway, yes. We have, in our city we have state highways, we have County highways, and we have city highways.

Rico: [8:53] Three different governments to, trying to figure out how to work together.

Lorri: [8:57] And we have collaborated a lot because we partnered with the state in getting the access road improved to get onto 285. We’ve partnered with them, another, the county on street projects both in sidewalks and in highways and paving. So no City can exist as an island.

Rico: [9:22] For sure. Do you think that I mean, let’s go to sidewalk infrastructure investment, for example. We’ve had 20 million dollars invested in 2015 alone. In roads and sidewalks Splost is a big part of that.

Lorri: [9:37] Yes it is.

Rico: [9:38] And that’s coming up again, I believe?

Lorri: [9:40] There’ll be a Splost initiative in about a couple years. In the hope. See the whole deal of us becoming a city as most people probably remember was, we weren’t getting Splosts.

Rico: [9:53] It was a part of the area.

Lorri: [9:54] We’re the largest city in population in the area. And so our citizens were paying into Splosts every year before we became a city. Well that same investment did not come back to us as an area. And the only way that would happen is if we became a city. So that was one of the reasons we became a city, in addition to being able to manage code enforcement and planning and zoning.

Rico: [10:24] Now we did have back, I guess a certain time before the city. We did have a commissioner that was a city commissioner that lived in Peachtree Corners. And we currently also have, well actually.

Lorri: [10:38] No we don’t have one living in the city now.

Rico: [10:41] Now we don’t, but we did in Linette Howard.

Lorri: [10:43] For many years yes. I mean we had people looking out for us but you’re talking a six to one vote.

Rico: [10:51] It’s a big difference and we do have a good Commissioner now in Ben Cooper though, I would say. But I would assume he would be in favor of another Splost update again of reupping it.

Lorri: [11:02] Well we would be in, we were in favor of Splost because some of the things we’ve been able to do have been primarily funded by Splosts. The city’s revenues come from franchise fees, business licenses, and other types of fees associated with being a city. And Splosts. But Splosts generates for us around nine to ten million dollars a year.

Rico: [11:28] And they’re mainly for roads, sidewalks, transportation?

Lorri: [11:30] Well it had been part of roads, transportation, sidewalks. The county handles education, the county handles police force, but I think it’s important for people to know how that works. But we have intergovernmental agreements also with the county for other services that we don’t provide.

Rico: [11:50] Are there services that you think, that you think the city should take over. I know we recently took over water, I think water and sewage, we took that over. Just before Peachtree station had the road fall out. I forget which road it was.

Lorri: [12:06] But that was an obligation of the county.

Rico: [12:09] At the time.

Lorri: [12:10] And they provided us some money to do that because it was their obligation before that.

Rico: [12:17] Before that but fortunate enough that was already being looked at at the time and plans were in place.

Lorri: [12:25] Plans were in place.

Rico: [12:26] Correct.

Lorri: [12:27] We had to improve some of those plans but it worked. We also preserved, helped acquire Simpson Wood.

Rico: [12:34] Simpson Wood park, right? Lorri: [12:35] Yes. Because, see the county was able to only invest so much in Simpson Wood Park. And if the city had not assisted them in that process that would probably be a development today.

Rico: [12:49] Because I think of the way that was zoned would have probably allowed two or three plus homes to be built there. And that’s right across from, for those that don’t know, is right across from Simpson Wood United Methodist. And actually was the retreat for Simpson United Methodist.

Lorri: [13:05] Well I’ve known that property for a long, long time. Being in the city a little while. We raised our kids here. They all graduated from Norcross High School.

Rico: [13:16] Right? Wow, okay.

Lorri: [13:18] Our oldest kids were at Peachtree Elementary when Brooks Coleman was principal.

Rico: [13:25] Yeah. Yeah.

Lorri: [13:28] So then they all went to Summer Hour. And then our daughter, who’s the youngest, she ended up at Pinckneyville after a year at Summer Hour. And then they all went to Peachtree Elementary and then she ended up at Brookley Lake Elementary one year and the next year at Simpson.

Rico: [13:44] Simpson yeah, probably when it opened I guess, right? So what do you, you know, there’s been so much accomplishment. You know people that know, listen to me on these podcasts and know, I don’t have problems with anything for the most part that the city has done. Maybe the original plans for the pedestrian bridge, I had a bit of an issue with, but I didn’t have
an issue with the bridge. I had an issue with the size of the bridge, the design, the money being spent, correct. Now that’s been paired down by more than half from the original estimate.

Lorri: [14:18] Absolutely. You can see where, you can see the progress beginning on the bridge.

Rico: [14:22] And it’s starting that, right because they put up the blocks and stuff. So when… So they’re starting to level out the ground, I think right?

Lorri: [14:29] Well what’ll happen is they build the infrastructure for the bridge. And then one weekend, they’ll put up the arches.

Rico: [14:39] Because it’s a prefab, right?

Lorri: [14:41] It’s a beautiful bridge in terms of representing what we’re familiar with in our city. So I was primarily, very honestly, in favor of a tunnel.

Rico: [14:52] Really? Like the Johns Creek Tunnel?

Lorri: [14:54] Well, I’ve seen a lot of tunnels internationally and they work very well. And it doesn’t… let’s say if they wanted to add two lanes say to 141, it’s then going to affect the bridge. It wouldn’t affect a tunnel, but it would affect the bridge. So that was some of the reasoning I had, but I’m very happy with the final design we came up with for the bridge. And I feel it’ll be well used. And it wouldn’t have made sense to start the bridge till we got the Town Center there.

Rico: [15:29] Sure. The bridge to nowhere would not have been good.

Lorri: [15:32] No. they had that up in Gainesville originally. In fact, they just finished their bridge.

Rico: [15:37] Right. So the bridge is going to be coming up and then I know there are plans for an offshoot pedestrian sort of walkway for the botanical gardens park and stuff.

Lorri: [15:38] It’ll be like botanical gardens but it’ll be a park type place. It’ll be beautiful.

Rico: [15:56] Now and you know, listen. The city has done a lot of things. They bought the park of Simpson wood.

Lorri: [16:04] They assisted it.

Rico: [16:06] They assisted it, correct. It was a million dollars plus and Gwinnett County fitted most of the money actually for it. And it’s a Gwinnett county park not a city park.

Lorri: [16:16] The parks are Gwinnett County Parks, but we are very blessed in our city. Because we have four parks on the Chattahoochee River. And have wonderful places for people to play and enjoy. We do really need though some play space in the south side of town.

Rico: [16:39] Where in the south side do you think?

Lorri: [16:40] I think that we could find some property around Mechanicsville and around that area over on, you know, toward the Winners Chapel and that side. Jimmy Carter area. Because those kids really don’t have access to the type of amenities that are on this end of town and I think that’s something that we need to work with. The county does parks, and we just need to help provide a little incentive and initiative to do that. Now the other thing though that’s coming in, they’ve got the design for, is the upgrade of Simpson wood park.

Rico: [17:17] Right the master plan for that. But they’re still keeping it a passive park.

Lorri: [17:21] Oh, it’s always going to be a passive park.

Rico: [17:23] They’re just expanding on the…

Lorri: [17:25] They’re going to add a couple overlooks. They’re going to improve the trails.

Rico: [17:31] In fact there’s going to be a paved trail and the multi-use trail.

Lorri: [17:33] There’s going to be a multi-use paved trail and also there will be a playground but it’s going to be very interesting, the play space. Because it’s going to be in the trees. Now you take these little children, it gets a little warm in the summer. And every playground is out there in the hot sun.

Rico: [17:56] Yeah, for sure. Lorri: [17:57] And we’ve found a design for a play space that is in the trees.

Rico: [18:03] So when you say in the trees, you mean like under the tree canopy.

Lorri: [18:06] It’ll be under the tree canopy.

Rico: [18:08] Because I’m thinking tree tops, but under the tree canopy. And you’re right most Gwinnett parks are not built that way. Gwinnett County Parks tend to clear a space and put the play, playground area in an open space. So this would be under the canopy where it makes more sense.

Lorri: [18:27] Well see the other part of it is that it protects the environment when you do that. I’m kind of a green person and you know every day today we hear more and more and more
about being green. But it means a lot for the future of our children and grandchildren, and now I’m a great-grandmother so I’m even more concerned about it. But I think that that’s an ideal way to do that. There are two types of parks in Gwinnett. There are passive parks and active parks. And so Simpson Wood is a passive park which means very little development in the park and keeping the trails and that available to everyone to play. And Jones Bridge Park, which was the first County Park. I don’t know if most people know that.

Rico: [19:20] Probably not that I would think. That makes sense though.

Lorri: [19:22] That was why it has been redeveloped because it’s totally different than many of the other parks. But they have been bringing it back into that type of stage.

Rico: [19:32] In the last couple of years they have just renovated that whole area. When are they releasing the master plan for Simpson Wood then. Or I thought there was still some more work to be done on it?

Lorri: [19:43] Well the plan is done. See the funding is in the next block.

Rico: [19:49] So nothing’s going to happen for the next year or two. Or two years, I guess, right?

Lorri: [19:53] Right. But the park is open and available to the public.

Rico: [19:56] Oh, yeah for sure and it’s a great place for shots and photography in there. We’ve done some videos in that area.

Lorri: [20:01] We’ve hosted arbor days there.

Rico: [20:03] Yeah. It’s a beautiful chapel building there as well.

Lorri: [20:06] Oh it is.

Rico: [20:09] So to go back to a little bit about you know, the county has services that are… Some of the services are being supplied like Gwinnett police does the policing. Gwinnett fire…

Lorri: [20:20] Fire, police and the emergency.

Rico: [20:23] So they do all that. We’ve taken over the sewage and the sewage services from the county. So we get funded for that. Those dollars come directly to us now and then we can spend that money here based on per capita.

Lorri: [20:38] And care of the problems that might exist in the city. And when you have some places we have more than 40 and 50 year old instructors to deal with.

Rico: [20:45] For sure. And so are there any other services that you think that the city should take over also that the city may provide or that you see in the future that the city should provide.

Lorri: [21:00] Well, I think we have some challenges in a couple areas. One, we don’t have enough senior housing in the community for what’s projected to be the number of seniors. Statewide we’ve seen the numbers just dramatically grow. I think that’s important. And like I said, I think we need some more play space that you know, what we need to do is encourage and partner with the county. To get play spaces for people that don’t have play spaces. So kids have a chance to get outside and be safe.

Rico: [21:39] You took you know, I mean, I know Brookhaven was just that… a Brookhaven candidate forum. And they’re talking about pocket parks.

Lorri: [21:46] Yeah, we have we have a pocket park. Yeah, we have one pocket park down behind the condominiums. Where, you know, down behind that area where Lynn Williams lives?

Rico: [22:01] Yes, yes. I know Crooked Creek?

Lorri: [22:03] It’s a little further than Crooked Creek. You know, we’re putting in multi-use trails and we’ll see things improve when those trails go in and gets down really toward Crooked Creek, not all in Tech Park. So that’ll happen. I think that you know, we’ve had some people say we need more affordable housing. But that’s a challenge. And when you think about affordable housing you got to find the right way to do that. Because what happens is if you have too much affordable housing, it decreases the property values of people in the community. So any decisions we make in that area have to be very carefully thought-out. We do have on the calendar some potential development over in the Mechanicsville area. It could be supportive of that type of development.

Rico: [22:59] Now, I noticed that other cities are talking about the same thing, affordable housing. Because you want to be able to have people that can work in the community. And work in jobs that are local jobs. And it gets expensive to live even in the city of Peachtree Corners it could be expensive to live, for a family. Let’s say, a family of two or three. Is there, I mean, there are ways to adjust for that though now. Are there any suggestions you have?

Lorri: [23:28] Well, I think you have to find a developer that’s interested in taking advantage of some of the resources that are available that permit affordable housing and acquiring the property. We face some of the same challenges when it comes to apartments. Our city has spent probably seven and a half years trying to incent and try to acquire some ancient old apartment buildings that don’t need to be here. But the challenge is that because of our education system, which is so wonderful, those places are full. So a landowner doesn’t feel like he has to be inspired to do something different.

Rico: [24:12] Right. When there’s 95 percent occupancy. I mean, you know full rental.

Lorri: [24:16] But I think it’s important that the public should understand what the challenge is there. Because we couldn’t afford to buy them at the current rate.

Rico: [24:28] Right and no one else wants to buy them, actually because it’s expensive too. Because to be able to buy that usually, there’s a cycle, right? So things go bad, property values dro, and then all of a sudden you can buy that property.

Lorri: [24:42] Well, we did that with our city hall.

Rico: [24:46] That’s right. Lorri: [24:47] And we did that in acquiring the Prototype Prime Building.

Rico: [24:49] That’s right, and that was through a grant so that was pretty much, it was for free if you will. Also so that was no debt also on that one. Lorri: [24:57] So we’ve worked very hard at being fiscally responsible. In trying to deliver good things to the citizens. There are still many things. You know, there are a lot of things that we need to think we can do but we have to figure out how we fund them and moving forward.

Rico: [25:16] Are there other things that you’d like to see done that we haven’t. That’s on the board maybe or on your?

Lorri: [25:21] Well, you know, we’ve… There’s a lot of people who have asked a lot of questions about a second bridge. And we have in the comprehensive plan, plans for a second bridge that bridges the gap from the hill down to Holcomb Bridge.

Rico: [25:38] That’s right. So and that was in the master plan actually too.

Lorri: [25:40] That’s in our comprehensive plan.

Rico: [25:43] So is that going to be coming at some point?

Lorri: [25:46] We have we have a strategic planning meeting coming up in November. Where we’ll look and see what the things are that are most possible for the coming year. But we’re going to be focused on bringing the community together. I think the other thing we need to do is find more ways to engage more citizens. I mean, we have 4, over 43,000 people in this community. And there are opportunities for us to collaborate and come together and address many things, like the Peachtree Corners Business Association does a lot for our community. The United Peachtree Corners Civic Association brings all of the homeowners together. But we need to have other groups like, thinking about an art center and a music center for our city. That would be important.

Rico: [26:41] So there’s an art Council right?

Lorri: [26:44] Yes. We have an art council.

Rico: [26:47] We have a plan, I think, out of them. Or at least a study that was done. Lorri: [26:49] Yes we do. We have a start of a plan.

Rico: [26:52] And that is near and dear to my heart because I would love to see an art center actually built with a theater in it. And an event hall probably, that could be used as a gallery as well.

Lorri: [27:05] Those are things that have always been particularly interested in.

Rico: [27:09] Do you have a particular place you’d like to see that? Lorri: [27:12] Well, we have a little property that we acquired near the town center.

Rico: [27:16] that would be a perfect place, right off the town center. Right. That would be cool.

Lorri: [27:20] It’ll be interesting. I’d like to hear the citizens input really, on what they would like us to do with that property. Because some would like to see us expand the town green and some might be more interested in an art center or that. And I think it’s important to get citizens’ input on what we do.

Rico: [27:41] Sure, makes a lot of sense. And I think there was a study so there was a survey that was done.

Lorri: [27:45] Yeah, there was a study. We do check the citizens out and ask him to tell us. Right now we’re working very hard to figure out, I’ve got a lot of questions on the Michigan U-turn.

Rico: [27:58] Oh the roundabout you’re talking about?

Lorri: [28:00] No, not the roundabout. They’re looking at the intersection at East Jones and 141, which is the most trafficked intersection in the city. And the proposal has been because the state would fund the majority of it to do Michigan U-turns. There’s a lot of concern about that and…

Rico: [28:26] It’s a little different. I’ve been in Detroit where they, where I used one several times and it was… you had to get used to it because it was a lot different than what you might see here on the East Coast.

Lorri: [28:37] It is but there are some of them, in other areas of the state, and they are successful. And I really think it will increase safety.

Rico: [28:49] So you think that might be coming. Couple of those, or at least one of those.

Lorri: [28:54] Maybe, maybe not. Because a lot of people… See the other thing is it’ll change the whole corner there dramatically. It’ll tie up traffic dramatically for a while.

Rico: [29:07] While they construct it.

Lorri: [29:08] So those are concerns but I think safety should be our first concern.

Rico: [29:12] I mean, you know, listen to the construction of something is always a one-time thing anyway. So it’s the outcome, whether the outcome is going to be for better or worse is what it’s about. All right, cool. There were a few other things. So the cities is involved obviously with the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, the autonomous vehicle track. City council was visionary, thinking of visionary ways to bring the city forward when it first started by funding some of these things. Originally with Prototype Prime as an incubator and then evolving that into much more.

Lorri: [29:40] We’re very fortunate to have three incubator environments in our city. I mean, I’ve always believed in that because I grew up in the technology industry since 1965. And if you don’t have a way to do innovation, you’re not going to grow. Because you’re creating new jobs or creating opportunities for people. And that’s what Paul Duke saw when he came here back in the 80s.

Rico: [30:18] So do you, what do you see happening over the next couple of years? What more beyond what citizens might see now with the autonomous track and all that?

Lorri: [30:27] Well the autonomous track was built primarily to attract industries that were related to the autonomous vehicles. And all the technology that goes along with it. What other things could be autonomous? That’s the question you can ask. You know, and like we saw in the dedication, The Drone delivering a package? You’ve got people talking about autonomous scooters. And the whole thing about autonomous scooters is what they want to be able to do is get the scooters back where they belong after they’ve been used.

Rico: [31:07] Right. Seeing those scooters drive around by themselves, heading back home.

Lorri: [31:12] So that’s a part of the autonomous area. But what other developments are going to occur in medicine? And in Healthcare? And areas like that, that are also areas for innovation.

Rico: [31:27] Biomedical, pharmaceutical. Or are you talking about retail medicine?

Lorri: [31:30] Well in telemedicine. And the extensions of telemedicine that might enable people that don’t get access to Medical Services to have them. I’m totally excited that Gwinnett Medical located their operations in our city. I’ve been pushing for that since I was a counselman because we didn’t have any of that here.

Rico: [31:54] And Northside just took that over. So yeah, they’re getting bigger. The northside is getting bigger in the North part of Atlanta as well.

Lorri: [32:04] Very much so.

Rico: [32:06] The issues that arise sometimes from some of these developments and stuff; privacy issues. I talked with Brian Johnson on one of the podcasts on Prime Lunchtime with The City Manager about doing, about the cameras and license plate identification cameras as well as facial recognition type cameras for security. We talked about how those could be put out in different parts of the city and even in near different neighborhoods in front of different neighborhoods.

Lorri: [32:39] And the neighborhoods can make a choice on whether they want to do that or not.

Rico: [32:44] Do you find that as a good thing?

Lorri: [32:47] I think safety is important. And you know, it’s kind of like some deterrents serve to keep people safe. So I mean the good people aren’t going to mind you putting out a camera.

Rico: [33:04] But there’s privacy to a degree.

Lorri: [33:07] But the access to those devices are limited. And the information is protected and encrypted. So that it isn’t like it’s wide open access for everybody.

Rico: [33:21] Right. And we talked a little bit about that.

Lorri: [33:24] The city is not going to track how many times you come and go home a day.

Rico: [33:30] No I’m sure the city won’t be doing that. But you’re right there will be restrictions on its use from what I understand from Brian Johnson.

Lorri: [33:39] No question about it. I mean the use is only for safety and for crime prevention.

Rico: [33:48] And we want to stay ahead of that. I mean we the city hasn’t had real… I haven’t heard. I mean I keep watching my crime…

Lorri: [33:55] We just had a murder last night.

Rico: [33:57] Yes, we did. That’s right.

Lorri: [34:02] And it’s sad. But there’s some of the problems like the opioid crisis and those items. I mean those are things that we need to.. it’s not a city responsibility but to be cognizant enough and aware of in able to help drive solutions to those type of problems. It’s like with all, we have a number of hotels here. The other area we’ve got to be concerned about is human traffic. Most people don’t really believe there’s a human trafficking problem.

Rico: [34:40] Because they’re not aware of it or they’re just not looking.

Lorri: [34:42] They don’t see it. I mean I’ve worked with a number of organizations over the years and I’m very aware of that type of environment.

Rico: [34:53] Do you think Gwinnett County police are doing a good job with that?

Lorri: [34:57] I think they’re doing all they can do. I mean the big job there is education because you know, see something do something. You have to do that.

Rico: [35:13] For sure. It’s a tough, it’s a tough question, right.

Lorri: [35:17] The other thing that I’m not quite sure how to address, but it requires funding, is I mean when I sit here there’s about 200 homeless kids at Norcross High School. We don’t have any Rainbow Village in Peachtree Corners. This is something that the city, you can get some grants and money and things behind something like that so that we could have a facility to do that. I have been involved in a number of the homeless people I’ve run into since being a councilman when I’ve gotten calls and gone to see in what we do. Currently at least they take them downtown to the shelter in downtown Atlanta. But most of them don’t, but they have to agree to go. They don’t want to go because we have really nice people in Peachtree Corners and they generate the revenue here.

Rico: [36:15] So do you foresee maybe a shelter of some sort in Peachtree Corners?

Lorri: [36:18] Well, I think we should have some place where people get help and support. With a population of 43,000 the largest one with nothing. I think that’s something that we could, we need to think about and how we could go about it.

Rico: [36:35] I mean that could be a private-public… public-private

Lorri: [36:38] Public-private partnership.

Rico: [36:41] What other issues are on your mind that you’d like to talk about?

Lorri: [36:49] Well, the only things I would like to say is; I appreciate the citizens of the city giving me the opportunity to serve them. I would like to continue to serve them if it’s their choice. And hopefully everybody will go vote. I’d like to have them both for me, but I’d be equally honored if they went to vote. Because it’s a privilege we have that not a lot of people have. I think it’s extremely important to do that. And I want to say how much I enjoy serving with my fellow councilman. We have a really good team and without the team goals that we’ve had, we would never have been able to accomplish what we have in this short period of time. I’m thrilled to be a part of Peachtree Corners.

Rico: [37:40] And I’d be remiss to not say that you’re being opposed in re-election.

Lorri: [37:46] That is true.

Rico: [37:47] And there’s other candidates like the mayor or other servants of the city that are running unopposed. You’re actually the only one being exposed right now.

Lorri: [37:57] That’s because I have a large seat. That means anybody can run against me. Rico: [38:01] Correct. So you’re not stuck in a post. So anyone in the city can actually vote for you.

Lorri: [38:08] Yes everyone in the city can vote in this election

Rico: [38:12] And this election obviously November 5th.

Lorri: [38:14] Well it the polls are open now from 9:00 to 4:00 Monday through Friday, until November 1st at City Hall. And then election day it’s 7:00 to 7:00 at City Hall.

Rico: [38:28] So advance voting. Absentee voting?

Lorri: [38:32] Absentee voting. In fact, if anybody needs an absentee ballot, I’ll be happy to get one to them. I took them over to Village Park last week. I told them I would come back and get them and deliver them.

Rico: [38:46] Very good. So they can find more information about you and at www.Re-ellectLorri5.com. All right.

Lorri: [39:05] Or the committee to re-elect Lorri Christopher on Facebook.

Rico: [39:09] On Facebook, cool. And if they want to reach you, I mean on Twitter you’re @Lorri504. And they really can find and reach out to you through any of those.

Lorri: [39:20] They can also reach out to me from the city site.

Rico: [39:23] Okay. So go to the City of Peachtree Corners.

Lorri: [39:26] www.PeachtreeCornersga.gov Rico: [39:29] You got it. That’s cool. I think we’ve covered quite a bit. I appreciate you coming out. Lorri Christopher running for re-election for City Council of the City of Peachtree Corners.

Lorri: [39:42] And please invite everyone to vote. It’s their privilege.

Rico: [39:45] And don’t forget when you vote at City Hall because that election day is at your precinct for… I think there’s, no actually there’s nothing.

Lorri: [39:54] There’s no precincts. There’s no voting except at city hall this year. Rico: [40:00] At City Hall this time this year. Yeah, very good. Thank you Lorri.

Lorri: [40:04] Thank you.

Rico: [40:05] Thank yo



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City Government

7 Things You Should Know that’s Going on In Peachtree Corners [Podcast]

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Prime Lunchtime with City Manager Brian Johnson

Prime Lunchtime with City Manager Brian Johnson

As always, every month we talk with Peachtree Corners City Manager Brian Johnson to discuss current topics and the future plans for the city. This episode includes more discussion on the East Jones Bridge project, the Governors Lake Multi-Use rezoning application, the refunding revenue bond, the pedestrian bridge, events on the Town Green, rezonings and Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners.

“We are in a position to save some money and do it without really doing anything other than
using mechanisms that we have at our disposal and the current economic conditions and
interest rates as they are. And so that’s real savings that we can turn around and invest back in the community.”

Brian johnson

Timestamp, where to find it in the podcast:
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:58] – Fiserv Property and 55+ Community
[00:10:34] – Townhouses at Town Center
[00:13:49] – Rezoning
[00:22:38] – Refunding Revenue Bond
[00:28:34] – Curiosity Labs
[00:39:10] – Events at Town Center
[00:42:39] – Pedestrian Bridge
[00:45:26] – Closing

Podcast Transcript:

Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Prime Lunchtime with the city

manager, Brian Johnson. Let’s bring Brian on with me and, Hey Brian, how are you?

Brian: [00:00:41] Rico, good. Nice to be here.

Rico: [00:00:43] Great. Always good to have you on. So this segment, we’re going to be

discussing a bit about the bond resolution that was discussed. And I believe passed as the

public facilities authority. We’re going to be discussing the Governor’s Lake master plan,

Medlock bridge, the rezoning that’s going on there along with Curiosity Lab celebrates its first

anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year. And so we’re going to be talking about all that.

But before we get into that, I just want to thank our lead sponsor and a great sponsor, they are

Hargray Fiber. They’re a local southeast company that provides internet service and solutions

for our, for companies, small and large enterprise companies as well out there that are looking

to create a place for their employees to be able to continue to work off site as well as to be able

to now come back to work possibly in some places. So they’re not the cable guy, they’re a

company that really is involved in local community. And we actually will have an article about

them in the next issue and you can see what they’re doing here in Peachtree Corners. So check

them out at HargrayFiber.com or Hargray.com/business. I believe they have a promotion going

on, a thousand dollars visa gift card you can have, if you meet certain criteria to become a client

of theirs. So thank you Hargray Fiber. I appreciate you being our lead sponsor to these

podcasts. So let’s continue on with the city manager, Brian Johnson. So we could probably keep

talking about all sorts of issues, but the hot and moving thing right now we’re going to get onto is

what I’ve seen comments on, on the Next Door app. Of course, we’ve cleared up some of the

facts and some of the things going on in the last podcast. But let’s get back to it again for a little

bit. The East Jones bridge project which is also known as, the property is also known as the old

Fiserv property. 55 and older, 55 plus senior community center that’s been adjusted. I don’t

know if we need to go through all those details, but we certainly want to talk a bit about what’s

going on with the clearing that’s going on right now and stuff. So can you give us a little bit

more, Brian, about progress over the last few weeks on that piece?

Brian: [00:02:58] So, you know, since we last talked, you know, council did have a change of

conditions request by the developers to allow for the institutional use, the memory care and

assisted living, to allow the developers to build it at the end of the project, instead of at the

middle. And also to allow for the age restriction of 55 and older to be removed from some of the

product types. So at the end of the day, what you’ve got is you have, I think it’s probably fair to

say an age targeted community. It still has to be targeted to active adults. It still has to have the

institutional use. It still has a bunch of restrictions against, you know, constructing things that

would be considered family-friendly, young family friendly that is. But about a third of the units

could be inhabited by somebody who is not 55 or older. But two thirds of the units will ultimately

still have that, but that request was approved. And so the developer was able to maintain their

financing. So they started on that project. And of course, as is the case with any project that is

both as large as this one is, is on a piece of property that has been vacant for as long as this

has been and is of course developing in a more dense way, at least from a, you know, at grade

perspective. Meaning how many square feet within the parcel is going to have an improvement.

When you factor all those things in there, there’s been some, you know, significant change to

the property. You know, in that, you know, there has been a lot of the initial tree removal

necessary to construct, you know, new buildings and it’s, you know, it’s been eye catching

because we’re all used to looking in there and seeing just no activity and all these trees and

that’s it. But yes, so that has been significant, you know, there’s more, you know, construction

traffic there. Of course, part of the construction traffic actually, as it stands right now is also due

to Gwinnett County department of water resources. They are doing a large sewer main upgrade

project. And they are upgrading the sewer line from essentially the Forum, headed West

through Amber field subdivision and a number of the other subdivisions and basically crossing

underneath East Jones bridge right there, where the old Fiserv property interest is. And then

they’re running it down to the transfer station they have, which is basically at the back of

Simpsonwood. Where Simpsonwood, you know, meets the Chatahoochee but anyway, so

there’s a big utility project there also, but there’s a bunch of construction activity there. And, you

know, it’s again, optically it’s a big change.

Rico: [00:06:16] Yeah. Well it’s the same change though. That would have happened regardless

of the change of removing the 55 on those properties. It would have been because it’s the same

amount of units nothing’s changed with that. Even the site plan hasn’t changed, correct? It’s the

same site plan set up.

Brian: [00:06:32] That is a great point, Rico. This exact activity you would have seen regardless

of changing conditions. Now, you know, some people were not aware that this project had even

been approved two and a half years ago. So to some people they weren’t even aware a project

was coming. So I get that. And again, even from somebody who, you know, sees it every day,

when your eye is used to seeing, you know, this large area where there’s a bunch of trees and

no activity, it’s eye catching. But it is important to note though that, you know, the entire property

is within the river corridor. So all of the tree removal is keeping with the metropolitan river

protection act, the tree removal and, you know, replanting plan. For the development was

approved by AARC and as a part of the project. And so as with all projects like this, you often

see a period of time where, where the trees have been removed, but the replanted trees haven’t

been replanted yet and the buildings haven’t been there. So, you know, we are in that period

where there’s the least amount of vegetation on the parcel, but it’ll get better.

Rico: [00:07:50] They’re going to replant. I mean, granted, they’re not going to replant 50 year

old trees.

Brian: [00:07:54] It’s different.

Rico: [00:07:55] Forty foot trees. They’re going to be like 10, 12 foot trees, maybe. It’s going to

take some time for them to grow in. But you know, no different than quite frankly when I moved

here in ’95, no different than the Forum being built, then the town center, you know, years later.

Or even the people that lived here before Amberfield was actually built and all that had to be

removed. You know, the fact that the city bought Simpsonwood And they actually, Gwinnett

County with city help with a million dollars in there, to be able to save that 300, almost 300 acres

of land and keep it forest and smack in the middle of Peachtree Corners. You know, could we

have bought the Fiserv property? Would the citizens have had enough, sort of enough, courage

or belly to be able to take that and invest whatever that would have taken. Millions of dollars

probably that and preserve it? Doubtful. People have been complaining about that also. And like

you said, I mean, you know, that was forested typical of high technology companies. Siemens

was there. You have a beautiful campus, you have a great place for your employees to work.

Now it’s shifted from that to residential. You’re going to have clear cutting to a degree. And

obviously there’s a lot of land that’s back there. That’s not going to be clear cut.

Brian: [00:09:14] And that’s another good point too, is when you see from East Jones bridge, is

this alley. This narrow corridor, and you can kind of see around the corner, but what you can’t

really see unless you’ve got on the property, is there are a number of tree save areas that are

still in there. You know, there are some specimen trees that were saved. And so it wasn’t

completely clear cut. But too optically it kind of looks that way just because you were used to

just seeing it. So anyway, you know, but that’s proceeding. I guess the good news here is we

are getting that phase one. I mean they’re moving forward as fast as they can. And it’s always

good to see that, you know, the financing was in place for them to get this going. And so it’s not

going to live vacant you know, for a long period of time. Or again, for it to revert back to use by

right stuff that we don’t like. So, you know.

Rico: [00:10:09] And the fact that they clear cut it, you’d hope that they, you know, the

development will move fast. I mean, the worst thing to have is clear cut land that just sits there.

Brian: [00:10:17] No, they are wanting to, they’re wanting to get as much of the site work as they

can before the weather turns against us. And it either gets, you know, rainy or cold or both. So,

you know, they’re blowing and going. And you know, again, when that happens fast, it’s

oftentimes like, woah, that’s a change, but yeah.

Rico: [00:10:34] So let’s move along a little bit. Also the Town Center, those townhouses are

coming up. I’ve been noticing that. I think, I don’t know if half of them are up now or, but quite a

few of them are up. Is that going well, do you know anything about that development at this

point?

Brian: [00:10:50] Much like townhomes though, especially at that price point, they typically go in

phases, meaning they will do a percentage of them and then sell them. And the proceeds of the

sale of that, you know, phase then are used to go into the next one. They are proceeding. I

mean, there has, they have not hit any kind of a wall where they’re saying, Oh, we, you know,

we’re not able to fill units. So we have every indication that it is proceeding exactly how Lanar

had planned it to proceed. So, yes, that’s good. Rooftops at Town Center slash Forum, you

know, Rooftops at what has become art downtown are important because those are walk up

customers to the businesses that are there that help keep these businesses in business.

Rico: [00:11:45] Are you hearing anything more about, I know we asked about, I asked about

this a month ago, but you know, things change, about the apartments project? Slash Indigo on

Town Center? Anything more about that?

Brian: [00:11:59] No. I mean, you know, again, other than having been notified that, you know,

hotel construction is probably not in the cards for that site within the time period we gave the

owner of the site to construct it. Because he was given, I believe it was four years to start

construction to actually, you know, have an approved site plan and move forward with it. And

he’s now within two years left. And so yes, there will not be not because our site is not, but there

is nobody building new hotels right now.

Rico: [00:12:39] Is Hilton hotel closed? That’s what I heard. The Hilton is closed and the Marriott

hotel might only be about a 20% occupancy rate. I could be off, but I understand the Hilton hotel

is actually closed at this point.

Brian: [00:12:54] I don’t know the answer to that. I have not heard that. I do know that as Hilton’s

go in Metro Atlanta, that is one of the better performing ones. According to, you know, Gwinnett

County and the tourism, you know, who has a real good. But, you know, these, there are

transitions. I also do know that that property had some upgrades that have been kind of in the,

on deck circle for them. They may have taken this as an opportunity to do those while the

occupancy is down. And, you know, and I know that the Marriott, all hotels, occupancy is way

down. I don’t know what percentage, but we do, I see Marriott’s parking lot because I drive past

it more than the Hilton. And there are significant enough cars in the parking lot for me to know

that it’s not just staff. So with…

Rico: [00:13:49] You know sure. And the Hilton I’m thinking is temporarily closed to what I

understand from a couple of restauranteurs that I’ve spoken to. Other developments going on

the Governor’s Lake across the Peachtree industrial Boulevard, depending where you come

from. 75 acres, they’re looking to rezone that to multi-use development. How’s that going? I

understand there’s a first read that happened this past Tuesday. How does that look to you?

Brian: [00:14:17] Well, so to go back about three to four months. Those who you know are

involved in the city may remember there was an application, a rezoning application by the owner

of the undeveloped property in this area to rezone a portion of the property he owns. He owns

about 87 total acres over there. And he was wanting to have about a third of it rezoned for

townhomes. And they were basically on both sides of Jones Mill Road in that area. And his

application was significant to the city because to rezone it in the direction he wanted away from

industrial and towards residential or mixed use, was significant because he was asking the city

to change our future land use map and our comp plan. Because, you know, the rezoning would

have been contrary to how the future land use map looks for that area. And so it’s kind of a

significant move in the city’s eight and a half years. We have never had a rezoning that required

us to change our future land use map. And as you know, as a former planning commissioner,

you know, that that map is pretty, it’s kind of sacrosanct because it’s, that’s kind of the get guide

you use. If people want to rezone and you’re all like, okay, they want to resume, well, what do,

what is our future land use map hold for that property to ultimately become in our mind. And if

it’s not headed that direction, it causes you to pause.

Rico: [00:15:55] Also, you’re planning things out. The County and the state, they’re planning

roads, water, traffic. I mean, it’s not just, we rezone it it’s because there’s plans being developed

because of that plan.

Brian: [00:16:06] Right. And so it’s kind of a big step. And so there was some concern by council

expressed to the applicant that, you know, Hey, all right, this is a big step. Well, what about the

other two thirds of the property that you own that’s undeveloped? Because when you consider

the whole thing, it’s basically the last large remaining undeveloped track we have in the city. And

so there was some discussion about what that would be. And so then the applicant or the owner

withdrew the application. And has gone back and has had some discussions and done some

things, you know, planning wise and has resubmitted a rezoning application that includes the

entire remaining undeveloped acreage. So that’s what the app, that’s the application that’s going

back through council instead of just wanting to rezone a portion. It’s to rezone the whole thing.

And so that discussion, which will, you know, when it ensues will be about all of it.

Rico: [00:17:08] Does it, does it pretty much include the townhouses where he had specked

them out? I guess he must have submitted a site plan, I guess.

Brian: [00:17:15] So, originally there was two, it was really two separate rezonings for each side

of Jones Mill Road. There was about, I want to say it’s about 12 acres on what would be, I

guess the South side of Jones mill road, the farther away from the Governor’s Lake property

that had already been approved by council. That company building those homes, McKinley

homes had been interested in taking and doing their product on the other side of the road. That

had been part of the application. When the owner withdrew the application, he did decide and

McKinley homes are still moving forward with the original, like 12ish acres townhomes. That

development is still happening. But the part that was in the 80 acres, has been withdrawn. And

now it’s just waiting on the entire rezoning to work its way through the system.

Rico: [00:18:15] See my fear would be that he just came back three months later and decide,

let’s do this. And then still build what he wants and then still, maybe not do the rest of it. So, you

know, multiuse development means a lot. It means different things to different people, right? It

could be… I mean, that area is perfect for mid-rise, let’s say with office retail, and creating really

nice look to it, or it could be someone that says, well, we’re going to have townhouses in this

portion. We’re gonna have offices here and we’re going to have retail separate. You know, I

mean, hopefully there’s, like you said, it’s the last 75. It’s the last largest parcel. And, then

where it’s located could stand to have a better their development. And something forward

thinking first is the run of the mill, same stuff that they’re always is. They break up the parcels.

So we’re going to do residential here. We’ll do some office here. We’ll do some retail here and it

becomes a strip thing and stuff versus something a little bit more thought out.

Brian: [00:19:23] We agree. Remember that was by design included in the area that the

redevelopment authority will be looking at. Council recognize the importance of it, which is why

it kind of wanted to have a discussion about all of the parcels so that we make sure that it’s

done in a, you know, kind of cohesive well-thought-out manner. We definitely do not want to

necessarily have it just cut up and have conventional use there. I think it’s an opportunity. So

what we’re trying to do, we’ve kind of taken the property and help the applicant. You know,

guide them a little bit, say, look, break the parcel up into kind of pods, or we call it a bubble plan

where you kind of break the large thing up into areas of the site that may have, that may be

better served for certain types of uses. You know, like maybe closer to PIB might be a better

place to have businesses that need high visibility. You know, maybe closer to some of the lakes

back there might be a good place to have some, you know, multifamily, you know, I mean,

maybe there’s some mix. I mean, so we’re trying to, you know, get the applicant to come give

the applicant flexibility, but ensure that the ingredients are there for the applicant to maybe

come up with a product that we all are like, wow, that’s really cool.

Rico: [00:20:52] So there’s a second read that’s going to happen in October’s city council

meeting.

Brian: [00:20:57] November city council meeting.

Rico: [00:20:59] November. Okay. November. And then it’s going to be voted on after.

Brian: [00:21:04] It’ll be voted on at the same meeting.

Rico: [00:21:08] Okay. All right. So if anyone cares about that and they should, that’s the

meeting to be at, right? You know, like you said, the weren’t a lot of people maybe that

remembered or were around two and a half years ago about the East Jones bridge project. That

also went through public notice that also went through public meetings. It was not a surprise to

anyone. There was 900 plus acres. What was surprising to me back then was that no one that I

knew really cared about the density there. They will all for it, regardless of 55 and older, it’s like,

it doesn’t matter. It’s still 900 units, but you know, everyone was, I didn’t hear a peep and they

might’ve been some people maybe, but obviously it wasn’t enough. I don’t remember city

council, and I went to that city council meeting. So I can’t help but tell people, if you are

concerned about certain things, you really need to show up to the city council meetings, right?

Even in COVID, I mean, you could do that safely there, I think. So there’s that. The, one of the

biggest things also that just happened in this last city council meeting is the public facilities

authority that was established. A refunding revenue bond that was voted on and approved to be

put together. And so tell us about that. That’s to pay back some of the purchase money I think

for city hall, we said, and for the Chili property, that’s next to the Town Center property that was

purchased. So give us a…

Brian: [00:22:38] So a number of years ago, we created the public facilities authority. The

purpose at the time was for the city to have a mechanism to enter into long term leases. And the

reason we were doing it is because we had just entered the final year of the lease at the original

building that was city hall. And so when you enter the last year, you start to talk about, alright

what do we want to do? Do we want to stay here? Do we want to find another location? Do we

want at lease? Do we want to buy? But the one thing that, this was shortly after I got to the city,

the one thing that I knew would be a constraint would be if the city itself was entering into a

lease. Cities cannot enter into long term leases because councils cannot commit future councils

of obligations. So the city can have like, can enter into a contract that has five, one year

automatic renewals. Technically speaking at the end of every year, the city has to have the

ability to say we’re out without any repercussions. So it’s really one year leases. But you can

imagine that if the city is negotiating with the property owner for a lease, if I wanted to lease

something from you, and I said, I can only do, guarantee you one year at a time. Even though I

want to do it for five years, but each year I can just leave. You wouldn’t give me the same terms

with that much flexibility on my part versus if I came to you and I said, yes, I’m prepared to

execute a five year lease. And if I leave before the five years, you get to keep, you know, down

payment or there could be other, you know, penalties. So the public facilities authority was

created so that if the city was going to lease city hall, the public facilities authority could be the

one who negotiates and enters into the lease because it can enter into long term leases.

Rico: [00:24:45] Right. It can also do what they’re doing now.

Brian: [00:24:50] That’s correct. So we didn’t use it. Because as you know, most people know

we found a deal that we could buy a building, renovate it, lease the upstairs. And at the end of

the day after what do we have? Like seven years left, we will own a 60,000 square foot building.

Versus, for only about $400 a month more than we were paying to lease 12,500 square foot. So

really great deal. We bought the building, but recently the city’s finance director is, you know,

and I have some good staff members, was kind of kicking over stones to see where maybe we

can, you know, look for savings and this and that. And did a little bit of consulting with some,

you know, consultants of ours and realized that with the current economic conditions as they

are, using the public facilities authority the city could take the two debt notes that we currently

have. One on the city hall building and one on the property, the remaining undeveloped property

out at the Town Center. That’s along, you know, the town green there. And put them together

and have the public facilities authority do a float of public bond and refinance it. And so we’re

going to use the public facilities authority to combine those two notes and put it out on the

municipal bond market. And the current terms as we will get them look like we will be saving

about $1.2 million over the course of the note. Or about a little over a hundred thousand dollars

a year for 10 years.

Rico: [00:26:42] Wow, that that is very smart. Who is your finance person?

Brian: [00:26:48] Cory Salley is the name of our finance director. And so yes, that is why I

recruited him. And he has been my finance director in other municipalities and he has done it

there too. And so yes, that is why you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you

and I have done that in, in all of my you know, department level positions that work directly for

me. So, yeah, it has been, you know, that’s just an example where we, you know, we are in a

position to save some money and do it without really doing anything other than using

mechanisms that we have at our disposal and the current economic conditions and interest

rates as they are. And so that’s real savings that we can turn around and invest back in the

community.

Rico: [00:27:33] So that money that’s being raised is that raising just the amount? I think that

was about 5.1 million or so. Is that just raising that or is the bonds are the bonds going to raise

more money?

Brian: [00:27:46] No, no, no. You know, the 1.2 million over the course of the 10 years is just in

the savings that we’ll realize yearly. But we’re not pushing the, we’re not amortizing it over any

longer period of time. And it’s just that the interest rates are better when we do it on the public,

you know, the municipal bond public market, then the privately placed bonds that we did initially.

And the PFA has some aspects to it that makes, you know, bond investors, you know, feel

better. So when you just combine all those ingredients in the economic conditions, this is just

savings realized by merely having the bond redone.

Rico: [00:28:29] Sure, okay. So it’s the same money, it’s just done in a different way.

Brian: [00:28:32] That’s exactly right.

Rico: [00:28:34] Alright. We want to also, I want to recognize the fact that city, the smart city

we’ve been involved in. I mean, you’ve been speaking at a lot of places that deal with smart city

technology. A lot of conferences, there was a big smart city expo here in Atlanta a year ago.

Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners celebrates its first anniversary this past week or so, a couple

of weeks ago. So it’s been a year. A year of development work, a year of having companies

come in. Companies come in, companies leaving. I think we had the Olie at one point. It’s not

there now, but we have E-Scooters. But there are certainly more companies like Bosch

technologies I believe is there. There’s a bunch of companies coming in. So where are we with

you know, Curiosity Lab, as a magnet for bringing into a living lab, different technologies? It’s

not just autonomous vehicles. People may just think it’s that, but it’s a lot more than that, right?

It’s everything that involves 5G technology, smart city, everything from lamp posts to traffic, to

buildings, even. I mean we have ASHRAE building a building. Renovating a whole building with

new HVAC that’s supposed to be smart technology and cutting edge, right? So tell us a little bit

about what’s going on now a year later with Curiosity Lab.

Brian: [00:29:49] Alright so, you know, as a reminder, when we decided to build, you know, a

living lab, you know, Curiosity Lab, the purpose then and now is for economic development. And

so this was our way of looking at economic development. And in addition to doing your

conventional stuff, we thought we were in a unique position to leverage something that the city

already is uniquely qualified to leverage. And that is take public infrastructure we own and make

it available to private companies to use for the purposes of testing or demonstration. And by

doing that, by offering something that private companies can’t do on their own, we get activity

and that’s where we’ve benefited. So again, the thought here was if you were a company that

wanted to come out and use Curiosity Lab just for one day. Wanted to come out here and run a

vehicle up. If you wanted to put a device out there and track some things, whatever you did, but

even just one day. Generally speaking, you’re going to still be hungry at lunch and that means

you’re going to probably eat in our restaurants. That’s activity. If you’re here a couple of days,

cause you’ve got a team and you’re going to test, you’re going to probably stay in our hotels.

And there’s the activity that we, by creating this magnet get. Now we were at the time that we

did this, our wildest dreams were that we have what’s called permanent economic development

activity is the recruitment of companies to do things in the city permanently that weren’t there

doing there before that action. And we have had that happen even in the first year. Because of

Curiosity Lab, we had two buildings that are on the track itself. One was the former Honeywell

Aerospace building and one was former recall building. That had been vacant for a number of

years and the fact that in Honeywell building’s case longer than the city had been a city. And

because of Curiosity Lab, two companies decided to relocate their global headquarters here.

And the final reason that they chose it was this location over others that they were looking at

was because of Curiosity Lab and the synergy they wanted to be a part of with the companies

that were here doing testing. And these are companies that are not even direct users of the lab,

but they wanted to be close to companies that were using it because they were like, we may

end up having synergies together. I mean, you mentioned Bosch. We have Cisco that has

become a partner. In addition to it we’ve got Georgia power and, you know, T-Mobile, which

used to be Sprint. And you know, Georgia tech and Kennesaw state university. And these are

companies that are doing real things out here, bringing people out here to test, to demonstrate,

to collaborate. It wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for us, these companies want to be here. And

so within the first year, we’ve already filled over a hundred thousand square feet of vacant office

building and had over 500 jobs move here that wouldn’t have had if it hadn’t been for Curiosity

Lab. And those are people who ultimately are going to want to live close to where they work.

They’re going to shop in our stores. They’re going to eat in our restaurant. Primarily they may be

renting or buying houses here. And so that’s real activity. And that’s why we did this and it is

paying in spades. We’re excited about the possibilities moving forward, but, you know, we just

have activity that we would’ve never had if it hadn’t been for COVID the hotels were that are

especially the four that are on the track. And even a couple that are just, you know, like just a

couple of hundred yards off track, were already showing increased numbers. Of you know, of

people staying in the hotel that could say, yeah, we’re here because of something at Curiosity

Lab. And so that’s why we did it. That’s why it has been working. That’s why it continues to

work. And, you know, we’re working hard to, you know, continue those efforts. So when this

COVID, you know, fog is lifted, we’ll hit the ground running again. And like you said, we’re

talking at a lot of conferences, you know. Of course it’s, you know, virtual conferences right now,

but the word gets out. And people are, you know, lots of companies are here kicking the tires

saying, Hey, you know, we want to do something. One interesting note is, you know, so

Curiosity Lab has a vehicle that is available to companies to put technology on, to test, you

know, in the advanced vehicle arena. And with COVID, we’ve had to get creative in how we do

things. We have an Israeli company that is in the LIDAR you know, arena. And they have a new

LIDAR that they want to test on a vehicle for use in autonomous vehicles, you know, later on.

And, but because of COVID, they can’t fly over here and do it. So what they’re doing is they are

shipping the technology, the components to the States. They’re shipping it to an office they have

in New York city and then that individual is assembling it. And then is shipping it from New York

down here. And they are virtually going to talk us through some technicians we have on how to

install it on the vehicle and start testing it. And then without actually having people having to fly,

you know, given that they can’t do it right now. So we’re, we’re thinking outside the box. But you

know, those kinds of things will help again, get some people and some activity out here, so

exciting stuff. But again, it’s hard to gauge in some cases how much more activity has happened

before because of Curiosity Lab. But in year one, we at least have two buildings and two

companies and over 500 jobs that we can put our finger on and say, thanks to Curiosity Lab.

Rico: [00:36:21] For sure. And there are definitely other companies still coming to Peachtree

Corners like CarMax with their consumer, I think their call center. They’ve added, I don’t know,

three, four, 500 jobs or something.

Brian: [00:36:32] Yeah. CarMax’s experience center has expanded beyond 500 jobs even in the

COVID environment because we worked hard when they initially located here. It’s about

relationships. And if you work hard to develop, you know, to cultivate a relationship when that

corporate office, it was time for them to look at the areas of the US where there were already

experienced centers and they wanted to expand because they’re doing well. They could have

gone to any of them, but they decided to expand here because our economic development

department and my individuals that are in that are, you know, work really hard to have that

cultivate those relationships and they pay off.

Rico: [00:37:15] You know, we were discussing before we started the podcast that, the

economy, has really taken a hit. But that, you know, there’ll be, there may yet be several more

businesses, closing restaurants and stuff like that unfortunately. But that, you know, there’s

going to be such a celebration I think after, you know, hopefully within, by maybe second or third

quarter, we were talking 2021. Where, you know, the vaccine has been spread out to people.

Herd immunity might take hold if there is such a thing with this. And businesses will slowly be

coming back as they are now. But I think people will be more confident later and you know, no

doubt there’ll be an explosion of activity. We’ll probably see an economic expansion at that

point. Because I even see it now, there are businesses opening now that are taking advantage

of different things. You know, tutoring companies, new franchises opening because of the

distance learning and things going on with that. People taking advantage of opening up new

restaurants, especially in Atlanta. When you’re seeing restaurants closing, but there are

restaurants opening because they’re able to get better rates. They’re able to find equipment that

was someone else’s equipment. So they’re smaller investments in some of these restaurants

opening up. And of course people, maybe because of the you know, out of work and stuff,

they’ve decided to open up their own business. They’re finding places to do that and maybe

businesses to be in. So there’s a little bit give and take in this environment it seems. You know, I

know the city has been very helpful to business community, especially holding off, you know, at

the beginning, holding off business license payments and stuff like that. I know that sign

ordinances have been, you know, adjusted to allow business, to be able to put up.

Brian: [00:39:08] Outdoor seating…

Rico: [00:39:10] Yeah. And even the events that are going up, so the city’s still putting on

concerts. The last one even, you know, I mean Town center can hold 5,000 people, I guess. But

maybe there were about five or 600 people there, but that was the max, right? You guys sold

out that within 24 to 48 hours I think. Sold out, you know, and…

Brian: [00:39:32] Well, you know, speaking of that real quick. It’s interesting, you know, we do

feel strongly about if we can do it, continue to do it responsibly and safely to have events out

there because A, it helps the businesses at the town center. Because oftentimes those people

spend money before or after. And too just, you know, it’s a quality of life thing. Our residents

want to have something to go do and just, you know, get out of the house or whatever. But we,

you know, we can only it’s just around 600, maybe just under max where we had 6,000 at that

second concert last year out there. And so, yeah, it’s a stark difference, but you know, there’s a

lot of demands. So when we, so you got to reserve the circles, you know, that have put it out

there. We sold out in nine minutes. For drive in, this Saturday night, nine minutes.

Rico: [00:40:34] Wow.

Brian: [00:40:35] So, you know, people want to. Now, unfortunately we’re struggling a little bit

with, it’s really we’re, because it’s limited. We want it to be for Peachtree Corners residents.

Rico: [00:40:48] Yes.

Brian: [00:40:49] And there might be some indications of some gaming of the system by people

who don’t live in Peachtree Corners. So unfortunately there might be some, you know, residents

that we would have liked to have participated in this, and they can’t because others, you know,

moved in. But we’re working on trying to, you know, we’re not trying to have everybody show us

their ID, but it is, you know, it is unfortunate when, you know, we’re trying to make it for our local

community and others not so local jump in and get it. But anyway, yes, those are the little things

that we’re trying to do to try to, you know, local economy as much as we can.

Rico: [00:41:28] Yeah. I never thought about that, but I guess there would be people coming in

from outside that would want to see the concert. It’s tough. You know, and there’s probably

some somewhat easy ways to do it, but intrusive ways to do it, right? Because you’d have to

know where people are living, geolocate them. Maybe they purchase it through an app and or

maybe they registered their home somehow as part of that purchase and stuff. But, oh well

things happen. But the city’s moving along. Great, great stuff is happening. I’m really proud of

the way the city has been moving along. Sure there’s things that I, you know, that I hate too.

The clear cutting and things, but those are part of development, would have been on the East

Jones bridge road would have been the same thing as we see now, regardless of anything

happening. But you know, we are an expanding city, and it’s going to be that way. Nothing

shrinks. Unless you’re a small town out in some place and you’re losing businesses and then do

you want to be that town? You know, so I don’t think so. I think we want to be able to.

Brian: [00:42:39] We would agree. I mean, again, growth, you know, and change can

sometimes be uncomfortable and, but it’s better than the alternative because there is no pause

button. You’re basically either growing or you’re not. And we’d much rather be the growing than

the not. One other thing, when it comes to that though that may be of interest is, you know,

pedestrian bridge. So we’ve got, we are just a couple weeks away from finishing the bridge.

We’ve got the elevators, you know, got to go through final inspections and all that kind of stuff.

On the road you probably have seen the lanterns as we call it, which are the caps on the towers

that will have interior lighting. So those are what are being assembled on the side of the road.

And then a crane will lift them up to the top and those will be installed. And we’ve got the stairs

going down from the bridge into the Forum side are getting ready to be constructed. And then

the last is the panels. If you look at the bridge, you’ll notice that it looks like about four panels on

each side. There’s gaps for four panels to come in. Those panels should be getting here shortly

and assembled. Those are the remaining panels that had to be precision cut based on how the

arch came down through the panels. And, you know, there’s a lot of very precise cutting of those

panels to get them in. And so, you know, lead times, you know, companies are just not

operating as efficiently. The company that cuts the panels had, is a smaller precision metal

company that had a big COVID outbreak. So it kind of shut them down for a period of time. And

so anyway, just wanted to let everybody know that, you know, the bridge is not but a number of

weeks away from it being done. And then, you know, when it’s open, you’ll be able to walk from

one to the other and then we’ll be able to remove at great crossing opportunities down below it

at town center. And so that means that there won’t be the ability for a pedestrian to force the

traffic to wait at that intersection longer because they actuated the pedestrian crossing, that’ll be

removed. So it should help traffic at least get through that section quicker because there will

never be that time when you’re sitting there with no, you know, waiting on it to be changed but

aunt Mabel, is still. So anyway, that’s where that is.

Rico: [00:45:26] Okay. It’ll be the normal traffic of cars moving around other than, someone

pressing that pedestrian button. Yeah. Well, great. We’ve spent a good 45 minutes talking about

things that affect the city, the residents of this city. And it’s always good to be able to get the

facts, to be able to discuss things that are going on, things that are upcoming. It’s always a

pleasure, Brian, to be able to do this with you.

Brian: [00:45:52] Hey, thanks for having me. Thanks for providing this, you know, vehicle to get

information out for, you know, our residents. People get it different ways and your podcast is

certainly one that I hear people getting it from. So I appreciate the opportunity.

Rico: [00:46:05] Love doing it. Thank you, Brian.

Brian: [00:46:07] All right, take care.

Rico: [00:46:09] Bye.

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City Government

Gwinnett County Burn Ban Ends Sept. 30

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The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) imposes a total ban on outdoor burning in Gwinnett County annually from May 1 to September 30.

Once the Burn Ban has been lifted on Oct. 1, please note you MUST first check with Gwinnett County Fire Marshall as to whether it is an allowable burn day. Many factors such as atmospheric conditions come into play that affect whether you can burn, and this can change daily.

A few of these factors are – prevailing winds that are predicted to be, or are, in excess of 15 miles per hour, air pollution episodes, the National Weather Service issues a “Red Flag Warning” or a “Fire Weather Watch,” when there is fog, rain, or a cloud base that is diffused or ill-defined – these are just some of the factors taken into consideration as to whether it will be an allowable burn day or not.

The burning of leaves, limbs, and natural vegetation on one’s property shall not be less than fifty (50) feet from any structure and not less than twenty-five (25) feet from the property line. No burning of solid waste or household garbage is allowed. Burning is NOT allowed on Sundays or at night.

This is not the full content of the Gwinnett Department of Fire and Emergency Services “Outdoor and Open Burning” and “Outdoor Burning Ordinance Restrictions” and should not be interpreted as such. For the complete content please visit the Gwinnett County Fire Marshal site then select the tab on the left marked “Outdoor Burning.”

Remember BEFORE BURNING check with Gwinnett County Fire Marshal first at either of the two contacts below:

Burn Information Line– 678-518-4979 or www.gwinnettfiremarshal.com
The Burn Information line and website are updated daily by 9:00 a.m.

If you suspect someone is improperly burning, please report it by calling 770-513-5700.

*Remember: Do not bury the fire. The fire will continue to smolder. Tree roots could catch on
fire which will eventually surface and start a wildfire. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to
leave!

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City Government

Q&A: How to Keep Up with City News, More Corners Connector Trail Plans and Annual State of City Address Update

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From the Mayor’s Desk September 2020

In this month’s column, I will provide information on how you can stay informed with what’s going on in your city; more news on the multi-use trail and how it will connect to the new pedestrian bridge; and announce how and when I will deliver my annual state-of-the-city address.

Q: There seems to be a lot of misinformation of late posted on social media concerning several city projects. People are posting incorrect information which gets passed along as facts. Is there a place on the city’s website that provides updates?

A: Yes there is. On the city’s website, peachtreecornersga.gov, you will find the latest updates on all projects. Most can be found in the “News” section which is located on the homepage. You can also use the “Search” feature in the top right side of the page if you’re not sure where to look. And if you have a question, you can simply email or call City Hall. Our staff is happy to answer any of your questions. You can find contact information for staff by clicking on the “Contact Us” link at the top of the homepage.

I would urge you to consult the website rather than relying on social media to ensure you get
the facts. If you prefer to talk by telephone, or meet in person, our city staff will be glad to accommodate you. And remember to reach out to your elected official. All of us welcome
hearing from our citizens. You can find City Council contact information listed under the
“Contact Us” link as well.

Q: Sometimes I miss the city’s latest news when it comes out, and I don’t always remember to
check the city’s website to keep up. Is there a way to get the news delivered to me via email?

A: I’m glad you asked. Yes, the city’s website has a feature called “e-notifications” that allows
you to sign up to receive an email when a new update is posted. On the website, click on the link at the top of the homepage labeled “NotifyMe!” then select e-Notifications. You’ll see a list of options: Select “All News” to receive all news items. You also have the option to receive notices of upcoming City Council meetings, Town Center events and more. The news notices are emailed as soon as they are posted to the website. The calendar notices are sent six days before the event. If you need further information, please send an email to info@peachtreecornersga.gov with your questions.

The second way to keep up with the latest news is to download the city app, Corners Connect.
The app is free and available for both iPhones and Android users. Look for the app in the App
Store (iPhone) and Play Store (Android phones).

Q: Now that the bridge is near completion, what are the plans when pedestrians exit on either
side? Are there plans to connect with the city’s Corners Connector Trail?

A: Yes. On the Town Center side, we are working on a new section of the Corners Connector
Trail which will wind through a stand of trees and along a small creek. This new section begins
behind the Lazy Dog restaurant and will connect to the Town Green. It will include a path down to the stream and a footbridge over the water onto the opposite bank. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2021.

On The Forum side: This property belongs to The Forum. The property management company
has confirmed it is working on plans for an ADA accessible concrete pedestrian path which will
connect to the shopping center. More details to follow.

Q: Your annual state-of-the-city address is usually held in July. Do you still plan on providing
residents with an update?

A: Yes, but this year’s address will be quite different than in years past due to the coronavirus
restrictions. This will be my 7th address as your city mayor and unlike years past when we all
met in person, the 2020 address will be presented as a video. It was shot in different locations
throughout the city. In it, I will give a brief look back at the tremendous strides that have been
made in our city’s eight years – and a look toward the future. The video will be released on
Wednesday Sept. 16. Look for an announcement posted on the city’s website in the “News”
section with a link to the video. All who have signed up for e-notification will receive an email
with the video link.

If you’ve not yet signed up for the city’s e-notifications, visit the city’s website, then click on the link at the top of the homepage labeled “Notify Me,” select eNotifications, and select the “All News” option.

Stay Safe,
Mayor Mike Mason

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