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Mad Dworschak-Victory Gardener Extraordinaire, Part of Five Stories to Brighten Our Spirits



The Bright Side of Lockdown in Peachtree Corners

We can all relate to the surreal feeling brought on by the coronavirus as we struggled with being caught in this bizarre new world that was difficult to believe yet impossible to ignore. We couldn’t help but feel shocked as it unfolded — it was unprecedented — although there had been a dreadful buzz in the air heading straight for us from miles away.

As our nation is sieged with controversy, climbing death rates, trepidation and uncertainty, I wanted to find some uplifting, local COVID-19 stories that would serve to brighten our spirits. This is part 4 of 5 stories to be posted.

One of the great perks of living in Peachtree Corners is our proximity to Atlanta and its many trendy hubs like Old Fourth Ward, just 20 miles away. Mad Dworschak hails from Dunwoody/Sandy Springs where her family still lives, but she has been an Atlantan since starting her career as a graphic designer.

Mad on the move on social media and her victory gardening website

Dworschak had been looking forward to a more nine-to-five schedule after having worked around the clock shifts at CNN. Six months into her new job at the Atlanta Department of City Planning, the coronavirus turned the whole world on its ear.

Abiding by stay-at-home orders, she turned to cultivating a hobby she has always found comforting — gardening. Normally, it gave her something to do at the end of the day but working from home with “… everything shutting down right as spring started springing up,” was kismet for the birth of her flower and vegetable garden this year.

A New Year’s Resolution

Dworschak had already committed to a focus on surviving and thriving in 2020, while going through a difficult personal time last winter. She had intended to expand her edible gardening, unaware at the time that she’d be thrust into it on the heels of a global pandemic disrupting our lives so profoundly.

Inspired by the author of “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” Dworschak adopted the term. “She said plant a little Victory Garden if you’re nervous about having enough food because nothing dresses up a can of beans like some fresh herbs,” Dworschak recounted.

Mad’s super fun victory garden poster

COVID-19 made it apparent how fragile food security is and how quickly losing a job could cause a family to struggle. “I think people latched on to the concept. They remember the poster of the woman holding a cabbage, “Grow Your Own Garden for Victory!” We all feel helpless right now, but this is at least something we can do,” she said.

Free Seedlings

Initially, Dworschak set out a cardboard sign in front of her 1920s duplex located across from where Dr. King went to school, with the scrawled message ‘Free Seedlings!’ “I put out extra seedlings on the street for people to take as they wished. I later designed and painted a more eye-catching sign,” Dworschak said.

 The timing of her project could not have been better. “Seeds have always been about abundance and hope, wishing for a better tomorrow.”

Instagram updates from @madness.design.atl and passersby resulted in a steady stream of seeds and seedlings being shared with neighbors. Building connections with the community has been beneficial.

“This little program I’ve started made me feel better. I love that I can help others too,” Dworschak said.

Sowing the Seeds of Cheer

A firm believer that it’s impossible to spend a few minutes in a garden and not be amazed, Dworschak hoped to spread some much-needed joy. “Anyone who’s even just a little bit of a gardener and going through something knows there is unending poetry from things coming up from the ground, flowers blooming and food coming off of a plant.”

“We may not have the most abundant gardens, and we’re all scared, but we have something in common now,” she said. Neighbors are posting pictures of their own gardens and plants that have blossomed as a result of her giveaways.

Dworschak responds with pointers on how to care for them. She has received some very kind notes and is routinely tagged on Instagram by excited neighbors thanking her for the basil, dill, okra and kohlrabi plants they scored from her little stand.

What’s Growing in the Garden

“This is my private growing area,” Dworschak said, pointing to her front porch covered in baby sprouts waiting to be given away and planted.

The interplanting of vegetables with flowers makes a cheery garden in a walled front yard. This year, she has enjoyed planting what’s easy and fun to grow.

Nasturtium: “One of my favorite things this year is this cool-looking flower. It grows like a bunch of lily pads sticking up out of the ground and has orange flowers. Both the leaves and flowers are edible. It’s great in salads. It’s got a spicy, peppery flavor, like arugula.”

Better Boy Tomatoes: “My grandmother grew these when she lived here in the 1960s. She swears by them. They’re very conventional but how can you say no to grandma?”

Roma and cherry tomatoes

Okra: “I’m excited about my okra. I was captivated by the story: okra was brought to America by slaves who had it braided into their hair as sort of a food insurance policy for when they got to the new land.”

Okra. the southern staple

Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans: “They are an heirloom variety brought from Tennessee all the way to Oklahoma by the Cherokee Nation during the Trail of Tears. They were a promise for tomorrow.”

Sunflower: “I grew that monster from a little seed. It’s bigger than I am.”

Cosmos flowers: “They’re wonderful and prolifically self-seeding. If you plant them, expect them to fall on the ground and make new ones next year. Which is great, if that’s what you want.”

Mulberry tree: “You can see the ground is littered with mulberries. They kind of taste like blackberry’s poor cousin came to town. They’re a little milder.”

Mulberry Jam, need we say more? Yum!
Mulberry Jam

Families are enticed to bring buckets and pick as many mulberries as they can. Dworschak’s front and back yards are covered in the berries that fall to the ground from two towering trees. When folks wonder if they should collect so many, she assures them there are millions for the taking.

“They taste great if you make an easy jam. I didn’t even use pectin. I just put 6 cups mulberries, ¾ cup of sugar and a little bit of water on the stove. You cook it on low for a long time. It condenses, and you have an amazing jelly. I put it on top of ice cream and Oreos. It’s awesome,” she beamed.


Home Depot or ACE Hardware are where Dworschak buys her seeds when she’s not shopping her favorite online heirloom store, Baker Creek. “Any real gardener knows that the best source of seeds is other gardeners; it’s a networking community,” she chuckled.

Perennials on the property, like cannas and irises, keep dividing. “I’ve been able to thin them out and give them away as well,” Dworschak said. Her neighbors were pleased to give the tropical-looking plants new homes.

Mission Green Thumb

She loves demonstrating how easy it is to grow seeds from home: “Take toilet paper tubes, put them upright in a big salad container and fill with soil. Then soak dry chickpeas and kidney beans from the grocery store for 24 hours, and they sprout. Plant one in each tube, and in 3 to 5 days you should have seedlings! This is a kind of magic!”

Food Resources

Dworschak fosters a sense of unity with her Victory Garden effort, but it’s also about contributing to food security. Whether you need help or would like to contribute during COVID-19, there are great resources for free and reduced-price food, grocery delivery and farmers’ markets. Visit madness.design/COVID19 to learn more.

Follow her on Instagram @madness.design.atl where Dworschak will continue to post updates about new seed and plant drops. She posts in advance, so if there’s something you’d like to pick up, you’ll have notice: “Tomorrow at 8:30am, lots of kale and bell peppers,” for example.

Insider tip:She usually saves one of everything that she puts out for the inevitable person who arrives just a little too late. “It’s nice to be able to make someone’s day,” Dworschak said.

Mad Dworschak’s ever growing website chock full of victory gardening photographs and growing tips
The Graphic Designer

I’ve planted the seed (wink) in Dworschak’s mind about creating a Peachtree Corners Neighborhoods Map. You may have seen her coveted urban chic Atlanta Neighborhoods Maps. We should have one for Peachtree Corners, don’t you agree?

700Mad Dworschak

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

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City Government

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



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


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


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


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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Vineyard Johns Creek, Assisted Living & Memory Care Community, Announce Information Center Opening and Recent Hires



Annette Fields- Executive Director at Vineyard Johns Creek.

Vineyard Johns Creek, an assisted living and memory care community, announced September 23 the opening of their information center for COVID-safe visits. In addition, the community has announced the hiring of two new members to their executive leadership team. The information center is located at 10475 Medlock Bridge Rd STE 410. 

“As we welcome visitors to the Vineyard Johns Creek Information Center, the health and safety of our visitors and employees remains our biggest priority,” said Kevin Suite, President and Chief Operating Officer of Valeo Senior. “We are implementing daily practices and procedures that will help reduce the spread of the COVID-19, have been reviewing daily the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and are complying with local, state and federal guidelines.”

From a personnel standpoint, Vineyard Johns Creek is thrilled to announce Annette Fields as Executive Director. With over 10 years of industry experience, she is nationally certified as a Director of Assisted Living (CDAL) and has experience in both social services and education. “I’m dedicated to creating a collaborative atmosphere within which residents, staff and family will thrive and have a sense of belonging and purpose,” said Fields.

Jennifer Farine joins the Vineyard Johns Creek team as Sales Director. She has extensive knowledge and experience in the senior living community in Johns Creek and the surrounding areas. “I’m incredibly excited to be part of the growing Vineyard family, and look forward to providing the highest quality of care to residents and their families,” said Farine.

Vineyard Johns Creek boasts the proprietary T.H.R.I.V.E. residence experience programming framework designed to foster a continued sense of purpose for seniors and will be equipped with industry-leading advanced smart technology throughout the building as a part of parent company Valeo Senior’s focus to evolve the senior living experience. In addition, the community has dementia care certification and assisted living training for all employees that exceeds state standards.

Valeo Senior has two new communities set to open this fall, with four more in the development pipeline for 2020 and another five to commence in 2021 – including Vineyard Johns Creek.

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Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA Relaunches Manning Playground Fundraising Campaign



Playground rendering courtesy of Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA.

YMCA of Metro Atlanta announced September 18 that it has relaunched the John Manning Playground Fundraising Campaign to raise an additional $25,000 to reach its $200,000 goal for a new state of the art playground for the Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA, an initiative introduced in fall 2019 that was halted due to the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic. 

John Manning was a dedicated YMCA volunteer, active church member, respected family and corporate lawyer and Peachtree Corners community member who left a legacy of service and friendship. The new playground will incorporate educational and creative-based play structures for all ages. Landscaping in and around the playground will provide a new park-like setting for families to enjoy. The Y is looking to volunteers, members and business for their support in bringing honor to Manning and his legacy through the new amenity.

“We are excited to safely welcome back our members and children into our daycare programs,” said Mark Thornell, executive director, Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA.  “The Manning playground is something for us all to look forward to as we are on schedule to break ground in the fall.”

A featured donor is Manning’s 12-year-old granddaughter Caroline, who has instructed acting camps for her peers the past three summers to raise money for the playground. Caroline aims to raise enough money to reserve a “Camp Caroline 2020” brick on the park grounds in memory of her grandfather.

“We are blessed with an amazing playground committee who has worked tirelessly to secure donations to make this dream come true,” said Sarah Manning Locke, playground committee co-chair and Manning’s daughter.  “We are so close to our goal and are having to get creative to see everything to completion due to the coronavirus uncertainty.  I love that Caroline is on board to pitch in with her Camp Caroline donation.”

Those interested in donating or purchasing a brick to help pave the way for Y children, can do so on the organization’s website ymcaofmetroatlanta.givingfuel.com/john-manning

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