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Changes to The Forum and Surrounding Area Are Coming

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The Forum at Peachtree Corners
The Forum as imagined by North American Properties (The Forum renderings courtesy of North American Properties)

The changes coming to The Forum at Peachtree Parkway are perhaps the biggest thing happening in Peachtree Corners in a long time. So, it was probably no surprise that about 250-plus residents and stakeholders turned out for an information session on May 18 hosted by United Peachtree Corners Civic Association (UPCCA).

Tim Perry, managing partner of North American Properties (NAP) Atlanta location, presented the plans the developer has for the property.

For those who didn’t know his background, Perry explained that he’s a neighbor, living just five miles from Peachtree Corners. “[The Forum] has been on my morning commute for years. I’ve driven by it, sort of coveted it a little bit and thought… it has deteriorated so much over the past few years,” he told the audience.

Opportunity for improvement

Perry explained that he saw The Forum as a great opportunity to bring about a success similar to what NAP has done in other areas. He cited a property called Birkdale in the Charlotte, N.C. area, near Lake Norman, that’s like The Forum and The Avenue in East Cobb. It’s not as large but was developed with a similar strategy. Of course, NAP’s most successful local development, Avalon, is the measure for what mixed-use buildouts should be.

“We focus on places, not spaces. I’m sure all of you recognize this from Avalon. It’s not about the physical buildings,” Perry said. “It needs to be expressed with the brands, but it’s about the space between the buildings.”

While he lamented that a great property like The Forum had gone downhill, Perry was optimistic that it hadn’t hit rock bottom. “There’s a certain point [where these properties] can’t necessarily be revived. When you start getting into the [resale stores]… that tenant profile, it chases the rest of [the higher end tenants] out,” Perry said. “You really have to be able to change that perception and right that ship. And what that means is you have to be able to drive sales. This is all about driving sales.

“[The property] has been a victim of this really bad institutional ownership that… doesn’t necessarily invest on the operating expense side the way that you have to to keep these [types of investments] running,” he added.

Before looking at purchasing the property, Perry said NAP contacted the previous owner about investing in the location and helping to bring it back to its former luster, or even go one better and elevate its profile. In the mindset that a rising tide raises all ships, he reasoned that a corridor of luxury development would be good for everyone — not just The Forum.

“I started calling the owner,” he said. “[I’d say] ‘Hey, come on, let us be an investor. Let’s put some money in and stick with you and your partner in this.’”

Perry presented some plans. “We want to define downtown Peachtree Corners as this amazing community amenity that, again raises all tides,” Perry said. “And like a house, people don’t move to buy houses just for the bedrooms. They buy a house for the great kitchens where they spend time cooking, and dining rooms where they hang out for board games, and living rooms where they socialize with family and friends. And what great downtowns are, they are great social places where people convene and play boardgames in the plaza and spend time at concerts and have great meal options where people kind of get together.”

NAP plans to convert the empty Kinnucan’s location into a Food Hall with multiple food stalls (think a mini–Ponce City Market). Diners could sit indoors or at a patio outside the Food Hall or in the new North Court.
Plus, an outdoor seating area with small retail buildings (renderings courtesy of NAP)

Setting the record straight

In the end, the partnership didn’t materialize, and NAP purchased The Forum in March. “We will increase the operating expenses… at The Forum by about $2 million a year over what the previous owner invested on an annual basis,” Perry said.

The immediate fixes will include investments in music, lights, uniforms and opportunities to get to know the tenants. Things like replacing chewed-up speaker wires in flower beds, upgrading lights and fixing small things that aren’t noticeable when they’re done right — but can give an air of shabbiness when done wrong — cost $35,000, Perry said.

Before the land use meeting, Perry did his homework. Living so close to Peachtree Corners, he can access local posts on NextDoor. He wanted to see what people were saying.

“We always start with community engagement. One of the first calls we made here was, ‘What’s the community interaction here?’” he said.

Perry debunked some of the misinformation that’s been spreading.

“A hedge fund raised the rent,” said one post.

“We didn’t buy from the hedge fund. It was a core trust. The Forum has been going downhill for years. Even before COVID, it put in a liquor store. It’s not an optimistic picture,” Perry said. “There was a pretty dire picture with Williams Sonoma leaving, and even the tenants that were there were seeking something to buy into.”

“The city should buy the property and change it to an Avalon or have more family open field stuff,” wrote another poster.

“We’ll do the Avalon if the city wants to pay for it,” said Perry. He added that the city leaders have already shown tremendous enthusiasm for creating a vibrant downtown. He mentioned the subsidies to the Town Center, the foresight in building the pedestrian bridge over Peachtree Parkway and the planning for a walkable city center.

“The Forum is suffering because the prior owner was charging too much,” a NextDoor post said.

“Just for a very quick side note, it’s not about rent, y’all. It’s about sales. About 35% of [business] expenses are payroll, another 35% are cost of goods sold and 10% are [general and administrative costs], 10% are rent and 10% are profit. When their top line sales start suffering, the first thing that goes away is profit. Then comes the quality of the product and the quality of customers. So, it is all about sales,” Perry said.

He encouraged everyone to communicate with NAP and The Forum through social media channels if that’s how they feel most comfortable. “We do monitor our Instagram feeds, our Facebook feeds and all that other kind of stuff,” he said. “But we’re here to listen, and really do read these. So please let us know.”

Five-year plan

After setting up the premises, Perry showed what can be expected at The Forum in the next five years. He shared a conceptual plan for nine major improvements or additions to the property. City Councilman Eric Christ posted a comprehensive diagram outlining those items on a NextDoor post. Here’s his take (map pictured above):

1.   NAP plans to convert the empty Kinnucan’s location into a Food Hall with multiple food stalls (think a mini–Ponce City Market). Diners could sit indoors or at a patio outside the Food Hall or in the new North Court.

2.    The North Court will be built on the central parking spaces and feature an outdoor seating area with small retail buildings (2,000 square feet each) at both ends. While cars will continue to circulate on both sides of the North Court, the roadway will be raised to be even with the sidewalk height to facilitate pedestrian access to/from the North Court.

3.  A Center Court will also be built on the central parking spaces and feature a gathering area bounded by two tiny retail buildings (450 square feet each).

4.  At the Belk end is the South Court with the lawn, a gathering area with a performance stage and a concierge building with public restrooms and valet parking service.

5.  There’s another small retail building (2,400 square feet). Note that constructing items 2-5 removes about 200 parking spaces from The Forum’s main street.

6.  To replace lost parking spaces, NAP will build a parking deck. The parking deck will be built on the existing parking lot next to Belk. It will have 300 spaces on three floors and be about 35 feet high. Per Perry, the existing Belk building is approximately 28-30 feet high. For comparison, this is about half the size of the Town Center parking deck which has 617 spaces. You will be able to access the deck via car by coming in the main entrance and under the clock tower, but also by going behind the Belk building by Ted’s Montana Grill or by going behind the retail stores by the Aiomi restaurant end. Pedestrians would get from the deck to the main street by using the cut-through at Grace 1720. Removing 200 street parking spaces but adding a 300-space parking deck would net 100 more spaces for shoppers and diners.

7.    The entrance boulevard will be redesigned with sidewalks.

8.    A boutique hotel would be built above current parking spaces in the upper parking lot next to Peachtree Parkway. The room count has not been finalized, but the target range is 125 to 175 rooms. New dedicated parking for hotel guests would also be built. Note that items 1-8 are all permitted under the current zoning and while there are requirements for building heights, construction materials, etc., these proposed items do not require City Council approval.

9.   The final component is a proposed residential complex built above current parking spaces on the Peachtree Parkway side of The Forum. There will be 300 apartments, a mix of one- and two-bedroom, no three-bedroom, units The complex would also include new dedicated parking spaces for residents. The target market would be young professionals and empty nesters. Perry stated that at Avalon, there is one school-age child in all of the apartments at that site. Residing in a C-2 zoning district is not permitted, so item 9 would require a rezoning application, a hearing before the Planning Commission and a vote by the City Council before it could be constructed.

Regarding timing, items 1-7 will be underway in the next two years while items 8 (the hotel) and item 9 (the residential, if approved by council) are four to five years away.

Questions and answers

At the end of his presentation, Perry suggested rebranding the site with a new name. “The Forum is still going to be called ‘The Forum,’ but let’s float this out for the public forum.”

He reasoned that since The Forum will be cementing the downtown of Peachtree Corners, why not change the name to “The Forum at Peachtree Corners”? That question got no real reaction. It appeared the attendees were eager to have their concerns addressed.

“You mentioned housing units. Are those rented?” a man in the audience asked.

“They’re all rented. We don’t do homes. The restaurants really need some of the turnover, so, you have a whole new set of diners, one set of patrons every year,” said Perry. “And it’s kind of a big part of why these downtowns work.”

He added that the success of the city center creates concentric outgrowth with townhomes and single family detached homes further out. But the buildings aren’t so far away that someone who rented on the property and then decided they wanted to own nearby property couldn’t take advantage of the amenities.

“Have you done any traffic impact studies relative to all this development?” asked another person in the audience.

“The increase in traffic impact studies are part of the zoning submission; that’s on the way,” said Perry. He added that there is already a traffic circle proposed at one of the entrances.

Another person asked about the number of rooms in the proposed hotel and how that will impact parking at The Forum.

“Almost all the residential development has to self-park. …We took out 300 or 200 spaces of diagonal and stuff in the middle and replaced it with 300 that’s purely for commercial parking, so it’s actually increasing the amount of parking at The Forum,” Perry said. He added that the hotel will be boutique-style which typically has 125 or 150 rooms.

As the evening progressed, questions about parking, traffic, property values, public safety and a timeline of work were asked. In general, the reactions were favorable, and everyone appeared to leave with a feeling that the development was the right thing for the area.

Lines of communication stay open

UPCCA President Matt Lombardi said he was surprised that the queries weren’t more aggressive, and that the audience seemed accept Perry’s responses to the tougher questions.

“I haven’t received a single phone call or text or email with concerns or additional questions,” he said. “Just from what I observed at the event, Tim Perry was very transparent and seemed to want to listen to any concerns.”

But a few days later, City Councilman Eric Christ gave his synopsis of the townhall meeting on Nextdoor. It appeared that the detractors chose to save their remarks for social media:

“I would hope that our city would actually use all data available to make apartments sustainable, equitable and affordable. If the city is already adding so many apartments, it should ensure developers are doing so thoughtfully. Otherwise, all we’re doing is adding traffic without infrastructure.”

“As a handicap individual, this WAS the only shopping center I used as it was so easy to park and walk directly into the store. [I] went to Avalon once and never returned due to difficulty for handicap people.”

As Perry and Christ explained, none of the zoning changes have been enacted. The purpose of the townhall was to get community input. To have one’s voice heard, both men encourage those with questions or concerns to reach out instead of suffering in silence or just grumbling to neighbors.

“Over the next 90 to 120 days, we’re going to be going through city processes,” said Perry. “We have a very, very engaged social media, so I’ll be happy to answer questions on NextDoor, since I live so close. Follow our Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. We try to be really, really good at communicating, especially when there are things that are inconvenient.”

Residents are encouraged to contact NAP at naproperties.com, or connect through instagram.com/forumpeachpkwy, facebook.com/forumpeachpkwy or twitter.com/forumpeachpkwy. ■

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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SWGC First Friday Breakfast Meeting with Billy Boughey [Photos]

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Photography courtesy of Bruce Johnson
He noted: Wow, you couldn’t ask for a more motivational speaker to kick-start the year!

Billy Boughey is the Founder and President of the Atlanta-based company Elevate Experiences. His talents include keynote speaking, culture coaching, and consulting groups on company culture.

His first book, released in January 2020, titled Culture Reconstructed, is a start-where-you-are guide to building a remarkable team. Billy also hosts his own podcast titled Created for Experience, sharing how experience shapes your future. He’s a certified consultant through Kolbe Corp and enjoys using this assessment to coach people on how to work more effectively in the workplace.

Billy has been featured on FOX 31 Denver, FOX Houston, and in Forbes and worked as a keynote speaker and large-scale emcee includes notable organizations such as Chick-Fil-A, Mcdonald’s, Coca-Cola, Kroger, and more. His vision is to build a world with no unequipped leaders and he infuses that passion into every speaking event. His high-energy message will inspire ways to motivate and equip your organization to make your team members smile and customers rave.

Source Southwest Gwinnett Chamber

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NAC International Signs New Lease at 2 Sun Office Building

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A world-leading provider of nuclear fuel cycle technology and consulting solutions,NAC International, has signed a lease at 2 Sun in Peachtree Corners. The company is leasing 23,000 square feet lease in the Class-A office building.

The 98,040-square-foot property in Technology Park recently underwent significant renovations to add amenities. 2 Sun now offers an outdoor tenant patio, campus-wide Wi-Fi and food delivery service for tenants.

Lincoln Property Company Southeast, one of the U.S.’s largest diversified commercial real estate companies, and Redline Property Partners made the lease announcement. Lincoln’s Senior Vice President Michael Howell, Vice President Matt Fergus and Senior Leasing Associate Seabie Hickson represented the landlord, Redline Property Partners. Cory Hall and Bo Keatley of Savills represented the tenant.

“Peachtree Corners is one of the premier business atmospheres in metro Atlanta, and 2 Sun offers a range of first-rate amenities both on and near the property,” said Lincoln’s Fergus. “The recent capital improvements allow 2 Sun to capture growing demand in the submarket.”

Northeast Atlanta continues to outperform other submarkets over the past couple of years, boasting the lowest vacancy rate among major metro Atlanta areas at just 15.9% across all property classes.

The office submarket also saw positive absorption of 5,117 square feet in Q3 of this year, marking the fifth quarter in the past six with positive absorption, according to a report from Lincoln.

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Peachtree Corners’ Karl Barham Among Brokers Achieving 2022 GABB Million Dollar Club

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Twelve members of the Georgia Association of Business Brokers (GABB) were named to the 2022 Million Dollar Club for helping broker the sale of more than $96 million worth of small, medium and large businesses.

Karl Barham, co-owner and President of Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree, is among the top five brokers with multi-million dollars in business sales for the year.

Barnham, a Peachtree Corners resident, is a licensed Georgia Real Estate agent and member of the GABB with 25+ years of expert knowledge in business that he uses to help business owners with valuations, business exit planning, M&A and Business Sales transactions.

Karl Barham and Solomon Padilla

When he is not helping clients, Barnham can be found volunteering and supporting a number of great organizations in the Metro Atlanta area including Atlanta Black Chambers of Commerce, StartMe:Atlanta and Junior Achievement. He serves on several nonprofit boards including Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, Cornerstone Christian Academy and Global Growers Network.

Among the other business brokers with multi-million dollars in business sales for the year is Barnham’s teammate, Solomon Padilla, Business Advisor at Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree.

As a Business Broker and Real Estate Professional Padilla has a passion for helping small business owners accomplish a successful exit of their business. He previously worked as a Trade Activation Manager for Anheuser-Busch InBev, and a Manager for the Largest Italian Wine Importer in the United States.

Solomon is a Veteran of the Navy who served a tour of duty in 2012-2013 in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom as well as tours representing the U.S. Navy for NATO in Europe.

The GABB Million Dollar Club recognizes professional Business Brokers for successfully closing business acquisition transactions totaling one million dollars or more.

The top producer for 2022 was Rob Margeton, a Principal and Qualifying Broker at Ryco Advisors. Margeton was also honored as a Life Member of the Million Dollar Club for achieving more than a million dollars in sales for three consecutive years or any five years.

In addition to Margeton and Barnham, the other business brokers among the top five for the year are Matt Wochele, founder of Preferred Business Brokers, Inc.; J. Snypp, Vice President at Preferred Business Brokers, Inc; and Steve Josovitz, President Vice-President and Associate Broker at The Shumacher Group.

Business brokers with multi-million dollars in business sales for the year include Padilla; Pedro Ferreira, Business Advisor at Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta North; Lisa Young, Senior Business Advisor at Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta North; Jeffery Merry, founder of the BUSINESS HOUSE, inc.; and Deanna Dickinson, REALTOR® and owner of Team DMD Consulting.

Other million-dollar honorees were Brooke Hawkins, Business Broker at RamBiz Group and Mannie Maddox, REALTOR® at Coldwell Banker Commercial Metro Brokers.

To find a professional business broker, visit gabb.org/gabb-business-brokers.

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