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The Forum has new owners, a new rezoning applicant for multi-use [Podcast]

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This episode talks about The Forum on Peachtree Parkway being sold to North American Properties, an upcoming rezoning request for multi-use along Peachtree Parkway, a town center playground update, and more. Join your host Rico Figliolini and guest City Manager Brian Johnson on Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager.

Timestamp:

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:35] – Purchase of the Forum
[00:07:19] – The Push for Residential
[00:14:56] – How Peachtree Corners is Growing
[00:18:13] – Israeli Consul General Visiting
[00:20:20] – New Playground Updates
[00:26:58] – Closing

“We know that the Forum’s a critical part, and its success is the City’s success. It helps generate a lot of revenue that we in turn can use to provide services back to our stakeholders. Whether it be streets or multi-use paths, or even keeping a zero millage rate. And we are excited about working with the North American Properties, trying to take the property and  take it to the next level. And so we’re rolling up our sleeves, getting ready to get that started.”

Brian johnson

[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life and today’s Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager. Hey, Brian, how are you?

[00:00:38] Brian: Rico, good. How are you?

[00:00:40] Rico: Great. It’s good to have you on. This particular episode, we’re going to be talking a little bit about the new purchase that’s finally closed this past Friday, with the Forum of Peachtree Parkway. And Brian’s going to help us out with some detail on that. The new owners, North American Properties has taken it over. They are a company that is well-known for working with Avalon and Atlantic Station. They run and own those areas as well as others. So they found, obviously, an opportunity here that they believe they can take and invest in and actually grow the Forum into a great product. And a great place for us, a great space for us to live in, if you will. So we’re going to talk a little bit about that and a little bit about progress on the playground that’s going on, being built across the way at Town Center. And just a couple of other things, but let’s start off with the Forum purchase. Bryan, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what’s going on there now? What’s the latest?

[00:01:35] Brian: Well, like you said, North American Properties closed on the property on this past Friday. Their interest in the Forum is kind of in line with what they’ve done at some other properties of late. Instead of being involved in brand new mixed use developments, they’ve liked to find properties that are maybe in great areas. And ones that, maybe they feel like from an ownership and management company, they can improve the property a little bit by investing in it and then operating it instead of spinning it off to have somebody else operate it. And so they’ve done that in a couple locations already and they think that the Forum is right for that. Not only are they excited about the community that is around the Forum, the traffic count that’s near the Forum, the history and the name that it has, but it has good bones. And they also like the fact that the city understands the importance of it. It is essentially one half of what is our downtown now. And when you have a municipality who’s invested in a property within its corporate limits, then developers like that, because that means that we’re more inclined to do what it takes to ensure that this thing is a success. And we know that the Forum’s a critical part and its success is the City’s success. It helps generate a lot of revenue that we in turn can use to provide services back to our stakeholders. Whether it be streets or multi-use paths, or even keeping a zero millage rate. And we are excited about working with the North American Properties, trying to take the property and take it to the next level. And so we’re rolling up our sleeves, getting ready to get that started.

[00:03:26] Rico: Cool. We’ve been talking about this for a while now, obviously. We’re hoping that new owners would take it over because they’re reep running it. And having a secondary company managing it, it’s not quite the same as having an owner manager. And so part of what we talked about also is that a place like this could have some density. Being worked on as far as adding density to it. So, maybe we can talk a little bit about that as far as, what the City’s willing to do there. We talked a little bit, I think at one point, about a parking deck and such. Being a part of it and allowing for a space for other things to happen, for green space and stuff.

[00:04:04] Brian: Well, what you’re referring to, I can kind of go back to the previous owner if you will. And that is, the previous owner, when they reached out to the city to notify us that they were putting the Forum on the market, the reason that they were doing so as articulated to us was the fact that the Forum was a property that joined a number of other properties that they were selling that had a common theme. And they were unloading all of their properties that did not have onsite residential or onsite public gathering space. And so the Forum had neither of those or has neither of those. So the previous owner put it up along with other properties that met that description in their portfolio, they put them up for sale. North American Properties has articulated to us that one of the things they want to do and they are in a position to do because they are not only the owners, but they are going to operate it as well, which is oftentimes not the case. Many times the owners don’t operate it they merely contract with a property management company. And then that company manages it and manages the leases and operates it.

[00:05:22] Rico: Right.

[00:05:22] Brian: North American’s going to do both, which was very exciting to the city because we knew that North American Properties would invest in the property in a way that maybe results in temporarily lease revenue to be negatively impacted due to construction or other things. But they were okay with doing it because they were going to operate it as well. So they have expressed an interest in installing, if you will, onsite residential and onsite greenspace. So the city will obviously have to be to some degree or other involved in both. We do know that if there is greenspace, that’s going to have to be added and the only place to add it on the Forum property is by removing parking spaces. So the city may end up having to be involved in that to help them be able to construct green space because that means parking is going to have to be moved elsewhere, so that may involve structured parking. Maybe not too dissimilar to what we did with the Town Center and Fuqua which was the partner over there. So that may end up being part of this and then obviously residential onsite, it’s going to have to have some rezoning component. The details of that have not been presented or discussed or considered. So I don’t honestly know any more than that. They are interested in putting onsite residential in some capacity on the property. And all the evidence to healthy, mixed use developments such as the Forum, all point to needing onsite residential, and public gathering space, part of the ingredients for successful mixed use development. So it’s not surprising to us. You know, again, the devil’s in the details and that’s why our sleeves are rolled up and ready to dig in.

[00:07:19] Rico: And I understand you guys are probably meeting as we speak, you’ll be meeting sometime this week, I think on this. And I guess I can speculate a little bit from my own end that residential is probably, certainly a strong component of what’s going to happen there over the next 18 months or so. Because it needs it right? Like any multi-use. And if we look at the past history of what they’ve done, Atlantic Station, Avalon and such, residential is a big component of that. So certainly I think I can imagine that there could be probably north of 150 to 200 units coming right there at the Forum in some capacity, in some area that they set up there. Which, live, work, and play. I mean, you could be working there, living and certainly at Technology Park and I think as one company put it, we are a 15 minute city. And in their eyes because of where they located, you could walk anywhere in 15 minutes and get what you need. Which is an interesting description of what we are, being a 15 minute city that way. Because our downtown area, anywhere within this area, whether you’d be, let’s say Spalding Drive near Intuitive Robotics, or if you’re at City Hall, maybe. 15 minute walk will get you to shopping to food, to entertainment, to a degree. So interesting concept in being a 15 minute city, that’s not Atlanta. That’s outside Atlanta. So kind of interesting. Plus we have that residential property across the way still that was rezoned apartment. Was what’s called the Old Roberts property, and that was sunset. So that became, that reverted back to its original rezoning which was not residential. But there’s another component and people are looking there and I wouldn’t be surprised if North American properties is looking at that property as well. That would have been about 260 odd units, plus a hotel with a hundred plus rooms.

[00:09:13] Brian: Well Rico, I mean, not only that parcel, which is again right there by Lazy Dog behind the old Black Walnut, and Georgia Clinic right there. There’s still, even some other parcels that are kind of right near there. And really, to be honest with you anywhere in the city. Especially the north of say Jimmy Carter, Holcomb Bridge. Really north of the split here. We’re under an immense amount of pressure from developers wanting to build residential units. And I say that, by saying in general, we are. Meaning all different types. But right now, based on a number of factors, whether it’s financing or interest demand, they tend to be heavy on the rental versus the equity component. And usually that’s because we are getting pretty close to not having a lot of undeveloped parcels left. Which means that as we grow, we’re going to have to grow up. Up as in vertical. And when you do that, generally that is much harder to finance when it’s equity, which we typically call a condo. And condos require about 50% or more of the units to be pre-sold before you can get the financing. And so it makes it harder on developers, so they’re less interested. But that puts pressure on the city of trying to make sure that we’re thinking through growth. And right now there’s a lot of discussions about how are we managing it. Because with virtual workplace now, a lot of people can go back to the suburbs, if you will. You can work at a company that’s located in Midtown, but if they’re maybe in the future, not going to make you come in at all, or maybe only one or two days a week. People are like, you know what? I can handle an hour commute each way if I only have to do it one or two day a week. But the rest of my time I can be out farther away from Midtown, get more house, more yard, for my money. And so there’s a resurgence of people interested in coming here. In addition to just Metro Atlanta growing and the housing market being like ridiculous right now. So there’s a lot of chain and we got a lot of challenges right now.

[00:11:37] Rico: Yeah. Especially like you mentioned, the housing stock is unbelievable. Because I mean, I see it every day. I mean, in our neighborhood, a house went up for sale. Within three weeks it was bought and it was bought at a premium above what they were asking of like 10 to 20,000. Just one family home on a slab, right? No basement or anything. It’s just, it does not stay in the market long in this area. So you’re right. I mean, I could see the pressure because we have another multi-use or M1 that wants to become a multi-use development that is applying, that went through the planning commission. That’s presented itself in front of City Council, it’s been tabled to June. And that is about 315 units that they would like to develop, plus a five story hotel. And on top of that, it’s on Peachtree Parkway, also. So not too far from another one that was recently approved and across from Corner Find One, I think is where it is. So yeah, I can see the pressure coming in doing that.

[00:12:36] Brian: But you know, it is important to note though that mayor and council understands that and they’re being much more comprehensive and methodical in their thinking about it then they’ve ever been forced to do. So, I want everybody to know that they’re not taking it lightly. There are some very comprehensive conversations going on right now, amongst them on essentially. What do they with this big, with this pressure, what do they want Peachtree Corners to look like when it grows up? Meaning we are sitting here in a location that you could probably represent is at a place where people who are moving to Atlanta and there are more people moving here than moving away. We’re growing as a region. So as those who choose to drive north out of say the airport, and they’re looking at places to put down roots, we’re getting many of them here. The question for council is going to be, do we end up as they’re driving into our city, are we here at the city limits saying, hey, before you decide to keep going north or whatever direction they leave in. Hey, let us spend some time telling you what a great community we are. Because we want you to stay here or are we saying, keep on going. Keep on going, if you’re wanting to go north to the further suburbs, keep on going. And if that’s the case, you know, they’re the ones who decide policy. That’s fine, but they’re kind of going through that right now. And if it is no, no, no, no, we want them to stay, then how is it we grow? Because we don’t have a lot of out. We’re not like a Forsyth county or one that has a lot of outward growth. So that’s what they’re having to kind of determine right now. And it’s a new normal that we’ve never seen, the rate of growth and the pressure on residential development is something we’ve never seen. So it’s ongoing, it’s comprehensive. And, I think we’re in a good position that it will come out of this very shortly in having a good course of action going forward.

[00:14:56] Rico: I’m sure there will be. I’ve had some conversations with one to two city council member and we’ve had conversations about this as well. What does it mean? Yes, do we want to have the ability to have more residents here, versus them going past us and we just become a through place. But also what does it mean to be a smart city? And what does it mean to allow multiuse development to be able to set standards in the type of developments that come to the city, whether it’s LEED buildings or EV charging stations, what does that mean? How, what is the philosophy of doing that? Because eventually if we’re talking about being a smart city, we certainly want to make sure that, in my mind, that we’re walking the walk and that we’re looking at urban development in the right way. And not just the proving something that’s going to have a restaurant and maybe one other shop and we call it a multi-use. So, I think that they, hopefully they have that conversation. They look at that a little better about what it means to be here. I mean, we just recently had, for example, the Israeli council general visit us. The Mayor, Mike Mason is on a mayor’s summit, remote, that’s part of the smart city conference in Taiwan. And we’re getting a lot of companies here, like Intuitive Robotics and other firms that are coming because we’re part of that Silicon Orchard, right? So I mean, if we can continue to look at our environment as a good steward, then we have to look at that too, right? How are we going to let these builders develop and in a smart way all around, right?

[00:16:34] Brian: You know, I mean I couldn’t have said it better myself, Rico. And that is exactly what council’s doing. In fact, at the council meeting Tuesday, the one policy or the one action item that council was involved in is they did change the pro-rata makeup of a mixed use development by requiring a higher percentage of non-residential uses on a mixed use parcel. To prevent somebody coming in and having three uses, 95% of it’s residential, 3% something else, and then 2% the remaining. And, they’re like, that’s ridiculous. So, yes. I mean, you know, maybe even more to follow on that. But there’s definitely those conversations about all right, what are we going to do to set ourselves apart from others? What are we going to do to continue to live up to the reputation that we’re gaining? I mean, you know, the mayor was asked to speak and he was actually invited to speak in person there, did not work out for lots of different reasons COVID included. But invited to speak there, but on a panel of cities in the world of mayors, from cities like, well, Denver and Atlanta in the US. Or Prague, Czech Republic or Edmonton, Canada, Taipei, Taiwan. I mean, these are cities that are you know, way above our weight class. We were asked to speak at it because of the things that we’re doing. And so, yes, we need that to try to correspond into other conventional development within the city. Not just within the technology ecosystem.

[00:18:13] Rico: To stay on that for a little bit, so the Israeli Consul General did visit us. We have several, I think Israeli firms working out of here as well at Curiosity Lab and stuff. Anything new that you want to share with what’s going on there? I know there’s quite a bit, but if we can get a quick description of what’s going on, that would be great.

[00:18:32] Brian: The Israeli Consul General came up here because we do have a special relationship with really the nation of Israel, as well as Israeli companies. We have a number of arrangements and collaborations with governmental agencies within Israel. And a lot of Israeli companies come here because if you think about it, the nation of Israel is by population standpoint about the size of Metro Atlanta. And so if there is something that some product or software or whatever that’s invented there, for them to scale it they have to leave that area because that area is not really big enough for them to really scale. So they need to go to Asia or Europe or North America. And we are a location that a lot of them have started to find even more appealing than your typical, oh, I go to the states and I go to Silicon Valley or I go to research Triangle or I go to New York City. I mean, those are all great, but you are a small fish in a very big, expensive pond. Here you can actually be a smaller pond, it’s not as expensive. And just being the same size, you can be a bigger in relation to others because that pond doesn’t have so many big fish. And so we’re seeing a lot of it. The local Israeli consulate wanted to ensure that we continue to have that synergy between us and them. And we have great relationships with them. We’ll continue to, and we look forward to fostering that relationship. And getting more companies come through here and use Peachtree Corners either as a place to put down roots or as a launching pad. But we at least benefit from their involvement, however brief it may be.

[00:20:20] Rico: Yeah. So many companies out there that, so much representation from around the world here that we’re going to be doing another feature piece. Not in this coming issue, but the next about the amount of, the different companies we have that represent different countries here, that are based in Peachtree Corners. That’s, I think there’s over 20 nations that are actually represented. So that’d be a neat piece to talk about. Let’s get some update on the playground. That’s, I say playground, but it’s a little bit more involved than that. That’s being built out at Town Center. Dirt’s moving, everything’s moving around there. Are we still on track for that to come in for May? I think it was May, end of May?

[00:20:56] Brian: Yeah, we’re still on track around the end of May for most of the playground equipment. The supply chain issue is such that we may not have all the shade structures in for even as much as two months after that, unfortunately. Because you know we put seating around there as part of this because we knew parents were going to go over there and want to be close to their kids and everything. And so we may not have all of the shade structures in. Just again, supply chain and you just run out of it. But we’re still tracking on that. And so that’s good. You know, our goal was to have it in so that the first concert of our series, which is the end of May, doesn’t still have that area to be a construction site. We’re also, you know, I don’t know if you’ve been out there, we added a lot more decking under the current shade structures that are there on the other side of the town green. And we’re going to add another shade structure as well there. So there’s a lot more space for people to have furniture and we have a new fire pit out there that’s a little bit more user friendly. Although I will say Rico, unfortunately we may end up having to talk about this again, but we have created a really cool place to hang out. And it’s getting cooler by the day. You know, it’s just a great place to whether to get something, you know, and eat or drink, or a kid’s play or just hang out. But as a result of it, we’ve got a lot of destructive behavior that’s happening out there. And we’re getting ready to add over 80 cameras out into the parking deck and the Town Green area. And we’re having to do that, one, it’s a good deterrent. But two, just a lot of people going in and destroying things randomly for no reason. And it’s sad. I mean, we have a new much larger fire pit that had a lot of other, not only bigger, it was round. It was, you know, a place you kind of hang out. And yet all we do is it’s only been operational for probably two weeks and have already had people pry open the door to try to get to the controls. They’ve been stealing the stones. The nice stones that are in there. I mean just stuff like that. And it’s sad and, you know, we’re hoping. We may have to talk to the community as a whole and say, look, please help police yourselves and prevent a great location and amenity that’s theirs. It’s the community’s, it’s the public’s. But it’s either lack of parental supervision or people just, I mean, I don’t know. It’s sad.

[00:23:41] Rico: It’s probably happening in the middle of the night too, right? Like two or three in the morning and stuff.

[00:23:46] Brian: Some of it, but then some of it it’s not. I mean, we’ve had destructive behavior there and you know, again, even some of it’s on surveillance. But either we don’t have a great image of the person or what is generally the case is, you have video of a person. But unless like one of us recognized that person, there’s no way for us to know who it is.

[00:24:11] Rico: It’s amazing. Can’t keep anything in the public realm without having to deal with that crap, quite frankly. I just like, you know, you would imagine that people are a little bit more respectful, but no. It’s never going to be, and that’s never going to be the case because there are people that are just not respectful of things.

[00:24:30] Brian: I’ll even go so far as this, you know, with the playground areas, we’re doing site work. We’re doing grading and getting the terrain ready for when we bring in the artificial surfaces and everything. And so they will have construction equipment out there, like backhoes and mini excavators inside of areas roped off with caution tape. But on the weekend, you’ll go out there and people have ripped down or are inside of the caution tape, kids climbing around construction equipment and their parents are right there. But they’re letting them, we caught kids in the boom of the, you know, the back climbing around on that. And their parents are right there, like.

[00:25:12] Rico: And not for anything we don’t teach, I shouldn’t say we. But a lot of people just don’t teach their kids what respect means and things. And they’re, they’re all John Waynes and Yahoos sometimes saying, leave them alone, they need to play. And it’s just like, and then there are those people that want safe places for their kids. It’s just like, if we just taught a little respect, common respect and courtesy, that’s all we need. It’s just, it’ll never end this, like. And I’m not surprised quite frankly, because tape’s not going to hold anyone away, it’s just like.

[00:25:50] Brian: No, you’re like really? Can you not see them? And you’re underneath. You had to go underneath caution tape. Or it was ripped down, it’s laying on the ground, you’re stepping over, you know it’s a construction site and yet you’re either in there yourself or you’re letting your kid run around around that. And you’re just like, you know.

[00:26:08] Rico: And that same parent, God forbid a child gets hurt. The same people will want to sue the city to say that wasn’t enough. You shouldn’t have put just the tape there. You should have like put a cement wall to stop people from entering. It’s just like, you know what? At some point people have to take responsibility for themselves and their family.

[00:26:28] Brian: Yeah. But I guess the good thing here is that Town Center is doing what we, we hope, which is attracting people. And that’s, you know, activity begets more activity and makes restaurants and stores and everything healthier. So that’s good. But we just need to, those of us who live and work and use that need to police ourselves and make sure that we keep it a nice amenity and not let it get beat down by destructive, irresponsible people.

[00:26:58] Rico: Yeah. Amazing, never-ending. Well, I’m glad that we were able to talk about these things and especially about North American Properties and the Forum and that buyout. I know that there’ll be more coming out and actually my editor right now is going to be interviewing the owner of NAP by, I think 4:30 late today. So we’ll have an article out sometime in the next few days about that, a little bit more in depth hopefully some more information that we can provide people with. And we’re going to stay on top of this. That, along with everything else that’s going on in the city.

[00:27:28] Brian: It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal.

[00:27:31] Rico: For sure. So I appreciate your time, Brian. Thank you for being with us again. I look forward to next time. Share this with your friends, if you’re listening to the podcast on Apple or iHeart Radio, certainly leave a review on this. Look for more additional information on LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. You can either subscribe to our newsletter to find out more news that comes out. We come out once or twice a week, depending on what news is going on. Or like us on Facebook, @PeachtreeCornersLife or follow us on Instagram as well. Thank you for being with us and we’ll see you next time.

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Business Association and City Work Together for Community Success

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Peachtree Corners Business Association

Peachtree Corners Business Association celebrates 10 years of making us better

Asking which was established first, the City of Peachtree Corners or the Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA) is kind of like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. While philosophers, religious scholars, scientists and the like ponder the chicken and egg question, there is a correct answer to the former. PCBA is a few months older than the city itself.

Lisa Proctor and Toby Anderson receiving proclamation from Mayor Mike Mason (right)

That’s significant because they are interdependent.

“When the City of Peachtree Corners was founded in 2012, the PCBA and the city recognized the importance of having an organization focused on our business community,” said President Lisa Proctor. “The PCBA was established as an integral part in growing and developing our business community with all businesses that want to do business within our community.”

Peachtree Corners Business Association is a business membership organization that focuses on innovative approaches, programs, shared resources, community outreach and opportunities for its member businesses and professionals to connect, develop, grow and prosper.

Just like its motto says, it’s “Where Businesses Come to Grow!”

Local businesses strengthen the community

Any Economics or Political Science course will point out the symbiosis of local businesses and local governments. Cities need businesses to contribute expertise and resources in support of public/private funding solutions for special projects.

Locally owned businesses provide many economic benefits to a community, such as:

■    Local businesses are owned by people who live in the community and are less likely to leave. They are more invested in the community’s future.

■    Increasing local businesses means creating more jobs to encourage more people to stay in the area. This not only allows people to work closer to home, but also improves the quality of life for the community by increasing city revenue, creating a more self-sustainable community and connecting the community together.

■    Locally owned businesses also build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships and contributing to local causes.

The list of positives can go on and on. It’s important to note that these benefits from supporting local businesses are at risk of being measurably reduced by the increase of national chain competition.

PCBA strengthens local businesses and the city

The PCBA is made up of businesses of all sizes and types who want to expand their reach and grow their business within Peachtree Corners and the greater metro-Atlanta area. According to its website, PCBA affords its members the opportunity to:

■    Gain exposure and brand awareness for their businesses,

■    Highlight their businesses,

■    Generate new customers and forge relationships,

■    Support local businesses, and

■    Give back to the community.

That last item on the list, giving back to the community, is a huge part of what the Peachtree Corners Business Association does. Through its Community Outreach Program, it has donated over $115,000 and awarded 15 scholarships to deserving charities and students over the last 10 years.

10th-anniversary celebration

To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, PCBA is pulling out all the stops to raise as much money as possible to help three more charities. “This year, we’re focusing our fundraising efforts on local charities that are addressing three important needs — community, health and education,” said Proctor.

The annual charity event, Celebrating 10 Years and Touchdowns Charity Party, is set for Sept. 22 from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

“It’s going to be our best one yet and we would love for [everyone in the community] to be a part of it,” said Proctor. “There will be plenty of time for business networking, enjoying tailgating activities including a cornhole tournament, a live auction, drawings, food and adult beverages as we raise money for three great causes and award a check that evening to another local charity.”

Tickets for the fundraiser are on sale now and there are sponsorship opportunities. Perhaps best of all, a silent auction is underway that features one-of-a-kind items, such as a football signed by Peyton Manning and another signed by Rob Gronkowski; a boxing glove signed by Mike Tyson; trips to Hilton Head, The Biltmore and more distant destinations like Sydney, Australia and Greece.

There are also adventures, including a supercar driving experience and a chance to swim with sharks. Visit peachtreecornersba.com/about-charity-event to get details, register for the charity party or place bids for the silent auction.

Focus on Local Charities

The Peachtree Corner’s Business Association is proud to focus its fundraising efforts on three local charities.

Corners Outreach has a mission of equipping Atlanta’s underserved students of color and their families to lead full lives through educational development and economic opportunities. It offers three paths to impact the community: volunteering, donating and becoming a customer. All three paths change lives and are accomplished through: Corners Academy — early learning, elementary tutoring and teen development; Workforce Development — basic needs, life skills, job skills and educational advancement; Family Engagement — adult workshops, food assistance and health services; and Corners Industries & Staffing — sustainable living wage and career advancement certification. More at cornersoutreach.org.

Paint Gwinnett Pink 5K is a celebration of survivorship, while raising awareness and funds for breast cancer programs at Northside Hospital Gwinnett. Community support and donations fund Northside Hospital Institute cancer patients in Gwinnett County by providing improved access to cutting-edge imaging technology for earlier diagnosis, mamograms, transportation and other assistance needed for cancer treatments. Funds raised in 2022 will go to the installation of additional imaging units.
The event is the largest 5K supporting breast cancer in Gwinnett County. The annual Paint Gwinnett Pink 5K Walk/Run is held at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville every October. The 2022 event will be held on Saturday, October 15. More at paintgwinnettpink.com.

A. Worley Brown Boys & Girls Club provides an environment where all youth feel safe and secure to dream, discover and develop. It works with hundreds of kids and teens each year to help them reach their full potential. The programs focus on helping kids succeed in school, live healthy and become leaders.

The club focuses on a variety of programs including culinary arts and gardening, STEM, computer coding, music studio/music production, photography/film production, visual and performing arts, fashion and design, creative writing/comic book creation, science, career readiness, a Diplomas to Degrees program, tutoring and homework support, toastmasters, sports and character and leadership development clubs. More at bgcma.org/club/aworley/.

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A Little Italy in Peachtree Corners
Makes Extending an Olive Branch a
Symbol of Health

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MagisNat
The medical and business participants of the virtual conference stream at Atlanta Tech Park

Conceivably, one day soon, we’ll be driving through Peachtree Corners taking in views reminiscent of the Italian countryside. As our gaze falls upon stretches of olive groves, we may think we’re in Italy for a second — until we realize this phenomenon in our ever-avant-garde metropolis is due to its ideal geographic location, favorable to the cultivation of olive trees, and the ingenious collaboration of forward-thinking Italian and American researchers working to extract from olive oil its most beneficial molecules, a gift as precious as gold for our health.

The newest virtual member of Atlanta Tech Park is the brainchild of Dr. Matteo Bertelli, founder and president of the Italian MAGI Group since 2006. MAGI specializes in the research, diagnosis and treatment of rare genetic diseases. His spin-off at Atlanta Tech Park, MagisNat, unites academics on opposite shores of the Atlantic in a promising mission to combat disease using natural molecules.

Capitalizing on the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Applying molecular genetics and metabolomics in the study of natural substances extracted from foods typical of the Mediterranean Diet (MedDiet), MagisNat is finding ways to zero in on its long-known health benefits and make good use of its disease-preventing properties. The active components of polyphenols and flavonoids found in olives, tomatoes and citrus fruit for example, can be extracted to produce dietary supplements scientifically proven to prevent an array of pathologies.

The fledgling company has already produced two supplements which will be available soon, Garlive Oral Spray and Garlive Recovery tablets with vitamins, both formulated with hydroxytyrosol derived from olive extracts to support a healthy immune system.

The international launch

On June 23, 2022, a MagisNat conference took place in the press room of Palazzo Montecitorio, seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Italy. Atlanta Tech Park simultaneously hosted the event stateside. Professors from both sides of the pond spoke at the official launch about this promising collaboration to further investigate the disease-preventing properties of the MedDiet.

Bertelli said he appreciates the staff at our local accelerator whose role he considers invaluable. “Without opportunities like those provided by this business incubator, small companies like ours could never start,” he said. “I cannot express how grateful I am to those who conceived and developed this organization called Atlanta Tech Park in Peachtree Corners.”

We’ve all heard about the health benefits of the MedDiet but what exactly is it?

Let’s begin with what it’s not. It’s not a rigid, calorie-counting, restrictive fad diet, but rather a modo di vita, or a lifestyle approach consisting of more traditional meal preparation using a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods, and the prioritization of physical activity, social gatherings and relaxation.

The MedDiet was actually coined in the 1950s by American physiologist Dr. Ancel Keys. Keys was dedicated to studying the influence of diet on health. After his famous Seven Countries Study, he concluded that replacing dietary saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduces cardiovascular heart disease.

In 2013, the MedDiet was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity because of how and what the diverse populations along the Mediterranean Sea Basin eat. In turn, the World Health Organization has classified it as a diet that protects against cardiovascular disease.

Apparently, coming together with a network of family and friends to enjoy meals consisting of fresh, seasonal and local food, mostly fruits, herbs, whole grains, nuts, vegetables, legumes, fish and seafood and olive oil with moderate amounts of milk and wine — mainly red, with meals — improves heart health, body mass index and cognitive function, while decreasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers. It’s also important that sugar, red meat and processed meat are consumed sparingly.

Perhaps the old adage needs a little tweak: “You are what and how you eat.”

Natural molecule-based treatments show promise across a variety of diseases

In Rome, Italy, Dr. Pietro Chiurazzi, affiliated with the University Polyclinic Foundation A. Gemelli, discussed how olive mill wastewater (OMW) could be used to create supplements containing powerful antioxidants. Instead of the idiomatic expression, ‘Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,’ think: ‘Don’t throw out the hydroxytyrosol with the OMW.’ Chiurazzi studies the treatment of the rare, late-onset neurodegenerative disease FXTAS, characterized by tremors and an ataxic (uncoordinated) gait.

At the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart) Institute of Ophthalmology, Dr. Benedetto Falsini has a pilot study underway to rescue retinal cells before they succumb to inherited degeneration.

In Sacro Cuore’s Department of Internal Medicine, Dr. Amerigo Iaconelli aids patients with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, osteoporosis and obesity.

Dr. Sandro Michelini of San Giovanni Battista Hospital scrutinizes pathologies that cause lymphedema, a blockage in the lymph system causing swelling of the arms or legs.

The President of the Macula & Genoma Foundation in New York, Dr. Andrea Cusumano, employs this new and unusual approach to rescue photoreceptors in a pursuit to prevent and reverse blindness. Cusumano advances the field of ophthalmology in Italy, Germany and the U.S.

Bertelli credits Dr. Stephen T. Connelly with getting this venture off the ground, “He devoted an enormous amount of time to the birth of this spin-off,” Bertelli said of Connelly, Associate Clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco, who is eager to embark on the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Emory University Dr. Peng Jin chairs the Department of Human Genetics, School of Medicine in Atlanta. He too examines neurodegenerative disorder treatment, especially Fragile X syndrome with tremor/ataxia. “Professor Peng Jin agreed to test the effects of olive tree polyphenols on fruit fly models in preventing FXTAS,” Bertelli shared, extending a personal message of thanks to Jin.

Dr. John Paul SanGiovanni of U. Arizona’s BIO5 Institute explores chemistry of Mediterranean foods linking this information to receptors in the body that keep cells working optimally, showing promise for those afflicted with blinding age-macular degeneration (AMD). He’s identified links between the AMD-related MMP-9 protein and ferulic acid, a chemical found in fennel, oregano, olives and chickpeas.

With locations in Tucson, Arizona and Beverly Hills, California, Medical and Research Director
Dr. Karen L. Herbst of Total Lipedema Care, is passionate about helping patients with connective tissue disorders. Lipedema is an inflammatory disease resulting in the deposition of fibrotic subcutaneous adipose tissue characterized by excess fat accumulation in the lower part of the body.

As varied as their areas of expertise and as geographically dispersed as all the participating researchers may be, they’re linked in the intent to employ the science behind MagisNat, the application of natural molecules to cure maladies and improve patient health.

Under the Georgia sun

There’s much yet to be discovered about the beneficial effects of using these natural molecules in living organisms, but the stage is set and conditions are promising for fascinating developments in science and research at MagisNat in Peachtree Corners.

Consider the MagisNat spin-off, yet another component of la dolce vita in our innovative city. Mangiate bene (eat well) and let’s toast to medical breakthroughs that once seemed like science fiction becoming a reality on our own turf.

Salute! (Cheers!)

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PTC Anchors ATL Unlocked Event

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ATL Unlocked

One of the ‘smartest’ cities in the world welcomes start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators to join the future.

Anyone who knows anything about technology has heard of Silicon Valley. But how many people, especially those right here in Metro Atlanta, have heard of Silicon Orchard? Did you know that you are in the midst of it?

Peachtree Corners has become the epicenter for smart technology startups and is one of the few locations in the world where smart city technology — including driverless cars, smart cameras, an artificial intelligence-controlled infrastructure and millions of internet-of-things sensors — come together in one place. And the technology is not just in a lab; it’s being deployed throughout the city.

There’s an autonomous shuttle that takes riders on a 1.5-mile loop through Technology Park. Even the electric scooters, which anyone can borrow to get around town, automatically show up when called and then drive back to their home base after their human riders have been dropped off.

So it’s no wonder that Peachtree Corners is the last leg of the ATL Unlocked event.

ATL Unlocked is a groundbreaking partnership between the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the region’s leading innovation and entrepreneurship centers. It transforms metro Atlanta into an accessible ecosystem where creators, innovators, founders and entrepreneurs thrive. It opens the doors to the region’s diverse community and connects people, resources and spaces, according to organizers. As it does, ATL Unlocked encourages knowledge sharing across diverse perspectives and greater access to the vital resources our region has to offer.

Literature explaining the event said that ATL Unlocked is activated through the ATL Unlocked Tour, a series of events that invites entrepreneurs to experience different innovation centers and districts across the metro and connect with the people within them. Entrepreneurs visit centers outside of their home space so they can get to know the offerings and communities of different innovation centers and districts while building familiarity and mutual trust.

“We are honored to host the final leg of ATL Unlocked in Peachtree Corners. This event showcases metro Atlanta’s innovative ecosystem of which we are proud to be a leader,” said Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason. “I look forward to welcoming the diverse group of innovators, entrepreneurs and business owners to the wonderful things we are doing in Peachtree Corners and at Curiosity Lab.”

The Tour

Buckhead: Hosted by Atlanta Tech Village

The tour kicked off on May 23 in Buckhead, home to the fourth largest entrepreneurial and startup tech community in the country. Atlanta Tech Village (ATV) is a thriving innovation community that has launched two unicorns. The area has deep connections to Atlanta’s business and investment community and is engineered to increase a startup’s chance of success.

Downtown / Westside: Hosted by Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs

This area is becoming home to numerous global technology companies, including Microsoft, and to major universities, including Georgia State University and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) located in and around the Atlanta University Center (AUC). It hosted the second part of the tour on June 21. It’s the heart of Black entrepreneurship in the south. The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) is at the center of this area, providing an economic mobility engine that offers space and resources to help Black entrepreneurs and small business owners innovate, grow and build wealth.

Midtown: Jointly hosted by ATDC and CreateX

Midtown Atlanta has been called the hottest innovation neighborhood in America. The third stop on the tour took place here on July 21. The area mixes technology and creativity. It’s home to countless startup, corporate innovation centers and incubators — and top ranked universities, including Georgia Tech and SCAD. ATDC, Georgia’s technology business incubator, is fostering technological entrepreneurship through curriculum, coaching, connections and community. Create X extends that support to Georgia Tech students, empowering them to launch successful startups.

Alpharetta: Hosted by Tech Alpharetta

Located just north of Atlanta, the Alpharetta suburb is a thriving corporate innovation, e gaming and technology community that includes nearly 35% of ‘Where Georgia Leads’ technology companies. The fourth installment of the tour takes place here on August 18. At Tech Alpharetta, some of the leading technology companies in the district are working together to shape the future of the technology industry in the region.

Peachtree Corners: Hosted by Atlanta Tech Park

A suburban community where infrastructure and local government have facilitated innovation for years, Peachtree Corners rounds out the tour. Curiosity Lab is an economic development city initiative to provide space and resources to advance intelligent mobility, IoT and smart city technologies. Neighboring Atlanta Tech Park is a collaborative workspace and accelerator that offers connections, advising and resources for growth phase companies.

ATL Unlocked at Atlanta Tech Park

107 Technology Parkway Northwest, Peachtree Corners 30092

Thursday, September 22, 5-7 p.m.

Admission is free. Reservations are required. Register at atlantatechpark.com/product/atlunlocked-event-ticket/.

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