Peachtree Corners and Curiosity Lab continues to draw attention nationally (with a recent visit by Secretary of Transporation Pete Buttigieg) and internationally (from France, the Swiss Consul General, and others.) Find out how this impacts our community, business, and where we go from here. With your host Rico Figliolini and City Manager Brian Johnson on Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager.
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:15] – The Swiss Ambassador Visit
[00:03:12] – French American Chamber of Commerce
[00:09:50] – A Visit from the Secretary of Transportation
[00:15:34] – Local Events and Updates
[00:28:56] – New Building Developments
[00:31:43] – Closing
“It’s kind of cool sometimes for the city to say, yeah, maybe we were part of the evolution of that particular technology. And so the secretary and others wanted to see some of the things that are happening here because they’re interested in how close or far away it is and what they can do to help.”Brian Johnson
[00:00:30] Rico: Hi, this is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life and today, Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager, Brian Johnson who I’m going to bring on shortly. But I just want to let you know what we’re going to be talking about today. Basically, we’re going to be talking about even with COVID we have an environment where things are moving and shaking, things are happening in the city. That not only affects this city, but some of it’s like the first time ever or things that are happening here, not really happening anywhere else. Like the 5G accelerator program. Having the secretary of transportation visit us, small city like ours, to discuss transportation. The French American chamber of commerce coming and moving into Peachtree Corners plus a whole lot more. So let’s get right into it with Brian. Hey, Brian. How are you?
[00:01:14] Brian: Good Rico, how are you?
[00:01:15] Rico: Good. So let’s talk a little bit about the Swiss ambassador and the council general coming for a visit from Washington to visit our little town of Peachtree Corners. What does that mean? And what can that mean? When we have dignitaries like that visiting us.
[00:01:28] Brian: Well, So this isn’t the first time that we have had some international dignitaries. Most of the time, it’s either the console general him or herself out of the Atlanta consulate. Sometimes we have some trade ambassadors, but this time the council general of Switzerland was joined by the Swiss ambassador himself. And they came here for the purposes of taking a look at Curiosity Lab, taking a look at the technology and the different sectors that we have here. And to do so for the purposes of them maybe seeing if there are some opportunities for Swiss companies to potentially come in and use the facility on a ongoing or temporary basis. See if there’s not some synergy between Curiosity Lab and some Swiss tech companies. And they were very impressed. There was a lot of ideas thrown out. There’s a lot of action items we have afterwards. But it is no secret, nor is it by chance, that a lot of the international companies that we have here are a result of us having put ourselves in a position where somebody whose job from another country is to keep their eyes and ears watching ways for them to further their countries’ companies. That they hear and see, and they’re like, we want to come out there. And they do and as a result, we have a lot of international activity here. We just had a Portuguese company that moved into the innovation center. That’s what the Swiss were here to do. And I have high hopes that we’re going to get some activity from them and maybe we’ll get some chocolate, watches, all the other generalized things that come from Switzerland.
[00:03:12] Rico: Well, let’s move on then to the French American chamber of commerce that is actually going to move their offices to the Curiosity Lab. So how’d that come about and what does that mean also for technology here and for companies from France, maybe moving here?
[00:03:25] Brian: Well, if there was, yeah, no easier segue than from one international, one to the other. As we’re talking about becoming more known on the international stage. The French American chamber of commerce, which exists here, obviously like other chambers of commerce, is to provide a social, a civic link between companies from a particular country and ours. We have relationships with others like the Israel American chamber and others like that. But in this case, the French American chamber was doing its thing. And we got on their radar screen, specifically in this case, we actually have a gentleman who was a board member of it. His name is Bertrand Lapoire. He lives here in Peachtree corners. His kids go to school here. Very rooted in the community. And he reached out, very interested in what we were doing here, both personally and from his vantage point of being a board member. And we just started talking. And introduced to each other, started getting included in the French American chamber. We started doing things with them and they started getting more interested in what we have going on. Fast forward, I don’t know, a year or so. And the French government created a program called La French Tech and to paraphrase and boil it down, the program was essentially to pick, I believe it was six locations in the US for the French government to choose as a targeted landing spot for French tech companies to come into the US so there was kind of a competitive process. They threw this out to cities throughout the US and said, Hey, we want to do this. We want to establish a more formal pipeline. And we threw our hat in the ring. And of course, I say Peachtree Corners, oftentimes these things are result of us having to educate people on the offerings and the benefits of being in Metro Atlanta. Obviously if Peachtree Corners by itself was just by itself. We couldn’t be handling some of this stuff. We’re punching outside of our weight class as it is. But the Metro Atlanta economic development ecosystem, that’s here. From the Metro Atlanta chamber to the state’s department of economic development to Gwinnett County’s chamber, Partnership Gwinnett, and lots of other, a ton of other organizations that help. We leverage that by reminding them that we are also a part of Metro Atlanta and there’s a lot of all these offerings. Anyway, we threw our hat in the ring. And along with a city in Silicon valley, one up in research triangle, I believe, New York city. Let’s see, I think Austin, Texas. Of the locations we were one of the six. And so we are one of the six. And the exact landing location within Metro Atlanta is the Curiosity Lab innovation center. And of course, once they get there that opens the door for other things and they can move around. And obviously we have relationships with Georgia Tech, ATDC, and others. But their exact landing spot is here. And so the French American Chamber felt like it was in their best interest to further their mission of trying to help perpetuate, help expand and facilitate French tech companies doing various things in the U S that they would be best served to be physically located at the same location where these companies are coming in. So they moved their offices out of the French consulate and into our innovation center. And so this Thursday, we’ve got a big grand opening event where we’re going to celebrate having a permanent French presence inside the innovation center for the purposes of facilitating technology companies and research and testing here, Curiosity Lab from France.
[00:07:45] Rico: If anything proves that technology opens boarders, this is one of them. I mean, internet has shown that you can be anywhere and order anything and be delivered within a day even. Within the day, within hours, almost. So technology, 5G, autonomous vehicles, all that stuff. It’s just, to see that all happening here. And I appreciate what you were saying before. Punching, you know, in your weight class. Because the intuitive surgical company that announced some weeks ago that they were going to bring 1200 new jobs to Peachtree Corners couldn’t have happened without the state also helping, right? Incentives from the city, from the county, I think as well. All that, we don’t live in a small little cylinder here. So we’re taking the city through leadership, political leadership, as well as leadership on your end. And I think advantage of where we can to bring economic impact into the city. It’s a cool thing to be able to have and talk about this and bring jobs over a period of time. And that doorway with the French American chamber, it was like you said, another place that once they hear that can bring more work, more companies coming out here.
[00:08:52] Brian: Yeah. You just never know these portals sometimes open possibilities that you would never have. And vice versa, there could be some American companies that find that there’s this back and forth. It’s not a one-way street. They may end up finding a market in France or a partner as a French company to help scale up their product that they wouldn’t have without it. So it’s not always a one way street. We, like to stress that. Obviously we like to see the activity here, but if we’re that conduit going the other way, that means that people will talk and we’ll get other companies here. Very little investment to do this other than creating relationships, ensuring that the city continues to maintain a testing environment, this living laboratory that is very easy, inexpensive, but yet secure to use. And words getting out and activities happening, and sky’s the limit right now.
[00:09:50] Rico: It seems to be. And the world’s changing, COVID and all that. We’re seeing more of a move at least through the Biden administration of away from petrol. Trying to move away from petrol towards more sustainable energy and possibly electric or alternative vehicles. So I mean, the future’s out there. Forbes magazine even covered or highlighted a bit of what we were doing here, I think. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about that as well?
[00:10:14] Brian: We got on Forbes radar screen about some of the electric vehicle activity that we have here. Specifically the fact that we are both getting ready to have our, if you want to call it kickoff. And I’ll save some of this for the event, but four autonomous shuttles from two different manufacturers, two different OEMs. Coincidentally, one of the two original equipment manufacturers, what OEM stands for, one of the two is actually a French company. But they were talking about that as well as the electric vehicle research we have here to help facilitate what, like you said, might be a greater demand on the use or the need for batteries than we’ve ever seen. If President Biden’s initiative and a lot of this infrastructure legislation is passed, there is a huge amount of pressure to get off the internal combustion engine and get into electric vehicles. That’s not as simple as some people think. You still have a lot of battery charging, battery swapping, battery disposal, things that you’ve got to talk about. And a lot of that’s being done here. And so Forbes took notice and did an article on us. So I get surprised everyday myself sometimes. My CTO and I were talking about another article and we pull it up and sure enough, right there, Forbes comes up and we’re like, wow, we just got on Forbes. So it’s, a wild ride right now.
[00:11:45] Rico: Yeah, I would think. It’s great to have national attention like that. Local companies, local publications, like the Atlanta business Chronicle, featuring a story about Peachtree Corners, experience a real Renaissance by attracting business. And that was a nice article that they wrote just the beginning of this month that they put out that talked a bit about, a recap of the jobs coming here. Of companies that were going to leave, but decided they were going to stay instead. We’re not talking about small amounts here. We’re talking about tens of thousands of, and hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space, even during this COVID environment.
[00:12:20] Brian: And Rico, you and I are both residents here. So if we put on our resident hat, if we didn’t know what was going on, we would be like, okay, what’s the big deal with this? What’s in it for me? Why does the Swiss ambassador or the French American chamber, why do I care about any of it? And you just hit the nail on the head. And that is what’s happening is our local economy is benefiting from it immensely. Whether it’s companies that were going to leave and did not. Hapag-Lloyd right at the corner of Spalding and Peachtree Parkway, they were looking to leave. And we were able to not only convince them not to leave, but then they closed another location and moved in here. And so they expanded by a couple hundred employees in that space. We have retained business. We have helped business expand by hundreds of employees. I mean, CarMax, liked their first experience here just expanded. Soliant liked their experience here. They hadn’t been here a long time but they not only liked their experience, but they liked the fact that we’ve got a lot of energy and synergy around economic development and other emerging companies, innovative companies, and they want to be a part of it. And then of course you go to the ones that’s always the, it gets the most press and that’s the recruitment. And we get some new companies here, but obviously Intuitive being the big one recently. Just think about this, aside from permanent jobs, aside from that, which means we have stable home values and healthy community and all that kind of stuff. Intuitive’s business model, their campus they’re creating here, which will have all of the training for all the surgeons that are working in hospitals on the Eastern seaboard are going to come here to get trained. And so part of the investment commitment Intuitive made to Georgia and pastry Corners, they’re going to generate at least 16,000 overnight hotel room stays per year or more. Just that. So Intuitive deciding to expand here, build their east coast headquarters here, create 1200 plus jobs exceeding $130,000 salary average. That’s all great. Don’t get me wrong. But then you want to talk about local economy and how it will help all of us as residences. That’s a lot of hotel rooms by a lot of visiting surgeons. So these aren’t like ones that are, at least they shouldn’t be paupers and not have a lot of disposable income. But they’re staying in a hotel here at least a week, sometimes a month or longer, depending on how much training they’re getting at once. And they’re needing to do something. And so that’s restaurants, that’s hotels, that’s shopping, that’s all sorts of things that feed our local economy. So this stuff does matter, even though it may be an international story. That’s how you generate excitement, generate interest, generate just awareness. And then we go from there.
[00:15:34] Rico: Yeah, it’s amazing how it just builds on itself. And you’re right. The economic impact is way beyond just the jobs and the visits and stuff. Especially in this, in a city like Peachtree Corners that is still growing and finding its way over the past decade. The Peachtree Corners Festival coming up in September with all local events that are coming and even new ones that we don’t even know are going to be coming this way. Obviously there is that event I think happening in October also was that conference.
[00:16:03] Brian: Oh, the V2X conference.
[00:16:04] Rico: The V2X conference, right.
[00:16:06] Brian: If COVID doesn’t. Yeah, I mean.
[00:16:08] Rico: Well right. If it doesn’t do it to us.
[00:16:12] Brian: But Rico, if it doesn’t happen because of COVID, it will be postponed. It will not be canceled.
[00:16:18] Rico: I’m sure and there’s events that are happening. We’re a co-sponsor of Japan Fest, which is supposed to be happening at Gas Out, but that was postponed just this week. They decided to postpone that. There’s events that are going to be postponed. Then you’ve got Shaky Knees in Atlanta, the concerts that are going to happen. They’re out in the open and they’re still going it seems. So and they’re starting up in two weeks or something. So we’re still here and there’s even more. Like the secretary of transportation came to visit a couple of weeks ago to talk a bit about, to see what we were doing with the TV stations and what we’re doing with the Curiosity Lab. So tell us about what that visit does for the Peachtree Corners City. Having someone like that show up.
[00:16:58] Brian: So we just got done talking a little bit about on the international front, how it benefits us. But domestically we also stand to benefit by getting on certain people’s radar screen. That started actually before Secretary Buttigieg was here with our representative to the US house. That is Carolyn Bourdeaux. She was elected, what has it been almost a year ago? I guess it was January when she came in, but she is very interested in technology. Things that she can do in the suburbs to help with transportation, transit. Things that sometimes we think are only scalable in an urban area, she’s really taken an interest. And up in DC it appears that she had done, I’m not sure what all she did. But she elevated Curiosity Lab to a point where Secretary Buttigieg had, what was essentially an advanced team, come out to our location and asked if they could come out and essentially put me on notice that look, we’re here to see if this location is worth the secretary coming out. And at the end of that hour of me talking to them and showing them some things, they were like, oh yeah, he’s coming here. I don’t know, two weeks later, he ultimately came here with Representative Bourdeaux and with the Commissioner of Transportation for Georgia, Russell McMurry. And as well as a number of other, local leaders from our county commission chair to other state representative state centers. Anyway, the main benefit here are twofold. One is there are a number of agencies that regulate the activity that is going on right here. Two of them that we deal with a lot because of the companies that are wanting to test here is NITSA and FAA. Of course, we all know Federal Aviation Administration, they regulate everything that’s in the air. So when it comes to drones, we’re dealing with them a lot. These companies are dealing with them a lot. And the other one’s NITSA. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. They’re the ones who regulate what happens on our roadways or essentially what is, or is not a vehicle. And so they’re the ones regulating our autonomous vehicle activity here. Both those agencies work for the Secretary of Transportation. And so when secretary Buttigieg was here, one of the things he asked me when I was presenting is what challenges am I seeing? And I did tell him, I said, one of the things we’re seeing is we’ve got some, not just cutting edge, bleeding edge technology that’s happening here. And your regulatory agencies are oftentimes trying to play catch up to try to write regulations, to regulate some of this stuff that’s just emerging. And I said, one of our challenges is that it’s holding some of the evolution of this technology back. They’re ready to go, but they can’t because they’re being held back because of these agencies. And the whole time, the only time I saw him take out a little note pad thing from his coat and write down something was when I said that. You know, we got some follow on action items, but I would love to see them maybe have a more active presence here to help facilitate some of this. But so that’s one. And then the second one is that sometimes the city likes to oftentimes step up and be a part of the evolution of technology ourselves. And so it’s nice for there to be things like the solar roadway that we’ve got out here that we’re doing first in the world, testing on it, being on a public street. Attached to an active working electric vehicle charging station that’s not pulling off the grid, if it runs out of power. I mean, these are some things that we’re doing. So it’s kind of cool sometimes for the city to say, yeah, maybe we were part of the evolution of that particular technology. And so secretary and others wanted to see some of the things that are happening here because they’re interested in how close or far away it is and what they can do to help. So it helps us on a number of fronts. But yeah, right now we’ve got things humming pretty well on both the domestic and the international front. We’ve got some people who have a little bit of rank, so to speak that are coming around. Kicking the tires, seeing what’s going on. So it’s kinda cool. It also can be fatiguing because they come with a lot of advanced parties, whether it’s to detail secret service advance, so there’s a lot of that. I’ve had to hone up on my protocol skills just to know which side of the table to sit on with some of these people, but it’s a cool problem to have.
[00:21:50] Rico: I would think. Exciting problem to have and good friends to have. I mean, Carolyn Bourdeaux being able to bring down secretary of transportation. These are all good things for the city to have. Political strength there, an interest from the federal government and the state. And the city, like you said, is doing a lot of things too. The EV charging stations, I think the city is providing administration of funds on for businesses as well as local people that want to be able to have their own EV charging stations. So that’s an application process, I believe that has to go into the city. So I mean, the city’s promoting stuff like that. So if someone wants to get in, if some business wants to put five EV stations at their business location, they could go to the city to talk about that. So there’s all that going on. You could consider that almost national stuff. Interesting things. But then we have local things going on. So let’s cut a little bit into that as well and let people know what’s going on a little bit. There’s new restaurants coming in. I know that the city approved several licenses. Liquor licenses that were approved, like for Fly Chef restaurant, Crabs ‘R’ Us is coming. So there’s a bunch of that going on. So the city, even though, people talk about going out, restaurants and stuff, there are restaurants opening in the city. Still hard to find employees, right? I’m still seeing signs all over the place. Anywhere from $10 to $15 an hour. I don’t know what the city can do with that, but certainly there is a demand out there for more employees, more jobs out there it seems. At least on a service level that we’re talking about.
[00:23:21] Brian: There are. I mean, we have job fairs both for restaurant and hospitality. Because the hotels are hurting as well. But yeah, we certainly are seeing, we’ve got a number of restaurants that can’t even, aren’t even open all day for the normal times that they would, because there’s not a lot of waitstaff.
[00:23:41] Rico: And I saw Salada also has limited their hours. It’s funny because I put a dinner order on their app and it got to the end, it says they’re closed. And they’re only limited from 11 to 4:00 PM is what they’re doing. So yeah, there is work out there or at least a certain type of work. Part time and stuff. But, those rates, those hourly rates aren’t going up. They just have to find their way there. Also the Grace Korean church, they got approved right? For their special use permit. And Summit gas station, they were looking for some buffer reductions and actually the city didn’t go with that. That was denied, that special use. That would really cut down the buffer on those areas. But the city looked at that.
[00:24:21] Brian: Yeah. Mayor and council, did look at that and said, look, were it not for you wanting to build a gas station, which requires a bigger footprint than a normal, like a different commercial one, because you’ve got to have the pump separate from the building and you’ve got certain distances. So it takes a bigger footprint. So council felt like look, there was no hardship because the owner could build plenty of things on there. Plenty of uses. He had just wanted to do a gas station and it just takes too much. And it’s not to say that they thought it was a bad location. Had it not been for the fact that there was existing residential with a buffer that would have been removed and it would have affected their quality of life.
[00:25:08] Rico: And I’m surprised that they didn’t look at that to begin with. I think they bought that property knowing what it was there and they should have asked those questions ahead of time to see if there was any interest in allowing them to do that.
[00:25:21] Brian: You’d be surprised what people buy with the assumption that they’re going to get a rezone, Rico. It’s sad, and then they get all worked up and threaten lawsuit. Do your due diligence.
[00:25:31] Rico: At this point, I’m not surprised. There are people out there that will buy stuff and not even do the due diligence and just expect to get what they want. Which is like ridiculous. Anything else going on in the city? Coming up that we should know about? That we should share?
[00:25:45] Brian: I mean, you know, fall festival. So that’s coming in just under two weeks that’s of course a huge deal. We are looking to do a decathlon. That’s our next podcast, we can talk about it. It’ll be sometime in mid November. A decathlon around, a unique one around the fitness stations in our fitness trail by the town green.
[00:26:10] Rico: I spoke with City Councilman Alex Wright about that. And he actually shared the logo on it, which looks really cool. And they’re adding, you guys are adding, and this is like a city sponsored event versus an event that the city allows happening in a play. So the city is actually putting this event on. And you’re adding 10 more pieces of equipment, I guess, to that.
[00:26:30] Brian: Well, no. We’re adding three more to get to ten.
[00:26:33] Rico: I’m sorry. Three more, that’s what I mean.
[00:26:35] Brian: We’ll have 10 individual stations that people will rotate through to see. They’ll have to do certain things a certain amount of time and the quicker you can do it the more time you have to rest. And it’ll be five minute increments before you have to move to the next one. So yeah, we can talk about that. Another thing that gets activity to the town center. Another event that’s unique to the area that offers a certain segment of the population something to do. So we’re looking forward to that. But no, we’ve always got, we talked about some of these, more high-profile things. But we still have potholes to patch and you’ve got other things going on that are not as sexy but no less important. And of course, like to remind everybody we’re doing all of this stuff without property tax. So still trying to keep costs of living in the city very low.
[00:27:29] Rico: It’s amazing that the city can do all it’s doing without property tax. Because you see other cities, every other city around here has a property tax. So the fact that our city doesn’t is really good.
[00:27:41] Brian: It’s our local economy. We’ve got to make sure that’s strong and if it’s generating sales tax and good business license, and we can do this. It’s when we take our foot off the gas is where we’re going to get into trouble. So we have no intention of doing that.
[00:27:54] Rico: And you were talking about events and stuff like the festival and the decathlon. Even the corn hole, the corn hole games. I didn’t realize they attract almost, they had I think almost 200 registrants for the league here in Peachtree Corners alone. And they operate these things all over Atlanta. So even the little things like that.
[00:28:13] Brian: Yeah, or the Georgia Clemson game. I mean that one out at the town green was very well attended because people were like, oh, look, I can watch these games at home. Obviously I could go to it. But then I also have a unique experience and I could leave the house. I can be outside and watch it on a big screen. Great weather. Do it with friends. Have a libation and have a great experience. And nothing makes an experience, a Georgia football game, any better than when we beat a top five team.
[00:28:47] Rico: That’s for sure.
[00:28:50] Brian: That’s exactly right. That made it even better. Little things add up. Quality of life is why people live where they do.
[00:28:56] Rico: That’s true. Even this weekend coming up for those that might hear this before this weekend September 11th is another concert night, music on the town green. Sundogs is going to be performing. So you know, all these things really provide a good atmosphere for everyone. I did have a question for you too. I’ve noticed, probably should have asked you this before we started the podcast, but it just came to mind. Earth moving behind Chase Bank. That property is the Robert’s property. And I don’t know if that’s Earth moving or them just putting out trucks over there and stuff. But anything new going on there?
[00:29:29] Brian: No, the behind Chase Bank, not right now. You have two things that are going on in the area. The old black Walnut building was renovated. What’s the name of the steakhouse? H&W?
[00:29:42] Rico: Yeah, H&W I think.
[00:29:46] Brian: So they did some renovation in the back, so it could have been that. And then of course our multi-use trail is going in along the Creek there that separates the Lazy Dog and the parking deck from the other side. And it’s got a trail that is both elevated, up on stilts, if you will. And it also has one that is going to go down into the Creek itself. And so there’s some construction going on with that. So they could have been pre-staging on one side because it just made it easier to get in then trying to go through the town center. But those are the only things happening.
[00:30:24] Rico: Okay. And anything new on the multi-use development that was approved? With that reuse of the four story, five story office building, and those one story condos?
[00:30:33] Brian: 5720 Peachtree Parkway, right? So right now they are working on the official architectural construction documents and the final engineering of the plat. They will take, these developers will take a project only so far before they have the rezoning. Because if they spend too much money and they don’t get it, then all that work was flushed down the toilet. So they are doing that. And I’ve been told that they’re hoping to break ground on that before the end of the calendar year.
[00:31:07] Rico: Alright. Cool. Okay. And I guess the other, the one last thing is the Jimmy Carter Boulevard where the old Upton’s shopping center I guess. It used to be Upton’s department store in there, or one of the gyms were in there after that I think. LA fitness, right? Anything new? I know they sold at one point, I think it was only a 40% occupancy or something like that. I’m just curious if there was anything new going on there that you hear.
[00:31:35] Brian: There is. They have a new owner. That’s considering some options, including some discussions with our redevelopment authority.
[00:31:43] Rico: Excellent. Okay, cool. Good. So maybe we’ll get more news on that. I know that’s an area that’s ripe for development. That whole side of Jimmy Carter. But this was great. I appreciate giving us a zoom call, so to speak on this.
[00:31:59] Brian: Rico as always, thanks for the opportunity and the vehicle for the city to allow some of this stuff to get out. It’s important. And the more educated and knowledgeable our citizenry is, the better. So I appreciate that opportunity for those who watch to be a little bit more informed than they were before the show started.
[00:32:20] Rico: I’m glad to hear that. And Peachtree Corners magazine we’re working on the next issue for the October, November. Putting that together. We’ll have that by the end of this month, we’ll have that all in place. So keep checking us on social media guys. If you like this podcast, certainly share it with your friends. Also give a review on Apple or Spotify or any of those where we’re on. This way we’ll be more searchable as well. And check out our sister podcast, which is starting up with three new episodes in the next few weeks, the Capitalist Sage. We’ll be talking to local business people. One of the leaders of ASHRAE in fact, will be on the podcast soon. Talking about things going on here in the Metro area business-wise and what we can learn from them. So check that out. Go to LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com and learn more about this city. Thank you.
Mayor Mike Mason and the City of Peachtree Corners Join the Mayor’s Reading Club
At the July 25, 2023, Council Meeting, Mayor Mike Mason and the Councilmembers issued a Proclamation supporting the Mayor’s Reading Club.
Georgia City Solutions launched the Mayor’s Reading Club program in August 2022 to encourage, support and lead city mayors in improving literacy skills and early reading success for children and youth in Georgia cities.
Designed to foster partnerships and collaborations between the city, county, local nonprofits, schools, libraries and business community, the program can be delivered virtually, in person, on-demand, year-round or at specific times.
In addition to the Mayor, other elected officials, city staff, youth and community members can participate in the program as guest readers.
To learn more about the Mayor’s Reading Club, visit gacitysolutions.org/Programs/Mayor-s-Reading-Club.
A copy of the full proclamation is below.
A PROCLAMATION OF THE CITY OF PEACHTREE CORNERS, GEORGIA SUPPORTING THE MAYOR’S READING CLUB
WHEREAS, literacy is not just an education issue. It is an economic, workforce, and quality of life issue; and
WHEREAS, research shows that children who can’t read proficiently by the end of third grade are more likely to experience poor health, have discipline problems, and drop out of high school; and
WHEREAS, each year in the United States, low literacy levels are linked to hundreds of billions of dollars in non-productivity, healthcare, and judicial costs; and
WHEREAS, 68% of Georgia fourth graders do not read proficiently; and
WHEREAS, collaborative efforts and strategic partnerships must be undertaken to address literacy issues; and
WHEREAS, the Mayor’s Reading Club program is offered through Georgia City Solutions, a Georgia Municipal Association nonprofit; and
WHEREAS, the goal of the program is to improve literacy skills and overall success with early reading among children and youth in Georgia cities through encouragement, support, and leadership from city mayors; and
WHEREAS, Georgia City Solutions has commissioned a children’s book series to use as part of the program to teach young readers about local government and a copy of the first book in the series titled, Georgia Caroline Visits City Hall, is provided in the program starter-kit; and
WHEREAS, the Mayor’s Reading Club is flexible and can be delivered in person or virtually and promotes partnerships and collaboration between the city, county, schools, public libraries, local nonprofits, and business community.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT PROCLAIMED by the Mayor and Council of the City of Peachtree Corners, do hereby join the Mayor’s Reading Club program and proclaim July 25, 2023 as:
“MAYOR’S READING CLUB DAY”
In Peachtree Corners, Georgia and encourage all residents, businesses, and community partners to help promote and elevate literacy as a community priority and support the Mayor’s Reading Club to improve Georgia’s economic vitality one book at a time.
SO PROCLAIMED AND EFFECTIVE, this day, July 25, 2023.
Peachtree Corners Awarded GFOA Certificate of Achievement for Fifth Straight Year
The City of Peachtree Corners’ Finance Department has been awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its 2022 financial year-end comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR).
The GFOA’s Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. It is the city’s fifth year of receiving the award and represents a significant accomplishment by the City’s Finance Department and its leadership.
According to a GFOA release, “The report has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive ‘spirit of full disclosure’ to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the report.
“We are pleased to again receive this honor,” said City Manager Brian Johnson. “Our finance department, and Finance Director Cory Salley, are to be commended for this achievement as it is the highest form of recognition GOFA presents.”
The city’s Finance Department produces the CAFR each year and works with independent auditors to verify the city’s financial situation and standing. The CAFR is judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the report.
“This is an important award that validates Peachtree Corners’ commitment to go beyond the minimum requirements to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports in the spirit of transparency and full disclosure,” said Assistant City Manager Brandon Branham.
The Government Finance Officers Association, based in Chicago, is a non-profit professional association serving approximately 17,500 government finance professionals. With offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C., it serves the member organization by advancing uniform standards and procedures in financial management for governments and assisting with professional development for public finance managers.
On topic with Alex Wright: Ingles Shopping Center, Tech Park Acquisition, Public Safety and More
City Councilman Alex Wright and I discuss a proposal from the owners of the Ingles Shopping Center for redevelopment and other housing developments in Peachtree Corners. Plus, we discuss a new Tech Park acquisition for the city, public safety, the new City Marshal system, a possible Pickleball Complex and its economic impact, and more.
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:04:06] – Closure of Anderby Brewing
[00:05:56] – The Pickleball Complex and its Economic Impact
[00:09:13] – Ingles Shopping Center and Housing Developments
[00:26:07] – More on Zoning and Developments
[00:31:24] – City Marshal System and the Hiring Process
[00:45:30] – October Decathlon Event
[00:48:37] – Closing
Rico Figliolini 0:00:00
Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, a monthly podcast with different people, different individuals that influence the things that go on in this city. And today we have a special guest, City Councilman post three, Alex Wright. Hey Alex, thanks for joining us.
Alex Wright 0:00:17
Thanks for having me. It’s good to be back.
Rico Figliolini 0:00:19
Yes, it’s always good to be able to talk to people that know what’s going on because I don’t know everything and to get it from those that are plugged in would be fantastic. But before we get into today’s question and answer and things that are going on I’d like to ask you about, I just want to say thank you to our sponsors. We have two. EV Remodeling Inc. and Eli, who owns that company, and lives here in Peachtree Corners. They are a terrific company that does design and build from ground up remodeling, whether it’s your bathroom or your whole house. EV Remodeling does a great job and they’re local to Peachtree Corners and they’ve been a great sponsor of ours. If you go to their website, EvRemodelingInc.com, you’ll see some great work that he’s done, some videos. You’ll get to know a little bit more about Eli and the work they do and check them out because remodeling is their business. Second is a new sponsor of our corporate sponsor and that’s Clearwave Fiber. They’ve joined us over the last month or two becoming a good supporter of ours, our journalism, our podcast, they are here in Peachtree Corners throughout the state of Georgia, really, and the Southeast. But they’re really big here in the city of Peachtree Corners with more than 5000 businesses that they do work with right here in the city of Peachtree Corners, providing services, launching the fiber optic setup that they have. And they’ve been a clear supporter of the City, of Curiosity Lab, of the recent Criterion Road race that was happening here and they’ve been a good strong supporter of what goes on in the city and a good sponsor. So I want to welcome them. You can find the link in our profile to Clearwave Fiber for the Peachtree Corners Life. So check them out and see what they can do for you, whether you’re a business or even a resident. So check that out. So let’s get right onto it. It’s amazing the things going on in this city and the stuff that I don’t always know about because I don’t know everything. Even though we publish Peachtree Corners magazine, we do these podcasts. But Alex is on here because specifically because I subscribe to his newsletter that he puts out every so often and there’s things in there that Alex has brought up and I just want to know more about. So thank you Alex, for putting out that newsletter to your list of residents and people that follow you. I want to say thanks for doing it.
Alex Wright 0:02:49
It’s definitely a good way to stay in touch with people. Obviously you can reach out to a lot of people at once versus being on the ground. That’s not always the most efficient way to communicate.
Rico Figliolini 0:03:03
No, but doing that and quite frankly, even have life podcasts like this and articles that we put out. I mean, all this stuff that we put out, the content that we put out comes from knowing what’s going on in the city, whether it’s from Brian Johnson, the city manager, or Mike Mason, the mayor, or you or Eric Chris or any of the other councilmen, the great people that work for the city Peachtree Corners as well. So got to say that. So there’s a lot of things going on, and I know you plugged into quite a bit of it because of your position. So I guess let’s start right off. Well, first things first. I hadn’t acknowledged this before as far as and to Be brewing, unfortunately, they’re closing their doors. Actually. They’ve closed their doors as of the weekend of July 4, set to see them go and close up shop like that. I think they may be doing things in the business and the industry still, but and to Be brewing is is no longer a place, I understand. How do you feel about when things like that happen? They were one of two brewers in the city.
Alex Wright 0:04:06
Yes. I’m kind of a risk averse person to a certain extent myself, so I’m always impressed when people are willing to kind of follow their dream like that and put so much at risk to do that. It’s kind of inspiring in a way. So you hate to see it when it doesn’t work out, though. I was over there actually the day closed, talking to one of the owners, and she was telling me that they’re going to continue to be in the, I guess the brand business, if you will, where I think outsourcing some of the brewing of their brands. So they’re still going to be around in that regard. And she said that might lead to depending on how successful that is, just to stay in that route. So you alluded they’re not going. It’s just that bricks and mortar location unfortunately won’t be available anymore.
Rico Figliolini 0:04:57
Yeah. Too bad because they’ve been around for, I think it’s been four years.
Alex Wright 0:05:02
Yeah. I think they went in there right before COVID and obviously that wasn’t part of their business plan. I think they were counting on a lot more office workers right there in Tech Park stopping by.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:15
Yeah. And that blew it during COVID But they sounded like they were coming back at a point. But I guess once you go through that, sometimes it’s never coming back. That was a whole year and a half and they thought they were coming back. There was March 2020 when everything looked life. It was coming back. And then all of a sudden things shut down again, like three months later.
Alex Wright 0:05:37
Yeah. Every time I would drive by there. It seemed like they had a good, decent round. So I I don’t know the details, but it’s I’m not a big beer drinker, but I did like going there just for the I was talking about newsletter. Just had kind of a fun vibe. You could bring your dog or kids. It’s just very welcoming place.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:56
Yeah, no, the owner is precedent. His wife and the other people that worked there very passionate about what they do. I mean, he was doing stuff in his kitchen before he got to the brewery, so it wasn’t like he just decided to do it. He was passionate and still is, I think, with what he’s doing. So the other thing that we’re talking about, business is closing, businesses opening. Maybe there’s been a feasibility study that may be finished by this point or not. I don’t know about a potential pickable complex. Private public partnership, possibly maybe 30, 40, 50 courts. So there’s a company that was hard to do that feasibility study. I think I was at one of several meetings, stakeholders or shareholders, I guess, to give feedback or to give their point of view on it. So have you learned anything more or do you have a thing you want to talk about as far as how you feel about it?
Alex Wright 0:06:50
Nothing really new since that meeting that you’re talking about. I think we actually both were that one.
Rico Figliolini 0:06:55
Alex Wright 0:06:57
So still waiting to hear back from that company, though I’m obviously very interested in the money part of it, but I suspect there’s a lot of, whether it be cities or companies or whoever, thinking just like we are, like, hey, this is a huge opportunity. And I’ve used the analogy of 25 years ago, search engines, there’s so many of them. And Google basically won that. Now it’s a verb, but you got to get there first and kind of establish your dominance, if you will. It’s the kind of way I’m thinking about this, where if we wait a couple of years to see what happens, someone else is going to. When I say get in there, I think what we’re looking at is not just say, let’s have ten public pickleball courts. I guess that’s an option. It’s more of an economic redevelopment opportunity in maybe an area that I mentioned my newsletter, like down Holcomb Bridge, where because it’s got a good if you think about that intersection, Holcomb Bridge, and say, 141, that’s only four, actually, probably about 4 miles to 285. So good access to the interstate. Wright but if you built a complex there, I think Brian’s probably mentioned this on one of your podcasts, where the ability to host big tournaments, you can bring a lot of people into town for that. I don’t think we’re just envisioning just pickleball ball courts, but something where it’s a destination unto itself, almost, where you’ve got locals going there, whether they’re playing or not, just to hang out. So you’ve got your local crowd that be there all the time and then layer on top of that the tournament aspect, that could bring in a lot of activity for the city, hotel rooms and restaurants and things like that. So my thought is if the numbers look good, you got to move quick because someone else is going to move quick as well. So the quick you get in there, you’ll get the word out, hey, we’re almost like a dog mark in this territory. Like, hey, we’re here, and other people will say maybe just move on. We don’t want to cannibalize.
Rico Figliolini 0:09:13
I think you have to if you’re going to go in, go in big the expression, I guess, yeah. I think part of that discussion was obviously private public partnership versus the city running it. City doesn’t want to have a parks department or anything where they’re going to do ten pickable courts and have to maintain it. Right. And if it’s going to be a pickable complex or center, it’s really maybe an entertainment complex that has pickleball restaurants, maybe playgrounds, maybe certain other amenities that draw besides the pickleball. I would think Wright or something along those lines.
Alex Wright 0:09:51
Yeah, that whole Holcomb Bridge corridor, if you will. Literally almost from day one, the city has tried all kind of different things to get, I say redevelopment, some kind of I always use the example of over. I used to work, I still work over in Cobb County, but worked near Franklin Road, which street of kind of dilapidated apartments. Marietta came in, bought several of those up, tore them down and they said, hey, here’s some dirt, come in, try to attract come in. They got landing. United’s Training Facility there. Home Depot did a big data center there. The reason I mentioned that is you really just need say one thing to come in, make a big splash and it can create redevelopment. I mean we’re already seeing that, like with the town center where areas around that they want to be near that. I use the analogy or the metaphor of an anchor, people want to be near it. And we’ve had several different things that just didn’t come to fruition, unfortunately in that area. But kind of the way I look at this is we inject some of the money deal, but to your point, we’re not owning it, we’re not running it, but if it’s enough to make the numbers work for a private company, then ultimately the ripple effect more than pays for the money we would inject into it.
Rico Figliolini 0:11:15
It’s similar to, I guess, the town center when that first happened. I mean the city bought property there and then eventually sold it to the developer that developed the property there. And I guess we own certain portions like the parking deck and the town center, but the surrounding part of that town center versus the green and the veterans monument probably.
Alex Wright 0:11:35
Yeah. So that land originally was 21 acres, we ultimately ended up with eight. And the reason that kind of worked out that way was the developer to kind of make their numbers work, they wanted to build apartments. And for that particular piece of land, we had just bought it to stop apartments. It was like, okay, that doesn’t really make any sense. So to make the numbers work, we said, well, we’ll keep these eight acres and do these other things with it. So that’s an example of they need to show a return on their investment. The city doesn’t have to do that. So those eight acres, we can say, well, three years, we’re going to have an ROI that pays for that. But I would argue that by basically putting that money out there to hold that property, to build the green, which the developer didn’t even want to build because he couldn’t monetize it without the green, that was just another kind of almost a shopping center. The Green is really the difference maker there. And so that’s the difference what government can do. They can invest money and they don’t have to have a private equity firm that’s breathing down their neck to pay. Where’s our 22% annual return, right?
Rico Figliolini 0:12:40
Especially when it’s a developer that’s just a retail developer that has no interest in managing really the place. I mean, I understand Fuqua Development probably wants to sell most of what they have already. It’s just they don’t want to be a mold developer, right. Or retail developer like that. They want to flip it. So that worked out great. I mean, we get we there are concerts there with 5000 people showing up. There’s all sorts of events that go on. I know that at the beginning, some people were vocal about why is the city doing it? Why are they spending money, why are they buying that land? But to me it was similar to life. The Simpson Wood Park. Why did the city put up a million dollars to help that purchase or get involved in it? Well, that was also going to be sold to apartment developers, or to developers, I should say, because I don’t know if apartments would ever have been able to be zoned there. But it’s still a park because the county came in and bought it and is managing it versus the city being having a parks department and doing it. So there’s potential out there. And then you have North American properties right, that bought the Forum and they’re committed to it. They’re willing to put green space. They’re willing to put a stage in there. They’re willing to do things similar to Avalon. And I know there’s always another side to that. People don’t want that type of density coming or that type of traffic coming. But you know as well as I do, the Forum was heading south with almost 17 vacant storefronts. At one point, you were part of the group that decided that that made sense North American Properties being there. Right.
Alex Wright 0:14:23
The purchase of that, someone definitely needed to buy the forum. The previous owner, I think, was a REIT out of Boston. We had approached them about this green idea in the middle and even said, we’ll help fund that because we were so worried about the Forum and they had no interest, which I found baffling was like, we’re offering to literally almost give you money and you don’t want it. So someone that sat incompetently run it’s good that North American Properties bought the property. There are aspects of vision that I’m not crazy about, but as a whole, one of the things I did like about North American Properties was unlike most of the other developers that we’ve interacted with, mr. Perry definitely had a vision beyond just their little piece of property that this whole downtown Peachtree Corners life idea had. I liked that because I agree that there’s some synergies between the two properties and he got that that these other folks were just looking for that return every quarter. So NetNet it’s definitely good that they ended up with the property.
Rico Figliolini 0:15:34
So talking about also that whole area, Alex, I think that whole area, I think, has an overlay. That’s an entertainment overlay, if I remember correctly, right, that includes the Forum, includes town center, then goes into where Lidl is and also includes the Ingle shopping center, that whole part there, which is what we are calling the downtown area, essentially. Correct. So to that effect, there’s other things going on. For example, ingle shopping center. At one point, Ingles came in, they wanted to see if they can do gas pumps there, similar to, let’s say, Costco’s or Kroger’s. That was denied probably for a variety of reasons. But now the owner of that shopping center, not just Ingles, but everything that’s in it, has approached the city, I guess. Tell me a little bit about what’s going on there, what they’re looking to do.
Alex Wright 0:16:26
Wright so just back up just a second. Sure. They have developers that will approach the city kind of a regular basis, all kind of stuff. For example, a lot of the office parks near the town center, we’ve had people approach and say, hey, we’re interested in doing some kind of mixed use because they want to be near the town so much, the town center as the town green. They want to be near the activity there because people life, I think people naturally like to gather and be part of what’s going on. So it just happened to be that in the case of Ingles, that the council was given a briefing about this. And it’s not so much that the staff is saying, well, we’re not going to tell the council about this and we’re going to tell them about this. It’s just there’s so many that they try to be prudent about, okay, we think this one is serious enough to loop you in on some conversations. And so basically the update was Ingles lease apparently is coming up the next year or so. The owner kind of looked at the situation, said, all right, well, we obviously don’t want to lose Ingles. But Ingles was telling them is we’d like a smaller footprint. Apparently that’s the thing now in new grocery stores is a smaller footprint, more like a sprouts size. So they were looking to not so much leave, but shrink their footprint. So I think the owner looked at this as an opportunity. We’re looking to better monetize this property. We see what’s going on at the forum with the redevelopment. We see the town center. They probably hear about some of the other things behind the scenes that are potentially on the horizon. And they wanted to approach this. What they did, they approached the city and said a lot of times the way this will work is they’ll say, we’ve got this kind of rough idea of what we might want to do. Do you think that the council would be open to that? Obviously the staff has no idea the council is going to vote on anything, but normally have a good pulse of life. I might have a certain view of how I want things to be in five years and some of my colleagues different view and good staff is going to going to know that. And so that helps to be able to tell a potential developer, hey, we don’t know exactly what will happen, but this is kind of the sense we have and it helps them determine whether to move forward with a proposal anyway, kind of the pitch, if you will, that they put out. There was, again, another mixed use development which would include a housing component. But one of the things that made this different than some of the other ones we’ve seen is it included a senior living component. And at least it’s just my opinion, but we are in really short supply of that. I know we’ve got Waterside, which is coming online, but I hear a lot of people say it’s more than I want to pay and I’d rather live near things I could walk to. What a lot of people I know we spend a lot of time trying to attract young professionals. But if you follow demographics, the United States had a below replacement birth rate for almost 50 years. It’s kind of been masked by immigration, but you’re seeing this happen all across the world. So the point, point of my story is that in absolute numbers, there’s less 18 year olds today than there were ten years ago, 20 years ago. But the number of people that are 65 and older continues to go up. So we really need to give that some attention as well. We want places for those folks to stay versus having to leave Peachtree Corners. So when I heard that, I was very interested in that proposal because I think we’ve got a big housing shortage in that area. And I think we’ve got a big housing shortage for people, younger people who want to own versus just rent. Most people, if they’re 28, they’re not going to move into a $500,000 house. That’s just difficult.
Rico Figliolini 0:20:29
I think you had said active living community.
Alex Wright 0:20:33
Yeah. So this isn’t like at least my interpretation of it wasn’t assisted living or memory care. Like what you’re talking about active people, maybe they’re 55 and they want to move out of their 5000 square foot home into something smaller, which I know Waterside has got that as well. But they’ve got more some other stages as well. I don’t think this included that is significant housing piece that was the grocery store would stay but shrink the retail. So all the retail, the grocery store, it would move up closer to 141 and then the housing and maybe some other things could go further back. So you ultimately would take some of that cement that’s unused right now and put it to good use. When I say good use, they’re going to be able to monetize it. So it’s a win for them.
Rico Figliolini 0:21:29
I think they had a rendering you shared in your newsletter.
Alex Wright 0:21:32
Yes, there was actually several renderings. That one was just one of probably like four or five. We saw different kind of combinations of things.
Rico Figliolini 0:21:42
Alex Wright 0:21:43
The other ones were a little more like drawings, more so this one looked more appealing to the eye, I guess to illustrate what is possible.
Rico Figliolini 0:21:52
I was looking to see if I could put that up. What I’ll do is I’ll include that in our notes, show notes, so people can see that what that picture looks like. And actually we have a writer that’s doing some work on this. I think she interviewed you already. Or we’ll be reaching out to you.
Alex Wright 0:22:08
Yeah, I talked to her earlier, either earlier this week or late last week we had spoken. Right.
Rico Figliolini 0:22:14
So we’ll have a bit of an article on that with the picture. Certainly I would think I would hope also with something life that that maybe there’s a possibility at looking actually even looking at the rendering right now is CVS and Dunkin Donuts. Those are not out parcels or are they to that process?
Alex Wright 0:22:34
Those two parcels are not owned by the guy who owns the company that owns the shopping center.
Rico Figliolini 0:22:40
Got you. Okay. So those are ad parcels along with the former McDonald’s property that’s on the other side.
Alex Wright 0:22:46
That’s correct. And also the daycare center is also separate.
Rico Figliolini 0:22:52
So it’s just everything other than that the parking lot and then that strip around Ingles and all the shops along that park. Correct. Is what we’re talking about. Okay. Hoping there might be equity type housing. There life condos, but versus granted it’s active living apartments, but versus another set.
Alex Wright 0:23:15
Of apartments, I got the impression that you never know what someone’s going to propose but that they understood that, hey, there’s been a lot of apartments approved recently that we’re looking for some balance. So I think that was communicated as well, that we prefer at this point an equity product. I’m not retirement age, but if I was, if I was going to downsize maybe I’m an apartment briefly, but probably want to own something or at least have that opportunity. Because I talked to the city manager sometime about this, where if you’re trying to create activity, whether it be at the forum or the town center, I mean, who better to have than an active, retired person who’s got plenty of time on their hands and probably a lot of disposable income to give that kind of all day activity that places want to have where they’re from nine in the morning till ten at night. There’s people moving around. I think the trick with the ingles is how do you transport people around where they’re not having to constantly get in their car? You know, that’s something, I mean, listen.
Rico Figliolini 0:24:29
Lawrenceville is city of Lawrenceville is doing something downtown that they’re looking to be able to provide, like a walkable supermarket in the downtown area versus having to drive to a huge place where there’s a Walmart or a publix. Just having a local neighborhood grocer like you said, life the size of Sprouts or something much smaller.
Alex Wright 0:24:50
Well, those, the people that live in the town homes over at the Town Center, if you think about they can walk to a grocery store. I think there’s a dentist at form. They’re ready to walk across those doctor’s office. They could just about walk to anything they wanted to. So there’s some of that vibe already going on that’s very convenient to just you don’t have to hop in your car, right?
Rico Figliolini 0:25:14
So getting onto that more, of course there’s the flip sides of these things, right? The more density, people don’t want more density, more traffic. There’s already a bunch of traffic going up John’s Creek, never mind trying to get into Peachtree Corners. Life but the next development is what some people call Charlie Roberts property, which is, I think you called it the dirt hole behind Chase. That’s that empty lot that everyone sees if they’ve ever been to Chase or look at HWD Steakhouse that’s looking to hire, by the way, if anyone’s interested. And that’s right near Town Center. I mean, that’s all in the ground. And I think that is definitely zoned for apartments at this point because it’s part of that multi use track now. And they could go up seven stories, I think, or six stories or something like that. So tell us what’s going on there because that sounds like there’s a movement.
Alex Wright 0:26:07
At least going sounds life that property, mr. Roberts has owned it for I guess, 20 plus years and probably about 2016 he approached the city about getting it zoned from, I think it was commercial. He wanted to get it changed to apartments anyway. That was a big discussion, and the compromise was you can have some apartments, but it’s got to be connected to kind of like a boutique hotel. It was all going to be kind of the same building. And the zoning, he had four years to basically start coming out of the ground, and if he didn’t, the zoning would revert back to commercial. And so I think within like a year or so, he had gotten a hotel brand to go in.
Rico Figliolini 0:26:56
Indigo. I think it was the indigo.
Alex Wright 0:26:59
And shortly thereafter, the world flipped upside down with COVID and no one’s staying in hotels. And that blew his plan up, no fault of his. And by the time the four years came, he wasn’t able to pull that off. So it reverted back to commercial. And I don’t know all the details behind the scenes, but some time goes by, north American comes into the picture as part of their Peachtree Corners Life downtown idea. They also looked at that property as part of that larger development of how do we create activity feet on the ground. So it got rezoned from commercial to apartments. Now, Mr. Roberts company is the one that got the rezoning. Even though that night at the meeting north American if you didn’t really know what was going on, you would have thought that they were the one getting the rezoning, which kind of made sense because their plan was as soon as it got rezoned, they would buy it and it would be part of their plan.
Rico Figliolini 0:28:00
So that rezoning was never done on condition of the purchase. That was rezoned, period.
Alex Wright 0:28:06
Right. There was no time limit. There was no conditions anyway. So get the Rezoning plans to sell it to North American, and then interest rates start to go up on everybody, and it starts to make the financing problematic is my understanding, which I think that’s case for all of us, our own personal finances or stuff’s costing more now, whether it be inflation or interest rates. Anyway, so North American, they basically didn’t have the money lined up or the numbers didn’t make sense at this point because of those two things. And so that deal fell through. So then I suspect at least what we were hearing kind of behind the scenes was Mr. Roberts was floating it around to other potential buyers and kind of heard through the Great Vine recently that he had found a buyer. I don’t have the name in front of me.
Rico Figliolini 0:28:57
I think it’s Tur. Villager Papas.
Alex Wright 0:29:01
Yeah, I’m not familiar with the company, but I heard from various sources that deal would close at the end of July. And if you kind of been paying attention over the last few months that I call it the Dirt hole, it went from having huge mounds of rocks and debris in it to totally cleaned off, ready to build. So obviously there was stuff going. On behind the scenes. And now when it closes, I suspect that will move pretty quick because the zoning is already there. All they have to do now is get building permits from the city.
Rico Figliolini 0:29:37
Alex Wright 0:29:38
Probably I don’t know how long that takes, but suspect that if I bought a piece of property, I’d want to get it to use as quickly as possible. They get the buildings built the quicker the money comes in.
Rico Figliolini 0:29:50
So I think if anyone wants to know what type of properties they do if you go if you search Sola, S-O-L-I-S Suwani, you’ll see the type of apartments they do. They’re all over the southeast. The biggest things is they have probably about 15 communities either planned or in place in Georgia. Swani, Sugar Hill, Decatur, kennesaw, Dumwoody, Dunwood, Gainesville. Bunch of places, I think. Sugar Hill 294 class A apartment with 12,000ft of retail and restaurants. I don’t know if they’re looking to do if that ever came up in that conversation either, but that’s in Sugar Hills Town Center. So they’re doing stuff in these places. All right, so then we’ll find out, I guess towards the end of the month, if they close on that.
Alex Wright 0:30:42
Yeah, like I said, that was all just I think these are pretty good sources that have been talking about this.
Rico Figliolini 0:30:49
And I think that was zoned. Not only was that enveloped or taken into the multi use track of what Town Center is right. I think it was included into that. And they’re zones for similar unit count, probably 200. And if I remember right, 200 and 7280 apartments.
Alex Wright 0:31:06
Yeah, something in the mid upper 200s.
Rico Figliolini 0:31:08
Right. Okay. Either way, that would have been there whether it was North American properties or a new developer.
Alex Wright 0:31:16
Yeah. Once they got that rezoning back in September, there’s going to be apartments eventually with somebody.
Rico Figliolini 0:31:24
Okay, cool. Let’s talk a little bit about I think the city Marshall system is going to be stood up the end of this month or the beginning of August is what I understand.
Alex Wright 0:31:35
So the new fiscal year began July 1, and that’s really the first year we had money budgeted for this. So there’ll be three officers. My understanding is two have already been interviewing. They’ve identified two. I don’t know if they’ve officially been hired, but they’ve got two that are been offered jobs, I guess you could say, got you. And then the third, which would be, I think the head person, will come on a little bit later this year. So then there’ll be three initially, right?
Rico Figliolini 0:32:11
Alex Wright 0:32:13
Rico Figliolini 0:32:13
I mean, they still have to work through. I think some of the original some of the preliminary stuff was done, like type of cars, equipment, some stuff. But there’s a lot going to this. Right. Office spaces.
Alex Wright 0:32:26
Yeah. So we’re going to obviously have to expand the footprint of the government. Some of that will be upstairs. City hall at the top level is private company rents from the city, which actually been a great deal for us because it’s basically been almost like a duplex. Right? They’re paying for the mortgage force. Yeah. And then we’re buying another building over near the old City Hall that’ll give us some additional capacity.
Rico Figliolini 0:32:55
That one’s across from Curiosity Lab. Right. That’s wright on the street side, I guess.
Alex Wright 0:33:01
That’s correct. And then on that whole kind of complex, if you will, those two buildings, a lot of flexibility.
Rico Figliolini 0:33:08
So there’ll be more on that as we get more details to segue into why, to some degree, this wasn’t necessarily why, but conversations I had with city manager information from before makes sense for us to have a city marshal system because they can do things that Gweneck County Police either weren’t able to or really not shouldn’t be tasked to. Like code enforcement maybe, and stuff like that. And to be able to, the city can sort of put their police force where they feel most necessary.
Alex Wright 0:33:42
Wright yeah, that’s all very accurate. The Gwinnett County Police, I think they’re budgeted for 930 officers, and I want to say they’re staffed right now in the upper six hundred s. And I don’t think that’s unique to Gwinnett County. There’s an issue across the nation with we could spend all day speculating on the why of that. But anyway, they’re not able to be fully staffed right now. So if you’re down, say, 30%, you just going to prioritize where you’re sending folks. Sure, we have an intergovernmental agreement with Gwinnett County. They provide our police services, but we don’t have any control over what they do. We can ask, hey, can you do this, can you do that? But they ultimately have to make decisions beyond what’s best for Peachtree Corners life because the west precinct is pretty large area. So it’s been a combination of the things you mentioned. One they’re just understaffed, and then they also have been directed by the legal department of Gwinnett County that if there are any ordinances in a city that are city specific, that they are not to enforce those. And an example of this, several years ago in a neighborhood here in Peachtree Corners, there was apparently a pretty big party going on really loud, and people nearby called when that county showed up and there was, I guess a city specific ordinance regarding I think it was the noise. I don’t know all the details. And basically the police officer said, this is a code enforcement issue I’m not allowed to involve. And so he left and then the party continued unabated. There was a lot of people upset about that. That’s just to illustrate an example of where think about it, if you’re having that party and you know the police aren’t going to do anything, some people it could easily spin out of control. So it’s not something you want to have happen. Again, that’s just anecdotal but it illustrates where those are two issues we’ve got. And I think a third part. We’ve had some things over the last couple of years, some of these intersection takeovers where people would get frustrated and in some instances, the police did a great job. They got there and arrested a ton of people. And then there’s some other instances where because of other commitments in the west precinct, they didn’t show up for quite a while because they just didn’t have the resources, the stuff to go to the residents and say, hey, there’s nothing we can do about it. They expect more. So I think some of what we’re doing is us trying to, in a measured way, respond to, okay, we are doing something, we’re creating resources that we can control. With these three marshals been at a stop at the intersection takeover? No. However, we’re showing that we get it, that people are frustrated. And I just got our crime from Gwinnett County just today, and it only goes through May. So this is an update from my newsletter, but the numbers through May for the first five months type one crimes, which are the more serious kind, up 60% year over year through April is only 39%. So maybe May is anomaly, I don’t know. But that’s not a good trend.
Rico Figliolini 0:37:05
That’s in the city proper and Peachtree Corners. Yes, those types of crimes include felonies, robbery, burglary.
Alex Wright 0:37:18
They could be property crimes as well, you know, breaking into a car or, you know, simple assault. But yeah, they’re definitely the more serious kind, the one that people that’s the stuff you read about on next door where someone’s window got smashed in or it’s the kind that really make people feel unsafe.
Rico Figliolini 0:37:37
Yes. And then obviously we won’t get into it. But then there’s the crimes unreported, like smash and grab, three or four people running into a store, taking what they please.
Alex Wright 0:37:49
Rico Figliolini 0:37:50
We could go through that and spend more time on it, but that’s okay. Yeah. Hopefully I understand we’ll be plugged into to some degree with Fusis maybe even. And we’re adding cameras, led cameras and stuff. Not Led, I mean LPRs, I think.
Alex Wright 0:38:07
We’Ve got to say 50 of the LPRs. Maybe it’s not that many. We’ve also got 82 cameras at the town center. Like literally almost every inch of that is covered. And I think the city manager said the forum is going to get in on the Fusis program. I have mixed feelings about the cameras because you’ve got the kind of the creeping Big Brother aspect, but then on the other hand, there’s a force multiplier. I don’t know if you saw the thing that was on an E a few days ago about there’s a show called 48 Hours. I don’t normally watch it, but it was about the young man who got murdered at the QT, I guess it was last year. And so this is like a national show. Very interesting because it went into the whole gist of the show is for crimes to be solved, you basically have to get on top of things within 48 hours because then things start to go cold. And so they had all of the characters from what happened with all the police officers, the families, they had video of these people being interviewed at the police headquarters. They showed how they tracked them down with the cameras and it was fascinating. So I would encourage we get done. I’ll shoot you the link, but it’s really interesting. But it showed the power of the cameras. That was the key for them tracking these guys down, using cooperating with other municipalities to track these cars down.
Rico Figliolini 0:39:34
Yeah, remember the I mean, I haven’t seen that. I’ll share that in the show notes as well. But I knew that they were able to track them down into Atlanta through cameras and other things and fuses with part of it. But that would be great to see that back behind the scenes stuff.
Alex Wright 0:39:50
It was very interesting because some of it was recreated, but they had all of the police officers that were involved in it kind of acting, if you will, recreating what went down. It was very well done.
Rico Figliolini 0:40:04
Wow, cool. I think within a decade, you can’t hide anymore. At some point, if you’re in the city causing crime, I mean, it’s going to be tough unless you have a bandana on your face or something, a mask. And even then, I think, from what I understand, from what Fusis is doing even, and the technology out there, that they can pretty much fingerprint a car based on dense colors. So you don’t even have to see the license plate anymore almost to be able to ID a car eventually using AI. And the way they track these things, especially the muscle cars and the stuff that the guys that do the spinning of the wheels of the street takeovers, I mean, they’re not doing it with cheap cars. They’re doing with these big cars, these really bulk down, pimped out cars and stuff. I’m sorry, that’s the Brooklyn and me, it just came out on that. But okay, cool. So, I mean, there’s just a lot going on and you hit upon the acquisition of the property in Tech Park for the city that’s going to happen and it’s just other things going on. We still have zero millage rate. Yes, quite a bit of money, unspent money in the bank. Is it $59 million or something?
Alex Wright 0:41:22
That’s correct. Now, to be clear, a lot of that money, it’s not just we can spend on anything there. Some of it is earmarked. When I say earmarked, it’s money specifically has to be spent, say on stormwater or on lost money. It’s got requirements. We’ve created some specific savings funds for different things. So it’s not just all laying around. We can go crazy and it’s unallocated. But we are in a very strong financial position. One of the ratios that I like to mention that apparently in city finances is one of the things they measure is they look at, they call the general fund, which would be things other than Sploss and stormwater and say, well how much money do you have saved versus what they call operating budget. So if our operating budget is let’s say $20 million, well if we had $20 million say, that means basically twelve months of savings. If you think about it in your own personal life, sure. The gold standard in municipal finances is roughly three months. So we on a regular basis are at and beyond twelve months of that. So that’s a good measuring stick that you can kind of compare against cities across the nation. So to think that we’re able to do that with a zero millage rate and I would argue probably the main reason is because we’ve got so many businesses here. If you look at your business to kind of residential balance, we’re about 60 40. If you went up to say, Johns Creek, it’s more like 80 20, which is the reason their property taxes, they’ve got one and we don’t. So we’re a very unique municipality in that regard. So that’s one of the reasons that is so important. The council is so focused on, hey, how do we help revitalize tech part because that’s the golden goose, if you will, that keeps us able to have a zero military. And that’s ultimately where your average person is going to pay attention to what’s going on is when suddenly say, hey, we’re going to start taking money from you. They’ll perk over and say, hey, what the heck is going on? You don’t want to do that.
Rico Figliolini 0:43:41
Spoken to a few people about like just because it’s Technology Park and its offices doesn’t mean it can’t be revamped into something a bit different. I’d love to see this college campuses that have offshoot. GSU has a satellite campus in Dunwoody, I think. And there’s no reason why Georgia Tech for example, can’t have a satellite campus here in Peachtree Corners taken over several buildings. I mean there’s things like that that can happen if it’s attractive enough for certain places, right?
Alex Wright 0:44:14
Yeah, no absolutely. I know the mayor has been a big proponent of trying to get the Gwinnett College or Gwynette Tech I can’t remember to open up a campus Peachtree Corners life that I don’t know the stats of that, but literally from day one, he has been an advocate for getting a local college presence here, which I think would be a great idea.
Rico Figliolini 0:44:33
Yeah, especially if it’s a technology based type of school. So yeah, I can see that. That would be great. The only other thing I would love to see is an art theater center, a complex of some sort.
Alex Wright 0:44:47
Be surprised if that I think that’s probably going to happen. I don’t know the timing but I’m just speculating here that. I would bet you in five years that the city’s got some type of facility. Again, it’d probably be like a private public partnership, something like that, if not sooner, is kind of my speculation.
Rico Figliolini 0:45:07
Good to say. Good to hear. All right, so before we end, I know it’s sold out, I think, so there’s no more places for it. But the Decathlon, the third annual Decathlon that you’re really invested and involved in and actually started was the founder of it, if you will. Can you tell us that’s coming up in October? October 21.
Alex Wright 0:45:30
That’s correct. October 21. So it’s held over at the fitness trail out the town green. And if you’ve never there’s a new playground there. If you ever kind of venture into the woods beyond the playground, that’s where all the fitness trail is. And kind of the origins of that. Not to go into too much detail, but I’m a member of the Y, and they used to have kind of a similar concept at the Y to raise money, and it was meant different things inside the Y. But basically the way it works is you would have ten events at the decathlon, and you had five minutes at each obstacle, if you will, and the quicker you finished it, someone will record your time, and then the rest of the five minutes was your rest, if you will. So it’s almost like capitalism. The harder you go, the more time off you got. So anyway, they would add up all the times, composite. Whoever had the lowest time was the winter. So we took that idea out to the fitness trail, and it’s very much a niche kind of thing, because some of the obstacles, like climbing ropes, most people can’t do that. It’s often kind of difficult to explain to people what it is. But I’m pretty excited because we sold out, like, in a month. And the reason there’s only a certain number of slots, because the capacity to handle a lot of folks is just kind of limited. But the word is spreading to kind of cross the north metro area. We’ve got a waitlist. And my biggest concern always is rain, because nothing I can do about that. The week leading up on just kind of a nervous rate, like, please don’t rain. But yeah, they got some really impressive people that come out and do it. It makes you realize how old you are when you see some of these ladies. I’m pretty excited about it. Definitely have a passion for it. I love going out to the fitness trail. I’ll just be walking through there and you’ll see people of all ages trying to do different things. And if you think about kind of our state of physical fitness, if you will, like in the country where my own kids, they’re on video games or whatever, where you see people out doing something, I love to see that. Especially like the younger kids, even if they can’t necessarily climb a rope, they’re intrigued through stuff, whether the playground, whatever. It’s great seeing that.
Rico Figliolini 0:48:01
Just get out there and do something, right.
Alex Wright 0:48:04
Rico Figliolini 0:48:05
So 72 available slots, all gone. There’s a waiting list now, and we’ll have the Hype video, if you will, on our show notes. This way people can see what it’s all about rather than trying to envision it. So it’s a great video. I think Titan Pictures put that one together.
Alex Wright 0:48:22
Yeah, jim Stone did some videos from last year’s, and most of the people in there are local residents that you might recognize. That’s the other thing that’s kind of neat about it is very much a local kind of a community building activity.
Rico Figliolini 0:48:37
Very cool to see it. We’ve come to the end of our time together. This a little longer than we had planned, so I appreciate you hanging in there with me, Alex, and talking through this. Yeah, no, I think hopefully everyone listening to this or reading the synopsis of this, because we’ll be doing a short piece on this as well. Will know quite a bit more about what’s going on in the city. So appreciate you being with me, Alex. Thank you.
Alex Wright 0:49:03
Yeah, thank you.
Rico Figliolini 0:49:04
Stay with me for a second as I just close out. I just want to say thank you to everyone. If you’re listening to this on Audio Life, Apple podcast or something, like or review us, give us a star rating because this way people can find us. If you’re listening to this on YouTube or our Facebook page, feel free to share it with people or tag people in the comments that may want to find out a little bit more about what’s going on in the city of Peachtree Corners. Again, I want to thank our sponsors, EV Remodeling Inc. You can find them at evremodelinginc.com. And Clearwave Fiber. You can find them also on our link in our profiles as well. Thanks again and hope to see you soon.
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