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Building a Thriving Community through the Peachtree Corners Redevelopment Authority



peachtree corners redevelopment authority area map

Driving along the Holcomb Bridge corridor in Peachtree Corners brings one up against a medley of sights.

Condos. Offices. Strip shopping centers. Apartments built well before the turn of the century, some showing their age. But not much freshly turned earth, construction equipment or framed skeletons of buildings.

City officials would like to see more of the last — quite a bit more in fact.

Why the Redevelopment Authority?

Superimposed on present reality is their vision of how the area could one day look — provided that a newly created quasi-independent authority can forge multiparty development deals involving itself, developers, landowners and city government.

That’s why the Peachtree Corners Redevelopment Authority was created. Working within a general framework created by the state of Georgia, the mayor, city manager, planning staffers and council members spent months in meetings working to establish a local entity. The final step was appointment of nine members to the authority board at a Dec. 12 council meeting. Now it’s time to turn what’s been on paper up until now into a reality.

Look for a laser focus on the authority’s zone of responsibility, encompassing roughly one-third of the city’s footprint and centering along the Holcomb Bridge corridor.

City Manager Brian Johnson says zeroing in on that area simply makes sense.

City Manager Brian Johnson

As he explained, “The southern portion of Peachtree Corners was developed first so the area we put into the redevelopment zone is the oldest part of the city. A parcel can be developed and over time the surrounding area can change its character.”

That argues that the current best use of a property might be something different than how it was imagined decades ago.

One example: a commercial development such as a strip shopping center built with large parking lots and stores set well back from the street. Contrast that with the more modern approach to such commercial space — buildings set closer to the road and parking somewhat hidden. Another: a residential neighborhood where the surrounding turf has gone industrial.

Either of those, or other instances, could get a new lease on life.

How the Authority helps development

Community Development Director Diana Wheeler said creation of an initial citywide usage/development plan after incorporation in 2012 and a package of existing incentives (such as allowing variances on density) lured investment in other parts of the city — the Town Center development being a prime example.

But that didn’t fly along the Holcomb Bridge Corridor.

“We actually had a developer run some numbers for us to see what the issues were,” she said. “We found those numbers didn’t work.

“From a developer’s point of view, they’d approach a property owner and say they were interested in purchasing. The apartment owner would say it’ll cost you such-and-such because we’re making so much right now (due to high occupancy levels). So the developer is not only paying for the land but also buying out an existing business.”

Enter the redevelopment authority, which has both some unique powers and more flexibility in making deals than the city at large.

“For one thing,” said Johnson, “They can sole source and not have to bid out projects.” With a city, for example, if it’s a project above $50,000, they have to let it out for competitive bidding. That means an authority can go the distance with a private developer in consummating a development.

A redevelopment authority also has the power of eminent domain, can condemn property and abate nuisances. And it can cut breaks on property taxes.

“We’re looking at a domino effect,” said Wheeler. “If we get one or two under our belt, then the motivation will be to have things happen organically after that.”

Not only will the authority be able to plan and implement brick-and-mortar projects, it can also have a hand in various community improvement initiatives, such as reducing crime and preserving open space, said city officials.

Challenges and assets

One possible hitch involves the authority’s ability to get its hands on sufficient revenue to jumpstart development.

Johnson said such entities typically start out without revenue, so the city would have to pony up dollars up front. And since Peachtree Corners has no property tax, that shuts off one potential source of financing. Johnson said somewhat down the road, the authority could derive revenue in a number of ways, such as buying a building and leasing it out to tenants for steady rental income. In the early going, city officials said, selling bonds might well supply operating funds.

Shaun Adams, an attorney who has served with the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association, was among those appointed to the board in mid-December. He looks forward to delving into such details.

“I will want to dig into (the city’s existing) plan in more detail and see if I can identify additional opportunities,” he said. “I’m honestly excited to serve in this capacity.”

Other board members include real estate, education and engineering professionals from different parts of the city who represent a variety of ethnicities, ages and genders.

City Council member Weare Gratwick said whatever happens in coming months, the recently constituted board is well up to the task. He’s one of two council members who will exercise ex-officio oversight over the semi-independent entity.

City Council member Weare Gratwick

“We had over 30 applications from citizens to be on this board and all were good and well qualified. It was very difficult to choose,” he said. He said the final compliment is a diverse mix that represents “the best and the brightest.”

Johnson thinks the deals that emerge from the work of those bright minds will likely take one recurring form. “Mixed-use developments are mentioned more in connection with this because they work,” he said. “You can prevent having too much of one thing in a small area by mixing uses and those uses can feed off each other. They are symbiotic.”

Blending various types of housing with nearby restaurants such as a coffee shop is but one example, he said. But “what is more important is the highest and best use of a property,” Johnson added. “Maybe a big industrial development could be in the works for the area or Amazon may want to create a distribution center.”

Time to get moving

Now that the mechanism and its people complement are in place, he has a definite timeline in mind moving forward.

Johnson foresees the board taking three to six months to get comfortable in its role and become educated on the area within their jurisdiction and spending the second half of the year vetting details and doing due diligence.

“Just because something looks good from 30,000 feet doesn’t mean it looks as good from 10,000 feet,” Johnson warned.

He added, “Maybe by the end of this year, there’s a vetted opportunity with a developer who would step forward and say, ‘I’m interested in a certain location and want to do a specific deal. And I’m going to need help to make that happen.’”

The city manager hopes that would lead quickly to working on the hard-core details of turning a set of plans into brick and mortar. He said here are many combinations under which a development could come together, including dealmakers employing sub-developers who specialize in one specific aspect of design or construction.

In the context of a mature city running out of undeveloped land, city officials hope those high-fliers who make a cruise along Holcomb Bridge Road will get a much different visual experience in the months and years to come.

Think flying dirt, the roar of bulldozers and steel-framed skeletons.

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VyStar Credit Union Continues Growth in Georgia with the Opening of a Peachtree Corners Branch



A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for May 29, 2024

VyStar Credit Union has to announced that its Peachtree Corners location is now open at 5125 Peachtree Parkway in Peachtree Corners. This is VyStar’s fifth full-service branch in Metro Atlanta and joins branches in Stockbridge, Suwanee, Smyrna and Marietta.

In support of its purpose to “Do Good,” VyStar partners with non-profit organizations across the communities it serves. VyStar will make a $5,000 donation to the Rainbow Village to celebrate the grand opening of the Peachtree Corners branch at the ribbon cutting event in late May.

“VyStar’s first branch in Gwinnett will provide residents and business owners with better banking options, including free checking, access to early direct deposit, great rates, financial wellness education through VyStar’s Financial Fitness initiative, and unbelievable member-centric service that only a credit union can provide,” said VyStar EVP/Chief Operations Officer Chad Meadows.

The Peachtree Corners branch features VyStar’s digital-forward design, which enhances how employees connect with members. This includes interactive touchscreen kiosks that provide financial tools and allow members to quickly explore the latest products, services and rates. 

Lobby and drive-thru hours for the Peachtree Corners branch are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

VyStar continues to work with local organizations to build up the communities it serves. In Metro Atlanta, that includes supporting the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Junior Achievement of Georgia, Frontline Housing Inc., H.E.R.O. For Children and many others.

“Each time VyStar opens a new branch, it is another opportunity for us to support our purpose to Do Good. With eight full-service branches now in Georgia and our first Contact Center in Metro Atlanta, VyStar is able to provide residents and area businesses with exceptional financial products along with personalized service,” said VyStar SVP/Georgia Market President Janean Armstrong.

VyStar has seven additional locations in Georgia: Marietta, Smyrna, Suwanee, Stockbridge, Brunswick, Savannah and Thomasville, with plans to open branches in Pooler, Kingsland and Peachtree City over the next year.

The credit union is also expanding its services in Florida with a third branch in Tallahassee scheduled to open in May followed by a branch opening in the Lake Nona area in August.

To celebrate the grand opening, the community is invited to a ribbon cutting ceremony on May 29, 2024, at 10:30 a.m. Learn more about the Peachtree Corners branch.

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Kendra Scott Opens New Store At The Forum



Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott is celebrating the opening of its newest store in Peachtree Corners the weekend of May 10 at The Forum.

Upon opening, the 2,263 square foot store will display Kendra Scott’s current collections. The store will also showcase the brand’s unique Color Bar, offering shoppers an interactive experience to create customized jewelry in minutes and leave with it in hand.

Worn by celebrities including Hailey Bieber, Camila Cabello, Mindy Kaling, Zendaya and Kelly Clarkson, Kendra Scott’s collections are known for their custom-created stone shapes, genuine materials and design details.

This will be Kendra Scott’s first store in Gwinnett County, which joins five other retail locations in Georgia.

The brand will continue to show its support for the community through partnerships with non-profits and local businesses. For the grand opening weekend, Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners will host various non-profits for Kendra Gives Back events, donating a percentage of proceeds directly back to the causes.

Kendra Scott hosts more than 10,000 Kendra Gives Back events in retail stores annually and looks forward to establishing relationships and connecting with the Gwinnett County community.

“We’re excited to continue introducing the community to new brands, bites and events at The Forum as part of our vision to create downtown Peachtree Corners. Kendra Scott will be a welcome addition, providing our guests a top-notch experience to shop its unique offerings in person,” said Charlotte Hinton, The Forum marketing manager.

Doors will open on Friday, May 10, at 10 a.m. with celebrations throughout the weekend, including giveback events, gifts with purchase and giveaways. RSVP for more details here.

Upcoming events:

  • Friday, May 10 from 10-12 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with The Forum for a VIP event. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special jewelry gift with purchase.* Guests will also enjoy refreshments from Giulia, The Italian Bakery.
  • Friday, May 10 from 5-7 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with the Norcross High School Cheer Team and donating 20% of proceeds. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase* Guests can also receive a custom embroidered bow from Quiet Hours Embroidery with purchase.
  • Saturday, May 11 from 4-6 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is partnering with Spectrum Autism Support Group and donating 20% of proceeds. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase.* Guests will also enjoy complimentary cotton candy from Wonder Soirée with every purchase.
  • Sunday, May 12 from 12-2 p.m. – Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is celebrating the Community of Motherhood. Supporters who spend $100 will receive a special gift with purchase.* Guests will also receive a complimentary Mother’s Day bouquet of flowers from Nancy’s Flower Truck.

*One per person while supplies last.

Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners is located at 5155 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 710 in Peachtree Corners at The Forum. For companywide updates and product details, follow @kendrascott on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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BRACK: Peachtree Corners to lose Peterbrooke Chocolatier



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a comment?  Send to: elliott@elliottbrack

Written by Elliott Brack

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

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