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What ARPA Means to Local Nonprofits, People in Need and the Hospitality and Restaurant Industry

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City officials and business leaders in the Peachtree Corners area are watching the unfolding of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and its sprawling variety of aid programs with great interest. They’re encouraged by what seems to be more a nod to small businesses in the latest permutation, as well as an industry-specific approach — the addition of an aid program targeted to restaurants.

For City Hall itself, top of mind has been making progress toward a grant program that would potentially help local business as well as struggling non-profits and individuals.

That grant money comes in the amount of $9 million, said City Manager Brian Johnson. Half of that arrived recently, he said, while the other 50% will show up in city coffers in one year. It’s part of $130 billion going out to local government entities nationwide, and the money has to be exhausted by three summers from now.

“The council’s intent is to spend it as quickly as we can responsibly spend it,” Johnson said, “and help those who have been harmed. We don’t want to sit on this until 2024.”

There are four general sets of federal guidelines under which grant program cash can be allocated, he explained.

The first is by far the most overarching, specifying assistance to households, small businesses and non-profits, and to such impacted industries as travel, tourism and hospitality. A second would reimburse the city for revenue lost due to the pandemic. A third set of guidelines is targeted to water, sewer and broadband improvements, and the last provides for premium pay for those doing essential work during the pandemic.

Johnson said a number of factors will be weighed in the vetting process, such as consideration of those who have gotten aid previously under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) and Economic Aid acts. Another is how and whether the money might be aimed at specific industries.

“It’s a great problem to have, but it’s still a challenge,” he said. “How do we make $9 million useable in the most productive way possible?”

To that end, Johnson and other staffers distilled the general guidelines down into several “conceptual” areas. His May 11 proposal to the council sketched out possible uses, including operating and capital grants to non-profits and, within that bucket, emergency assistance to individuals and families.
Business assistance programs also emerged as a touchstone with operating grants and property improvement comprising that area. Expansion of broadband infrastructure to underserved areas of the city also made the conceptual cut, as did potential reimbursement to the city for revenue lost to COVID.

A “shop local” incentive program and money for nuisance abatement (such as helping faltering businesses bring their properties back up to code) and utility assistance rounded out the conceptual model.

After council approval of a set of more detailed recommendations, staffers planned to draw up criteria and create an application period and process.

Johnson said that, under the earlier CARES act money that they parceled out, small businesses could use the grants however they saw fit. He said under ARPA there’s been talk about attaching more conditions, as opposed to “giving it to someone to put in their bank-account.” That harks back to the council’s stated goal of getting the money in circulation “to lubricate the economy.”

Business groups are cheering the help expected to arrive through the city grants, plus several other channels of the plan. At least one hopes that past hiccups can be ironed out.

“People are flat confused,” said Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA) President Lisa Proctor, the owner of a recruiting agency. “If you’re large enough to have good tax advisors or someone who’s focusing on the details, you’re in good shape. If you’re a small business having to navigate it yourself, it’s a problem.”

She cites, as an example, Small Business Administration (SBA) initiatives that have included a loan program, a grant program and a disaster assistance provision, making it difficult for businesses applying to determine what programs they might qualify for.

Proctor said that confusing verbiage and short application windows have created consternation. “I don’t think the concepts of the programs are bad. It’s the implementation,” she said. “Do the funds go to where they need to?”

One new concept within the ARPA and its programs under the SBA umbrella is the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which gets a nod of approval from Cally D’Angelo, Senior Director of Membership Services and Small Business Initiatives for the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. She said carveouts like that are necessary if the industry is to recover and rebuild.

“I think is very helpful. Money is flowing,” she said, following the closure of the application period May 24. She added that users are not required to repay the money as long as it’s used in eligible ways by March of 2023.

She also points out that the program casts a wider net than many might think, not only incorporating aid for traditional sit-down restaurants, but also food trucks, bakeries, caterers, brewpubs and wineries. $28.6 billion has been set aside from the program to help restaurants meet payroll and other expenses.
The PCBA’s Proctor said their numbers show around 50 restaurants within three miles of Peachtree Corners Town Center, and that several have closed.

Smaller businesses are also getting a chance to move toward the head of the line, said D’Angelo. She said one example concerns the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL), which now incorporates a targeted EIDL option for businesses in low-income areas. Those smallest and hardest hit of them can get an extra $5,000 that doesn’t have to be repaid.

The revamp of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which gained more than $7 billion in additional funding, is another. A special two-week period for PPP applications earlier this year was designed for businesses of 20 employees or fewer, she said. She added that a mid-May report showed that the average loan size of PPP loan help packages — typically those are proportional to the size of the business applying for the aid — had decreased by about half, spotlighting the more targeted small business approach.

In addition, the PPP program’s eligibility criteria were expanded to include some non-profit organizations previously excluded.

To be sure, not only businesses are getting a helping hand. ARPA includes a broad menu of help programs for the public health workforce, schools, individuals and individual families.

Proctor’s concern remains that the dollars will go to the entities most needful, given past confusion and such missteps as when the first round of Paycheck Protection funding went, in large measure, to what some regarded as an inordinate percentage of large businesses and publicly traded corporations. “Based on the first round of what the SBA did, I am cautiously not optimistic,” she commented.

D’Angelo takes a more upbeat tone, saying that to put it in perspective, the SBA processed what’s usually more than 14 years’ worth of loans in 14 days at the outset of the pandemic, and that the agency has been adaptable. On a more local scale, she said that the Chamber and others have come together to form a small business resource group to provide information, webinars and feedback.

“Over time, responding to a crisis, you adapt to what the needs are. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?” said D’Angelo.

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BRACK: Peachtree Corners to lose Peterbrooke Chocolatier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a comment?  Send to: elliott@elliottbrack

Written by Elliott Brack

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

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North American Properties Revitalizes Avenue East Cobb

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

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

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

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

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

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

More news from North American Properties can be found here.

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North American Properties Secures 3 New Brands for The Forum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These businesses join:

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

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

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

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