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Prime Lunchtime with Brian Johnson – Olli, Autonomous Vehicles, 5G and Smart City

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Prime Lunchtime with Brian Johnson

City Government

Smart City Expo World Congress Wrapup, Nuisance Ordinance, Pedestrian Bridge and Lidl

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City Manager Brian Johnson

This time on Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager, Rico sits down with Brian to discuss his experience at the Smart City Expo World Congress as well as all the new and exciting developments in the City of Peachtree Corners. Topics today include; an update on the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, the 141 pedestrian bridge, RaceTrac construction, Lidl and nuisance regulations.

Timestamp:
[00:00:30] Introduction
[00:00:47] Smart City Expo World Congress
[00:17:47] Pedestrian Bridge update
[00:18:52] New businesses in the Town Center
[00:21:26] Boutique Super Market
[00:22:42] RaceTrac construction
[00:26:12] Redevelopment authority
[00:33:04] Nuisance Regulation
[00:39:52] Closing

“We unveiled a video in which not only shows how the lab operates now, but how it could be
used to operate in the not too distant future as technology is getting more advanced… it kind of hopefully puts into perspective when people hear about this and they’re trying to envision, we’re trying to take that imagination part out of the equation and actually show them what it looks like in real life and then show them the invisible part of what makes our lab unique.”

Brian Johnson
Please excuse the first minute of audio only on this video

Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini. I’m the host of Peachtree Corners Life mainly and publisher of Peachtree corners magazine. But today, as we always do it once a month, is Brian Johnson city manager of Peachtree Corners my guest for Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager. Thank you, Brian. 

Brian: [00:00:46] Thanks for having me.

Rico: [00:00:47] He was across the ocean, across the pond, as some people say, doing, actually, some great work for the city looking to bring more economic impact to the city of Peachtree corners. So that was the world, the smart city, smart city world Congress…

Brian: [00:01:02] Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona. That’s correct.

Rico: [00:01:04] You got a, you got a chance to be able to meet quite a few companies. So tell us a little bit about what went on. 

Brian: [00:01:12] So that smart city expos, the world’s largest smart city conference, and there’s over 30,000 participants in that conference, and we were invited for the second year to be part of the Metro Atlanta delegation, which is part of the US delegation to that conference. And this year we were asked to speak. About curiosity lab. And as part of our speaking engagement, we unveiled a video that we had made about curiosity labs. And you know, we can talk about that in a second, but we unveiled it. And then of course, we use the remainder of the conference beyond that to meet with lots of different, countries and companies within those countries that there might be some interest in utilizing in our facility. And of course, you know, the, the advantage there is that we get activity based on people coming in and using it for testing more, or even just demonstration. And so we talk to a lot of potential, I’m interested, you know, stakeholders here and, and some that are even interested in being partners, having a long term relationship here. And so now our real work starts. And that’s all the followup to all these, you know, the speed dating that we just did, which is, you know, quick, you know, here’s what each of us are, here’s exchanging of cards, you know, let’s get back in touch.

Rico: [00:02:42] And it’s always about the followup. 

Brian: [00:02:44] It is. And you know, in some cases, just like we do in real life, sometimes you’re not. Super interested in the followup and just tried to be nice 

Rico: [00:02:52] Sometimes. 

Brian: [00:02:53] And other times you really are, and you know, you’re just hoping that both parties ultimately find value and both parties are interested, but there’s plenty of times just like we were, man, remember back when we were dating that you could be interested in that other person and they’re not interested in you, right. Or they’re interested in you and you’re not interested in them, or both of you are interested, but the details just don’t work out. You know? I mean, maybe, you know, you’re going to go, you know, be on opposite sides of the globe or whatever. And so a lot of things have to work out for it to ultimately be consummated in some sort of a relationship.

Rico: [00:03:32] And I think, I think a lot of business people that go to trade shows. Understand this cause you do meet a lot of people. You do have to go through and, and sometimes it’s really funny, the ones that are really interested may not be the ones that do anything. And the ones that are more polite and less looking, less interested, maybe the ones that are doing. But it’s certainly an effort to be able to get through the, the leisure.

Brian: [00:03:53] We don’t go there and set up any kind of like booth per se. And you know, we’re not doing. These are ones that we’ve been invited to speak at. And that’s where we get a lot of momentum. It’s, you know, you’re on a program. People will then go and sit in the audience and listen. And then so then you get a lot of, you hopefully generate buzz by what you present. And so at the end of those talks we have, we have a lot of success with people coming up with their cards and all that was really, you know, interesting. “I didn’t know you guys are doing it. We’d like to come out and visit” and so we get more from that than if you were trying to go out there and just kind of like cold, just go up to somebody called the, okay.

Rico: [00:04:37] This is, it’s always better putting out that information. It’s like putting out a reel, on a fishing line to seeing if anyone’s going to bite 

Brian: [00:04:43] It is and the cool thing about this one is for the first time, you know, we’ve, we’ve had PowerPoints that we show. To show some pictures of things and you know, it’s evolved from renderings and you know, you’ve seen the evolution, you know where you go and you know, we’ve had some renderings before about what we thought it was going to look like or hope it will look like. And that kind of went into some still pictures of what it does look like, even though it’s still not done yet. We still have used a little bit more signage. We’re actually tweaking some of them. But this time, we unveiled a video in which it was going to show, or does show not only how the lab operates now, but how it could be used to operate in the not too distant future as technology is getting more advanced and, and so it, it kind of hopefully puts into perspective when people hear about this and they’re trying to envision, we’re trying to take that, that, you know, imagination part out of the equation and actually show them what it looks like in real life and then show them the invisible part of what makes our lab unique, which is all that.

Rico: [00:05:59] You know, what’s great about Titan pictures did a great job on putting that together. The fact that you had, that we have a live lab that, the drone shots of actual real cars on an existing road, a mixture of that with, with animation, really good animation about what that role can do. Really, I think pieces that together, I mean through people can better imagine that when you start seeing all the connections as you’re driving that down that road.

Brian: [00:06:25] That was part of the, you know, the, the intent was you know, just like you just brought up connected vehicle, you know, we talk about, Oh, a vehicle driving down the road, being able to communicate with other things and you know, terms are oftentimes V to X vehicle to everything. Right? Then there is its vehicle to infrastructure, vehicle to pedestrian, vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to, you know, you have all these. But until you see how much communication there could be in a real live, you know, like video format where you’re like, Oh, wow, you know, a car really could be, you know, getting all this data and sending out data of itself to other people. It puts, you know, again, it puts things into perspective that you haven’t imagined it.

Rico: [00:07:12] And, you know, especially with all the things going on now, when you think about the electric car vehicles coming up from some major companies that are pushing out electric vehicles now, and even with the Elon Musk, a truck that was introduced the other day, the Bulletproof glass didn’t quite work, but, but, and the fact that it looks like it’s one of these vehicles from those, one of the role playing games on Xbox. But these vehicles are out there and they’re programmed eventually that they can be updated to drive on these roads. So all this stuff is happening now. It’s not like this is not out there. So this is the perfect time to be doing this.

Brian: [00:07:52] I mean, we literally, as we talk right now, have a driverless shuttle operating on a road that has human driven vehicles at the same time. You know, this is a public street that has a driverless vehicle on it. So this, yeah, it is happening right now.

Rico: [00:08:11] So the fact that we’re doing this, you’ve met a lot of people there in Barcelona, you know, do you, do you expect, I mean, are there any more, are there any companies in the pipeline right now that you can talk about? The, the, maybe the, maybe doing things at this point? 

Brian: [00:08:27] Well, it’s hard to say on that just because, you know, these corporations get real squeamish on their, their, their name being thrown onto something that we haven’t, that we haven’t executed an agreement. I can say this much. Where we’ve got a lot of interest is companies that are headquartered in some of the, in, in, in countries that we’ve had some discussions. So a lot of it is pushed by a country who has a big company that is headquartered in that country, and that country’s interested in that company that comes from that country having more of a presence here, and this is an opportunity. So, you know, we had really good conversations with some of the Nordic countries that were there with Canada, with France, with Taiwan. And we of course executed a moment, a intergovernmental agreement or MOU really between us in the Taiwan, US trade office. And we executed that a couple of weeks ago, so we actually have a formal agreement with them. And then South Korea, those are countries that had, you know, delegations there that were, came over and were really interested in continuing conversation. Cause they have specific companies that are in their countries that they would like to maybe either expand their presence or in some cases establish a presence in the US. And this isn’t a location that they’re considering what we tend to be up against. And it was not just Peachtree Corners, it was all of the Metro Atlanta delegation.

Rico: [00:10:17] So the, there was the US section, those zones.

Brian: [00:10:19] We had a big pavilion that was the US and it had other locations in the US and then part of that big pavilion, we had a Metro Atlanta section. 

Rico: [00:10:30] Okay. 

Brian: [00:10:31] And it was kind of. You know, the Southeast really, because there were a couple other companies that are not necessarily just in Metro Atlanta. But anyway, as we’re talking to companies, you know, there’s always a, initial interest from foreign companies or foreign countries. And when they’re coming into the US they’re either going to be, they want to go to Silicon Valley. Or New York city, you know. Those are the two areas that they’re like, “Oh, you know, if we want to have to establish a presence, we want to go to those too.” So there’s a lot of conversation and we’re getting some traction about discussing that a

The Metro Atlanta area has a lot of tech going on, more than people realize.

Rico: [00:11:18] You have Alpharetta for one thing.

Brian: [00:11:20] Alpharetta is a great one. You’ve got, you know, tech square downtown, you know, with Georgia tech, you know, you got what we’re doing. You’ve got a bunch of things here that offer some advantages. You have a lot of fortune 500 companies that are headquartered here. You got a massive…

Rico: [00:11:39] FinTech. You know, for instance.

Brian: [00:11:44] Here, yeah, financial thing. I have a FinTech presence here. You’ve got great easy access because of the airport. And so, and then when you kind of lay out those kinds of things, and then you remind them that yes, Silicon Valley and maybe the, you know, New York city metroplex may have more of the tech, you know, companies and startups than we do here per se. But it’s a, they would be a much smaller fish in a much bigger pond, in a much higher cost of living than to be done here. And so we spend a lot of time, you know, having to convince or at least get people to understand that there’s a unique opportunity here that they may not have realized. And so that’s, you know, it’s a, it’s a challenge sometimes. Sometimes people just want to go with, if they’re going to come in there and you know, they’re like just focused on Silicon Valley, and if they can’t make it, they can’t enter the North American market through Silicon Valley they’re not going to do it. Sometimes that’s the case, but other times they’re like, you know what? That’s interesting. You bring up some, no. Some things to consider. Now, of course, sometimes we get companies who are like, yep, sure, we like them. Metro Atlanta markets.

Rico: [00:13:03] It’s going to take, it’s going to take time. I mean, curiosity lab at Peachtree corners is only how old now? I mean, really,

Brian: [00:13:10] September 11th. 

Rico: [00:13:11] Right? So, I mean, it’s, it’s young and, we’re in a state that I think more and more is willing, certainly in our city, we’re willing to do what is needed. But it also doesn’t hurt to have a state that may be willing to do more for technology on incentives of various sorts. So yeah, it’s gonna take a little time to get there, I think. 

Brian: [00:13:33] But first I do think that also the state of Georgia is starting to really take notice of Curiosity Lab as maybe something, another example in another amenity that they can point to when they’re meeting with, we had the governor’s smart city policy advisor was up here, two weeks ago. He came up to be presented what, you know, and to see Curiosity Lab with his own eyes. I mean, so they’re starting, you know, there’s movement there. And then that looks like the department of economic development, the board of directors for the department of economic development may in fact actually have one of their annual meetings here at Curiosity Lab next year in 2020. Because they’re starting to say, you know, okay, we’re hearing a lot of this. Let’s have a meeting up there. So we’re starting to get noticed at the state level.

Rico: [00:14:33] And that’s great for the state. That’s great for us. I mean, they want to, they want to bring business into the state, so it’s all good. Having low unemployment rate only means you know.

Brian: [00:14:43] All of the things that you can throw out there to a company who’s considering this area you want. So hopefully we become one of those things on the list of. advantages that the state of Georgia offers. Yeah.

Rico: [00:14:55] So cool. Now that we’ve caught up a little bit on the global aspects of where we were, where the city’s been, and curiosity lab, you always take something a little bit of time with that hour of hour, 45 minutes or so together, because it’s a real big part of what the city’s doing.

Brian: [00:15:09] Right now it’s, it is, we have a narrow window of opportunity, I think. And so we’d want to get as much market share as we can and as much visibility as we can. I mean, the one other thing that I can say is, is, you know. Anytime a city is new and people are not used to calling it a city and everything, there’s been a struggle, you know? And all new cities and Georgia have had this struggle with getting people to understand that Peachtree Corners is a city. The law to say, you know, people are still like, you know, no, I thought that was Norcross or you know, right. When you know, and when Norcross has been around for a hundred years, you know, you understand.

Rico: [00:15:50] And we were part of, I mean, we were considered Norcross. We had a

Norcross address.

Brian: [00:15:55] I mean, that was the other, even though this area has never been in Norcross, it’s just. Yeah. And you know, people also don’t realize mailing addresses and zip codes have nothing to do with the city limits. And, but that being said, you know, it’s been a struggle for the city. And I know my communications director, G Putnam has worked very hard to try to get traction on people recognizing that we’re a city and it’s just not. But within the last 12 months that Google has actually put the, Oh, what is it called? The knowledge panel, which is that box. If you Google something, it’s kind of on the right top right there, and it’s only been within the last 12 months. We finally got them to do that for the city. I mean, we’re almost, you know, we’re seven and a half years old. Yeah.

Rico: [00:16:45] But, but, and it took a while for even like a, there’s, I think there’s only three companies, you know, the dropdowns where the city dropped down when you’re doing an order on Amazon or other companies.

Brian: [00:16:55] It’s still, there’s some company agency still does not recognize Peachtree Corners.

Rico: [00:16:59] Right? Isn’t that crazy?

Brian: [00:17:00] Some of it may or may require the next census in maybe next year, the 2020 census to actually get there. But I will say that Curiosity Lab has put, Peachtree has done more in the last year to put Peachtree Corners name out there. Then all of the other efforts, just because it’s unique enough that people pay attention versus, you know, some of the other great things that we’ve done, but there are things that all cities are, a lot of cities do. And so people are like, okay, great. You know, they’re doing a you know, a new town green. Okay. Lots of cities have got trails, or whatever. Again, great stuff that we, you know, want to do for our, for our residents, it’s helped. Don’t think so.

Rico: [00:17:47] Cool. Yeah, for sure. If there’s lots of, when you do Google Peachtree Corners and smart city. I mean, there’s lots of stuff that pops up, so that’s a good thing. So let’s catch up a little bit about, you know, what’s going on here now, in, in, in further in the city. Some other things, pedestrian bridge and hear the banging for my house every once in a while with echoes, depending on how helping farm, you can hear the bing-bing-bing, but it’s, it’s getting, it started, right? So it’s getting to be put up. 

Brian: [00:18:15] How far has, so they’re driving the pilings and you know, for the foundation to, to, you know, to anchor the foundation right there about done with that. So we don’t have to, but, you know, we’re still looking at, you know, maybe February, March, laying the span in and, you know, of course this is all, you know, all go weather permitting and all that kind of stuff. And then maybe mid to late summer of next year being done. 

Rico: [00:18:46] So that’s not bad. It’s getting finally there.

Brian: [00:18:49] It is. It’s happening.

Rico: [00:18:52] There’s also supposed to be a new building going into town center at some point, I guess. Have they gone past the renderings? Where are we with that? That’s the Uncle Jack’s Meat House.

Brian: [00:19:02] And Xfinity. 

Rico: [00:19:04] And Xfinity. That’s right.

Brian: [00:19:05] So yes. The final unconstructed building on the only commercial building, cause you still got the townhomes that are going in the final undeveloped parcel is literally at the corner of town center Boulevard and fishery Parkway.

Rico: [00:19:25] It’s right before, like when you make your right too. You see First Watch there. 

Brian: [00:19:30] It’s in front of First Watch and it’s between First Watch in 141. And it’s right next to, it’s in between…

Rico: [00:19:36] That’s going to be right on the same level up there.

Brian: [00:19:36] …lazy dog. It’s going to be equal to lazy dog. It’s going to be as close to 141 as lazy dog.

Rico: [00:19:43] Oh, okay. Okay. I was imagining and trying to figure out where that was going to actually sit. 

Brian: [00:19:48] If you looked at a map, lazy dog as a parcel, and then as you’re heading North, looking north the next parcel…

Rico: [00:19:55] Right immediate.

Brian: [00:19:56] …is, is the one that Jack’s Meat House and Xfinity will be.

Rico: [00:20:01] And that’s going to start properly, have they filed for stuff with that.

Brian: [00:20:05] They have. So that’s really started. 

Rico: [00:20:08] Oh, okay. Cool. There’s no other construction besides the townhouses going up?

Brian: [00:20:13] Right now no. 

Rico: [00:20:14] And the 75, I think, there, once that’s up, that that’s the rest of it is pertaining to maybe that six, seven acres on the other side. And we’re still looking. There’s still generally…

Brian: [00:20:28] No definitive, you know, the council has, there have been some suggestions about some things that could be. That could go in there. Council’s kind of, you know, just smoking it over right now. We definitely are watching how the town green is being activated, and used and we want it whatever we put there, we want it to be a value add to the town green to public events. So I think that there will be some component that is a value add to public events. And then I know that there’s some interest in some kind of a performing arts venue of some sort.

Rico: [00:21:08] God knows I would love to see that.

Brian: [00:21:08] I don’t think it would be big like Sandy Springs, but it would be a formal. But I do think that there’s interest from council on there being some, some performing arts component to it, so we can make all of that work right there. I think thats…

Rico: [00:21:26] I mean, you even, you have the height there to be able to take it up. It doesn’t have to sprawl wide. I mean, Sandy Springs is a sprawling place, but if you take it up a little bit. And he’s still doing nice 500 seat theater and event space for banquet hall and stuff like that. Art gallery and stuff. Cool. That’s good. Earth Fair is moving along a little bit. I understand. We published something in Peachtree corners magazine that’s coming out the end of this week. Actually I should be getting that today at some point. The magazines delivered, I believe, but the Lidl, I keep doing that. Boutique, it’s a boutique supermarket that’ll be coming in.

Brian: [00:22:10] It is, I mean, it’s the, I guess you could call it literally the brother of Aldi. 

Rico: [00:22:16] Yes, that’s right. 

Brian: [00:22:17] It actually came out of that family. And it was two brothers that actually have splintered over time into three. They all are from the same. All the Lidl and Trader Joe’s are all from the same. It’s rare. So yes, it does appear that that is what’s going in there is, but I think it’s fair to say it’s a boutique grocery store. 

Rico: [00:22:42] Yeah. The Racetrack down down the road on one 41 on that right hand side going North. I think they finally flattened enough land. How close are they to actually, getting pretty close?

Brian: [00:22:55] I mean, you know, that was an extremely complicated and costly site work to get that thing ready to go vertical with a building. Cause you not only had, you know, a large hill that you had to excavate into, but then there’s also a stream.

Rico: [00:23:14] That’s right.

Brian: [00:23:14] And the stream buffer that had to be dealt with. And so it was an expensive one. But I think Racetrack’s pro-forma probably showed them that, you know, you’ve got so much traffic going North at the end of the day, up 141 because so many people work down into Atlanta, but they live in Peachtree Corners, Johns Creek, you know, Forsyth County. And you know, we’ve got what about 55,000 cars that pass that location every day.

Rico: [00:23:49] As of today, right?

Brian: [00:23:51] Today. And so I think when they were looking at, you know, when you consider that getting gas or swinging into a convenience store, right? If people want to do it, they want to go right in, right out on their way home. Because you know, going in on their way to work, people usually are leaving their house at the last possible second to get to work. So they don’t want to, they don’t oftentimes have time to do it on the way into work, but on the way home, they’re not having to be home at a certain time for, you know, the boss won’t get mad at them.

Rico: [00:24:25] Yes just like me. An eighth of a  tank of gas and I’m running to.

Brian: [00:24:31] Yeah. And so you’re wanting a convenient way to get in and get out. And right now, if you think about it, if you get onto Peachtree Parkway at 285 and you’re not wanting, and you’re wanting to stay on the limited access portion, there is no right in, right out. Between 285 and I think we talked about Abbott’s bridge…

Rico: [00:24:56] Abbott’s bridge right.

Brian: [00:24:58] Up in John’s Creek.

Rico: [00:24:59] That’s the only one on the one on the right side. Right. 

Brian: [00:25:00] It’s on the right side. Right. And you know, we’ve got a big quick trip at the corner of 141 and Peachtree Corner circle. Yeah. But that is an extremely difficult left in left out when you have rush hour traffic.

Rico: [00:25:16] And you know, the interesting part is, I don’t think. It will impact them too much because they get so much traffic coming out from Peachtree Corners from that, that I think the Racetrack will just get there. This stuff really from that John’s Creek foresight. I would agree.

Brian: [00:25:33] Yeah. And so, you know, I, but I think that’s their due diligence probably identified that, look, we’re in such a unique position right now that it’s worth us spending the amount of money to get the site.

Rico: [00:25:47] Yeah, because it was a lot of money. It had a couple of million maybe.

Brian: [00:25:51] Oh yeah. I would imagine to that.

Rico: [00:25:52] I kept, I kept thinking, wow, just to move all that dirt to put our gas station. But yeah, that Racetrack’s going to have, I don’t know how many pumps probably on it.

Brian: [00:26:00] It’s going to be a big…

Rico: [00:26:02] Yeah, it’s a, they’re not doing it for a little, it’ll be bigger than QT, I think, as far as pumps….

Brian: [00:26:08] Probably it’s going to be profitable to that. You know?

Rico: [00:26:12] Wow. Lots of stuff there. we’ve talked a little bit also about, a little bit about redevelopment, maybe land, what may be coming up on that. Did you want to share a little bit more on that?

Brian: [00:26:21] Yeah. So looks like in the beginning of the year, council is going to be a minimal to at least considering a recommendation I’m prepared to make to them. And that is for us to go ahead and stand up a statutory authority. And by that I mean it’s an authority that is granted to cities and counties, similar to our downtown development authority, but it’s a redevelopment authority. And it’s…

Rico: [00:26:51] So, so what’s the difference between…

Brian: [00:26:53] Well, so each one has some unique tools at their disposal that oftentimes city government itself cannot, cannot, partake in. But each authority is a standalone authority in its own right. It has a level of independence that allows it to, you know, float bonds and Cordet, own property, executed agreements, you know, would be involved in construction projects and the downtown development authority. It’s scope is in an area that we define as our downtown.

Rico: [00:27:35] Which for most people that may not realize, what is that?

Brian: [00:27:39] I mean, it’s hard without a map you’ve got to look into, but it’s kind of like our central, it’s kind of like our central business district. It’s like tech park. It’s, you know, the forum and the town center, it’s down into where, you know, Dick’s sporting goods and Publix and Target…

Rico: [00:27:57] 141 right in and out.

Brian: [00:28:01] And you know, there’s some Holcomb bridge road area out, where Holcomb bridge and PIB. And so that’s kind of our downtown. And so the downtown development authority has the tools that, it has at its disposal can be utilized in what we determined was our downtown redevelopment authority has oftentimes similar tools, but it can use it in areas that are either defined as a redevelopment zone or it’s a parcel that has been developed once and now there’s interest in redeveloping it into something else. In some cases, just, just something newer of the same thing, but it’s redevelopment. So it’s not, you know, undeveloped. Property that’s never been developed. And now the redevelopment authority is there to…

Rico: [00:28:57] It doesn’t have to be an area that’s predefined necessarily.

Brian: [00:29:00] It could be.

Rico: [00:29:01] Could be, but doesn’t have to be.

Brian: [00:29:02] No, it doesn’t have to be. And so it’s purpose is to, again, redevelop for certain things. And so, you know, some of the advantages they have on, one of the big advantages that they have that cities don’t, is they can sole source contracts with organizations for, you know, the execution of their primary mission. So for instance, our redevelopment authorities, mission would be to redevelop property and they could end up, you know, in kind of looking into an in and exploring different opportunities for redevelopment and could come across the company that’s interested in doing something and they start talking and they kind of hammer out the terms of the deal, right? They can just straight up say, we want to do this deal with you. If the city was doing that, at a certain point, we would then have to publicly bid it and open it up to everybody 

Rico: [00:30:04] In RFP.

Brian: [00:30:06] RFP. And then we have certain constraints like the city has to go with the low bidder. Even if that’s not the best one.

Rico: [00:30:12] Not necessarily the best one.

Brian: [00:30:14] And so there are just some things that authorities have at their disposal that the city does not, which is the benefit of having…

Rico: [00:30:23] And to be able to move faster.

Brian: [00:30:25] To be able to move faster. Sometimes. Being able to think outside the box a little bit more. gives an opportunity to have some fresh eyes on certain things. And so I’m prepared to present to council the details of a redevelopment authority. Cause I think that it may be a tool we have not, you know, brought to bear on some areas of the city that could certainly stand to have, some redevelopment and make what’s probably a slightly underperforming right now.

Rico: [00:30:59] And we can kind of turn it around and maybe just a few places in the city that I’m sure everyone would agree could help, could be helped by something like this. So that’s a good thing. And those are political appointees or appointed by the city council to?

Brian: [00:31:12] Yeah. So the state generally lays out because they’re, again, set up by state statute, and so they’re generally laid out how those board members, those boards are populated and so it will come through council. It really will be a vote by council. How the name gets presented to council for a vote is still can be. You know, some cities have it to where each council member…

Rico: [00:31:47] Can nominate someone, 

Brian: [00:31:48] … Nominate somebody. It could be any of them nominated. It could be a

committee that’s set up to come up with some names. It could, I mean, there’s lots of, it gets up. Sometimes the city manager nominates, and then they, confirm there’s a number of ways it could be done that hasn’t been decided yet. But, at the end of the day, council does have to vote to approve these appointees. And they do, because. Once that board is populated, again, they have the authority to operate in a rather pendant. Yeah. 

Rico: [00:32:22] So something like this could take, could get into effect by the first quarter of next year. We could. All right, cool.

Brian: [00:32:28] And I know mayor and council have been very interested in doing some things, you know, in some of the areas of the city that, you know, they feel like they’ve maybe not. Had the bandwidth, you know, to get into and now they feel like they, they can, okay. I’ve gotten internet, they’ve been in office long enough. We’ve got some of these big tickets, other things like the town center that’s run occupying their time, everything. And now it’s time for them to turn and concentrate in some other areas that I think this is a, a tool in their tool bag that can be used to the benefit of the city.

Rico: [00:33:04] People will welcome that. Actually. So one, there was something else. Also the, let’s cut into the nuisance regulation that the city council passed also. 

Brian: [00:33:15] So, yeah, so, you know, all cities, unfortunately, every now and then struggle with, oftentimes a property owner or some cases, it’s just a parcel in which ownership is either not been identified or it’s your, if there’s difficulty in establishing ownership of something and the parcel finds itself being in a state of disrepair or being utilized by squatters or whatever in a way that is negatively affecting other parcels or in other businesses or homes. And sometimes that these examples becomes so egregious and so extreme that the city feels like it has to step in and do something because the natural course of things are not moving fast enough. We have a parcel in an area of the city. I think it’s a Mechanicsville area that is creating a problem that we don’t feel like we can wait. It’s a parcel that’s been owned by somebody passed away and then ownership of that. I don’t think there was a will. And it’s being probated in court and it’s finding who the owner is, is being real difficult. Yeah, the property taxes are not being paid on it anymore, and there’s just a lot of problems. Well, this parcel also has heavy foliage on the edge of the property, including some a stand of bamboo that’s really thick. And as a result, it allows the interior of the parcel. To be really out of sight, and we’ve had a homeless guy or homeless people that have squatted on there and have really pulled a lot of trash and debris and junk and just, I mean, in, in a way that’s. You know, it’s shocking almost how much, and then you’ve got animals in there and everything. And so there have been some efforts to get, well, there have been successful efforts to have some of the homeless removed and placed in, you know, other programs and everything and the animals removed. But it keeps coming back. And in one case, it’s the same guy who keeps coming back. And so the, the, the debris and trash have spilled over into it being visible from the road. And so we just don’t think that we can wait. And so the process is such that the city for the city to get involved. The first thing the city has to do is declare the property to be a nuisance. And once it does that, it kind of opens the door for the city to be involved in some things, including we can go in and clean the property up and then take the costs that was born by the city to get it to get the nuisance well abated. We can put a lien on the property and the collected later point when it’s sold. And sometimes it could be, I mean, I’ve been in, I’ve managed other cities like especially the last city I was at, which is a very old city. We would get lean dollars coming in for properties that had a lien on it 50 years earlier. Really, it had never been sold, so there was no need to clear the title. So that lien sat on that property for a long time. So putting a lien on, it doesn’t guarantee the city you’ll get anything anytime soon, but at some point.

Rico: [00:37:07] And that’s vacant land for, to a degree, that particular piece of property, or it’s a house, but there’s?…

Brian: [00:37:12] There used to be a, some kind of a shed house type of thing that’s been, I

mean, it’s been uninhabitable.

Rico: [00:37:18] But the idea of the, and I read through the nuisance regulation a little. The, if there was, drug issues going on, if it was a house, for example, and there was an abandoned house and there were drug issues going on, that also gives you the ability to go in and clean that out, condemn the property. Maybe even…

Brian: [00:37:34] That’s correct. I mean, there are lots of things that qualify for a parcel to be, you know, declared a nuisance. You know, it can be health, you know, it could be overgrown weeds, it could be derelict structures or vehicles. It could be a public health hazard, like vermin, snakes, rats. It could also be criminal activity where there’s, you know, just enough, you know, loitering or drug or whatever kind of, you know, activity could, you know, prostitution, whatever. And that could be used as evidence that the property is a nuisance to the greater community, and then the city can move in and take steps to abate that, that nuisance.

Rico: [00:38:18] Cool. That’s good. I mean, I know the County had something similar or maybe not as strong because we did take over some of the County regulations when we became a city. So was that fine tuning it?

Brian: [00:38:28] Well, we’ve expanded since mayor council had been on, you know, and since the city’s been created, we have added criminal activity as a qualifying nuisance that the County did not have. Or, maybe still does not have. Well but see how, aggressive or not, cities use this kind of thing. It’s really up to the local body, and so you know, most of the nuisance, you know, abatement laws are, you know, that they’re available to local governments. Then some just either decide not to implement them or they don’t. They don’t use, they’re not as aggressive in their use of them. And you know, it’s still kind of a big, you know, you don’t necessarily want to have government come in and take over new, I mean, you’d like to think that property owners are responsible with their parcels, but at a certain point, the city cannot allow one parcel to drag down all the surrounding parcels around. In this case, we have some businesses around it. That this does not look good. And it cannot be benefiting them in any way, shape, or form. So we just can’t let, sit back and let the properties ownership and all the getting probated in court. It’s just taking too long. We’ve got to move in and do something.

Rico: [00:39:52] That I totally agree. The city should be able to, for its citizens to be able to do the right thing and you have to have the right tools. So that makes sense to me. We’re at the end of our time. I appreciate Brian for being with us, to be able to do this on a monthly basis, to be able to go through all this. We’re here at Atlanta tech park. I should have mentioned that before. Our podcast studios here in, Tech Park, Atlanta, and along, the Curiosity lab, at

Peachtree Corners, the road that we were talking about at the beginning of the, 40, 45 minutes to an hour. And, so I appreciate, in the middle of the city of Peachtree Corners. So I appreciate the city manager, Brian Johnson being with me and talking to bring us up to them.

Brian: [00:40:32] Thanks for giving the city the, you know, the venue to hopefully, you know, help our residents and stakeholders here be a little bit more educated about what their city government is doing.

Rico: [00:40:46] Well, the fact that Brian, that you keep answering all my questions is a good thing. So, and, and sharing with all the new stuff that’s going on

Brian: [00:40:53] My pleasure

Rico: [00:40:55] Don’t miss Peachtree Corners magazine. It is, today’s Friday, and it’s coming out this way. It’s hitting the post office this Friday today. So it’ll be out in the mail this weekend. And over the, this coming week before Thanksgiving, check out our new giveaway that’s starting on Monday. It’s the Weekend Staycation giveaway, in Peachtree corners. So you can sort of get away from, if you have kids, get away from the kids for a little bit as an overnight, have dinner, breakfast at the Hilton suite. There’s a lot of this, thousand dollars in prizes. So participate. That opens on, that starts on Monday, and if we don’t see you or if you don’t see us, have a great Thanksgiving. Thanks Brian. 

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City Government

Matt Houser Recognized for Service as Planning Commission Chairman

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Mayor Mike Mason recognized Matt Houser
Mayor Mike Mason recognized Matt Houser (Courtesy of the City of Peachtree Corners)

At the last City Council meeting, Mayor Mike Mason recognized Matt Houser for his seven years of service as the Planning Commission Chairman for the city. Matt began serving on the city’s newly-formed Planning Commission shortly after the city was incorporated in July 2012.

For a number of years Matt had served on Gwinnett County’s planning commission and brought a wealth of experience to the city’s new Planning Commission.

Mayor Mason presented a proclamation and ceremonial gavel recognizing him for his dedicated service and leadership as the inaugural chairman of the city’s Planning Commission. Matt resigned his position last month and is replaced by long-serving commission member, Alan Kaplan

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City Government

Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners Given the 2019 Neighborhood Redevelopment Award

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Kathryn Kieser, EVP, Primerica and Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors member, Councilmembers Lorri Christopher, Weare Gratwick and Eric Christ.

2019 Metro Atlanta Redevelopment Summit Award Winners Named

For the second time in just two years, the City of Peachtree Corners was recognized for its redevelopment efforts, this time winning the Metro Atlanta Redevelopment Summit (MARS) award for Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners.

The MARS Awards, held annually, recognizes outstanding redevelopment projects in the region. Each year the Atlanta region redevelopment event brings together more than 300 developers, commercial real estate brokers, elected officials, business leaders and community development experts. This year’s event was held Oct. 24, 2019. The summit allows attendees an exclusive look at the region’s current redevelopment projects as well as insight into trends and best practices in the industry.

The city’s Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners was selected by a panel of economic developers for its forward-thinking approach in creating a real-world testbed with 5G connectivity and a 1.5-mile autonomous vehicle test track and intelligent mobility incubator. Set in a 500-acre commercial office park, the test track interacts with people and vehicles going about their daily business.

“It’s exciting to see Peachtree Corners, and more specifically Tech Park, win a redevelopment award, it’s second in just two years,” said Councilmember Alex Wright, who first introduced the idea of developing an autonomous vehicle program. “I believe the creation of Curiosity Lab is a major step forward in the continuation of revitalizing Tech Park, putting it on the tech map not just locally, but nationally and internationally, and more importantly, helping us further realize Paul Duke’s vision of Peachtree Corners – one of the country’s original Live, Work, Play developments centered around a cutting edge Technology Park.”

Partnership Gwinnett, in collaboration with The Council for Quality Growth, presented the winners of the 2019 MARS Awards recognizing redevelopment projects in the region:
• 2019 Neighborhood Redevelopment Award Winner – Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners
• 2019 Redevelopment Award Runner-up – Willbrooke Connector, City of Duluth
• 2019 Community Redevelopment Award Winner – Stockyards
• 2019 Community Redevelopment Award Runner-up – Broadstone at Sugar Hill
• 2019 Regional Redevelopment Award Winner – The Mill at Etowah
• 2019 Regional Redevelopment Award Runner-up – Pittsburgh Yards

“We are honored to be recognized for our revitalization efforts in Technology Park Atlanta,” said Mayor Mike Mason. “It is an important area not only for our city but for the entire region as it is the center of over 7,500 jobs and an important driver of economic development.”

Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners is a publicly funded living lab designed to provide a real-world test environment to advance next-generation intelligent mobility and smart city technology. Additional information is available at www.curiositylabPTC.com

This post has been updated as of 10/29/19

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