The Curiosity Lab Criterium 2023 @ Peachtree Corners is coming on Wednesday, April 26, during Speedweek. What does that mean for our smart city and what does AUDI have to do with it? Plus, we talk about a pickleball center with 30-50 courts and what that could look like in Peachtree Corners. Listen in to our podcast with City Manager Brian Johnson and your host Rico Figliolini.
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:42] – The Curiosity Lab Criterium
[00:06:49] – New VRU Technology
[00:16:32] – Pickleball in Peachtree Corners
[00:23:54] – Expanding Activities
[00:30:14] – Next Planning Commission Meeting
[00:31:58] – Closing
[00:00:30] Rico: Hey everyone, this is Rico Figliolini with Peachtree Corners Life. And this is Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager Brian Johnson. Hey Brian, how are you?
[00:00:37] Brian: Good, Rico, how are you?
[00:00:39] Rico: Good. I love doing this every month. Get to learn new things that I didn’t, know before. Because I don’t know everything, so this is why we do this.
[00:00:47] Brian: Neither do I though, so.
[00:00:50] Rico: I know some things, maybe we can have one brain together.
[00:00:52] Brian: So there we go.
[00:00:54] Rico: But before we get into the interview and stuff let me just say thank you again to Eli from EV Remodeling Inc. Who’s a corporate sponsor of ours and supports our journalism. That’s just through advertising with us, but also supporting these podcasts. Great guy, lives right here in Peachtree Corners. We just had a feature story on him as well in the recent issue of Peachtree Corners Magazine. So check that out. It’s online now. See what he’s doing. Design to build home renovation. Great guy, beautiful family. Check him out at EVRemodelinginc.com. Thank you, Eli. So let’s get right into it. We found out something just now, you know, in our pre-talk, before the show about something I didn’t know that’s happening April 26th, which is kind of cool. That the city’s actually doing this. So tell us a little bit about this. What’s a race and what type of race it is and why it’s there?
[00:01:42] Brian: So we’ve enjoyed seeing Curiosity Lab continues to kind of, generate unique opportunities for the city. And an opportunity kind of fell into our lap through Curiosity Lab’s partnerships and interactions for us to have a professional cycling race here in Peachtree Corners. Now…
[00:02:06] Rico: Wow. That is cool.
[00:02:07] Brian: It’s important to know that within professional cycling, there’s generally three types of cycling races. One would be done indoors in a velodrome.
[00:02:21] Rico: Right.
[00:02:21] Brian: Which is a banked type course. You generally only see that on TV during the Olympics.
[00:02:27] Rico: Right.
[00:02:27] Brian: But that’s one type. Probably the most popular one that people know is called a road race. And a road course is, you start on point a, and you end at a different point and you don’t cross over the same point more than once. Like Tour de France would be the best example of that.
[00:02:46] Rico: Right.
[00:02:46] Brian: You never end at the place that you start. It’s a linear course.
[00:02:50] Rico: Right.
[00:02:50] Brian: So if you’re watching that one, you only get to see the cyclists come by one time.
[00:02:56] Rico: Right. If you’re lucky. Yeah
[00:02:57] Brian: That’s it. But there is a third type of race, and it’s called a criterium. And a criterium is a closed race on city streets, usually done in a way in which, well, not usually it’s the course is laid out in a way that you’re going back over the same place over and over for a period of time. And it’s more fan friendly, but yet it’s not in, you know, it’s on city streets. So you set it up. For those who like maybe went to Georgia or go up to Athens, there’s a big one, long time one there called the Twilight, Athens Twilight. It’s done at night. It’s a cool event. I mean, you get to see professional cyclists, some of which are ones that are in the tour of France when it happens, in July of this year or every year. This is their full-time job. And in the US there is a criterium series that USA cycling manages throughout the entire US. And the race series or the race calendar starts here in the southeast, because our weather gets hotter than in a lot of the country. In fact the very first race of the year, oftentimes there’s a few jockeying cities within the southeast here. The last city I managed, Aniston, Alabama, when we were there, we were the very first race on the circuit. They’re third this year, they didn’t get the first one. But so I have some experience in managing, not directly, there is a race director that actually runs the event, but being the city manager of a city that had it. Back in the day, I used to race in them. So as an amateur, you can race in them. And how it’s set up is kind of a day long event and you’ll start, and there are categories, and the categories are time. So pretend like you had a one mile circle on city streets. Different categories of racers starting with amateur weekend warriors, you know, they don’t do it a lot. They can go out and race. And they’ll do like 30 minutes. So it’s basically like everybody starts at the same time. And you go around for 30 minutes and you’ll hear a bell at the very last lap. And whoever comes in first wins that race. And they’ll move up in categories from ones who have never done it all the way up to the professionals over the course of the day. So you’ll have, and there’s five categories. Five being the most amateur and you’ll have like, cat five men. Or it starts with cat five women. So it’ll be women racing, amateur women racing against amateur women, and then cat five men, and then cat four women, and then cat four men. Then you have breaks every day, or after every race.
[00:05:54] Rico: Through the day, right?
[00:05:56] Brian: Yep. You’ll reset the next one and then they’ll go.
[00:05:58] Rico: So is it a one mile race or is it, has that been established?
[00:06:01] Brian: It’s timed. So these racers are usually averaging probably 30 miles an hour. And so, for 30 minutes for amateurs at 30 miles an hour, you can do the math. So it’s not like a one mile race.
[00:06:16] Rico: Gotcha.
[00:06:16] Brian: Although, there is a kids race as well. And it’ll be three age categories. Three age, three to four year olds, five to six year olds, and seven and eight year olds.
[00:06:30] Rico: Yeah, yeah.
[00:06:31] Brian: It’s about a hundred, maybe 125 yards, like a football field in length. And it’s just, start here and end somewhere else. And then you start them all on the line and then you see who can get to the finish line the fastest.
[00:06:46] Rico: So where is this going to take place then?
[00:06:49] Brian: Alright, so this criteria. A very cool way to watch professionally, a professional cyclist, especially when married up with things that make it unique for the family, like food trucks and vendors for you to see things or whatever. Well, these things happen all over the country and Curiosity Lab happened to be the location and we were starting to talk to some companies that have technology that is getting ready to be deployed, that are in the call it safety area for vulnerable road users. And vulnerable road users, or VRU is a category that includes pedestrians, cyclists, people that might be on an e-scooter, moped, motorcycle. Anybody who uses a roadway or sidewalks or crosses roadway, that is not in a car. Those are considered vulnerable road users, because if they have an interaction with an automobile, they’re going to lose. A pedestrian hits a car, the car will win all the time.
[00:07:57] Rico: I think we all know someone that’s been hit on a bike by a car. Or especially around these areas.
[00:08:04] Brian: I have.
[00:08:05] Rico: Really? Damn.
[00:08:06] Brian: Oh yeah, about four years ago I got hit cycling up in Duluth.
[00:08:11] Rico: Yeah, there’s quite a few people it seems, sadly.
[00:08:14] Brian: Oh yeah. I mean, it’s scary when that happens, but there’s technology that is evolving to try to prevent these things from happening. And one of the technologies is a device that can go on bicycles. It can actually, it’s a mobile, it could be carried by anybody. It could be put in any car. But it’s basically a device that sends a signal, basically saying, I’m here. Here I am. And the device is done in such a way that vehicles will one day be able to hear that message from that other user. Versus right now automobiles have sensors that they can sense if there’s an obstacle. We have it in newer cars. You know, a lot of cars now, if you’re backing up and there’s something or even in the front, sometimes you get close and it’ll start beeping. That’s the cars own signal where it’s sending a signal out and it’s getting bounced back. But what it doesn’t have is the ability to see around corners or if somebody’s coming up and it’s not quite close enough for the car itself to detect it.
[00:09:32] Rico: Put that signal out.
[00:09:32] Brian: These devices are sending a signal a lot farther out or sometimes around corners saying, here I am. And the car can then know, and you can make it specific. Like if it’s on a bicycle, it can send a message that this device is on a bicycle. And then cars can actually see, like a message on your dashboard saying like, cyclist on your right, cyclist to your rear. And it alerts the driver that I’ve got a vulnerable road user around here somewhere that I might not have known had I not had this device telling my car about that VRU. So this technology is being deployed by a company called Spoke, and they had brought with them partners in Qualcomm, BMC Bike, which is the big Swiss bike manufacturer, and Audi. And they wanted a testing environment or an environment that the roadway was set up for them to showcase this technology. And we started talking at a conference in January that we were at. And I knew about criteriums, they were talking about this, doing this, and I was like, would you guys be willing to do this? At a race where we’ve got all these people showing up to watch? And they were just like, that would be the best opportunity for us that you could get.
[00:11:00] Rico: Sure.
[00:11:00] Brian: So I came back and I knew about this because of my previous city I managed. And just one more thing on the calendar. The beginning of the criterium season in the US, here in Metro Atlanta, there’s a thing called Speed Week. And it’s basically the first and second race of the year are weekends. And in between you have a couple of Metro Atlanta criteriums. And on the Wednesday of Speed Week, right in the middle of it, where the racing teams are already in Metro Atlanta is when we’re going to do, it’s when it could fit into. So you’ve got all these racing teams with all these bikes and salaried professional cyclists that travel with them. Well now they’re here. They love it because they don’t have to drive to the next race and all the logistics involved. So you have a lot of that. So we decided to do a race on Wednesday, starting at 3:30 in the afternoon out here on part of our autonomous vehicle test track right here out in front of City Hall. And they’re going to basically do what’s called a dumbbell, which is, they go down the race course and then they do a circle, and then they come back the same, and then they do another circle, and then they go back the same.
[00:12:25] Rico: I gotcha. Okay.
[00:12:26] Brian: It’ll look like two lollipops. So in front of City Hall you’re going to see them really four times in each lap. So it’s a great place to set up your lawn chairs, you know your tailgating chairs. Have the food trucks here at City Hall, get to see some of this cool technology, get to see professional cyclists. The play-by-play announcer is going to be Frankie Andreu, which is Lance Armstrong’s very first roommate. Back when they were racing in the Tour de France before. And he was the one involved in the trial with the the US anti-doping agency and everything. I mean, but great dude. Longtime professional cyclist himself. We’re going to have a bunch of vendors with some of this cool technology. We’re going to have a lot of bike manufacturers and others here. So it’ll be kind of like a little bit of a mini festival feel.
[00:13:23] Rico: Yeah. That sounds great.
[00:13:24] Brian: Come out and watch the professional cyclists. So it’ll start at 3:30, and as you go through all these categories, the last race is going to be the men’s professional race, starting at around 8:30 PM and they’ll go for one hour. So it’ll end around 9:30. And you know, Wednesday is a school night. We get it. But you know, you don’t have to stay the whole time. But it’s a great place to come eat dinner. Have some, we’re talking to some of the local micro brews of having some stuff out here. But it’s just a great place to see something that not all cities can set up. And in our case, we’re going to have a lot of cutting edge safety technology that you can’t, it can’t be showcased anywhere else because our city streets are set up to do this. And so we’re uniquely positioned, which is why all these big companies are like, oh, heck yeah. We want your location. And remember we’re talking about Audi here.
[00:14:24] Rico: Yeah, I mean, that’s exciting. I mean, it’s good to see the fruit from the efforts of going out to Europe and Israel and places like that to talk about what this city does. So, and then bring back that economic impact. So it’s great to do that. Plus, I mean, I, Jim Stone who heads Tytan Pictures?
[00:14:41] Brian: Yes.
[00:14:41] Rico: I know he’s a road racer. Some of his people are too. They do amateur stuff, but he’s constantly out there, riding from 41.
[00:14:49] Brian: Yes. And him and I have done this together. He worked with me and Aniston when we did the Sunny King Criterium, which is the one there. So Jim will be involved in this. Jim also like me, did crits for a long time. He did Velodrome stuff as an amateur athlete.
[00:15:05] Rico: Wow, okay. Yeah, I didn’t know that part.
[00:15:08] Brian: What this does is it gets the community a pretty unique, cool event that we wouldn’t have had, had it not dropped in our path.
[00:15:16] Rico: Right. And drawing from people from all over the place. I know there’s a pretty big youth cycling group out of Suwanee. I think, I mean, they probably would love to be part of this.
[00:15:26] Brian: That’s why Speed Week was so important. Speed Week has, every other day in between the two weekends is a race somewhere in Metro Atlanta. We just happened to steal one of the slots, the prime in the middle of the week’s slot because all these racing teams and everyone were like, oh, that’s a cool, that’s a cool reason to have it, all the technology. And there’s going to be potentially some technology, some of these devices, we’re going to get some and we’re going to distribute it amongst our local cyclists to further refine it and kind of call it, trial it out in the community as they ride. Some people don’t realize that Peachtree Corners has a cycling club.
[00:16:11] Rico: Yes.
[00:16:11] Brian: It’s called the Peachtree Corners Cycling Club. And you’ll sometimes see them out in a group riding, they do group rides. So yeah, it’s gonna be a really cool event. More to follow. But that’s happening April 26th, which is a Wednesday, starting at 3:30 ’till about 9:30. And it’s a great way to watch both amateurs and professionals race really fast bicycles.
[00:16:32] Rico: So from one great event and sport to another growing sport. You know, this city can be a lot of different things. So it’s not just smart city that we talk about, but there’s a lot of things that go on here. A lot of things people are not even aware of that we write stories about in our magazines and online that people will all of a sudden like, oh, I didn’t know. That’s cool. So the next thing, I mean, we were talking about this and I’ve just started getting into the idea of pickleball. Pickleball is a growing sport in the United States. Actually, it’s from the West Coast, I think. It’s been growing leaps and bounds. I mean, we, there are pickleball tournaments being played here in Peachtree Corners now. People are probably not aware of it at lifetime. And we were talking before and you were talking about how the city may be doing a feasibility study about a private public partnership with someone to bring in 30, 40 pickleball courts. Maybe a facility that can attract national tournaments. Or maybe even, and maybe even create our own invitational tournament. That would be kind of cool. I know this is just basic starting out of the gate, you’re still trying to look and see what you have to do, but what do you have in mind? And, well, what can you tell us so far? .
[00:17:44] Brian: So you hit on a couple of important points, and one is, you know, pickleball is the fastest growing sport. And it has certainly been, there’s a lot of examples out there of cities using it, starting to use it as an economic development driver in and of itself. Because there’s so many people who are wanting to do it. I’ve seen it in the community. There’s been some community tennis facilities that have, even private ones that have converted some of their tennis courts into pickleball because the demand, even from the tennis community. And there’s some that transition from tennis to pickleball because they feel like as they’ve gotten older, there’s less running it’s easier on the joints and whatever. And then others do both still. Some are like, I never played tennis and so I never developed the ability to do it, but pickleball doesn’t require quite as much technical proficiency when it comes to your racket technique. Your, you know, your stroke technique and everything. And so it’s a little bit more like, you know, ping pong on steroids, you know.
[00:18:58] Rico: Yeah. Or paddleball even.
[00:19:01] Brian: It’s like in between tennis and ping pong. And so people are like, alright I kind of like it. So anyway, it doesn’t really matter why it’s growing. It is. Given that, and given that we have one of the highest number of tennis courts per capita of any city around when you include, 16 courts that Fields Club has and what does Lifetime have? 22 courts or whatever. Now they’ve got, yeah, indoor. And you’ve got a number of other clubs that have it as well. Then you go just right outside our border and you have an Atlanta Athletic Club. We have a lot of tennis. And those are, some of those are migrating to pickleball, so we’re kind of, we recognize that there may be something here. So what we’re doing is a feasibility study on whether we can, as a city be a facilitator at some level of having a pickleball facility constructed in the city that is big enough and enticing enough. Not too big, but enough that it is attracting weekend tournaments. And if you’ve ever had kids in organized sports that do the travel stuff, you only can go where there are the facilities. And I’ve had kids, you know, my daughter’s big into volleyball and Lake Point, North I75 in between here and Chattanooga is a massive volleyball and baseball facility in the middle of nowhere. But it attracts big time tournaments on the weekend because that’s where the facilities are. If you want to have a volleyball tournament with 500 teams, you’ve got to have a massive facility to do it. Doing that, you’ve got all this ancillary activity.
[00:20:54] Rico: Right. And they’re running these tournaments for like whole weekends, sometimes a week if it’s during the summer, but usually it’s a three day weekend of tournaments from early morning to late night. Because they have it all lit and stuff. I mean, it’s just unbelievable. I mean, that’s just a business. Anyone that has kids doing travel team knows how much money it costs just to do that stuff.
[00:21:14] Brian: Yeah, yeah. Because you, yeah, you’ve got to stay in a hotel there. You’re generally, you don’t know when you’re going to, who’s gonna lose and when.
[00:21:21] Rico: Right.
[00:21:21] Brian: What your next, you can’t really plan on meals, so you’re usually eating in local restaurants. And then oftentimes you’re staying overnight and now you’ve got the evening where you’re like, all right, we’ve got some time to kill. What are we going to do? So it is a driver. And sales tax, lodging tax. And in pickleball’s case, unlike say if you were going to build a massive tennis facility, pickleball doesn’t require near as much space. You can essentially get two pickleball courts on one tennis court. And you can oftentimes go multiple stories because you don’t need the height that you would in tennis.
[00:21:58] Rico: True.
[00:21:59] Brian: So there are some opportunities to do it different. And so what we’re doing is we’re going to see where is the sweet spot? What would it, what size, and how would it look like if we constructed that pickleball specific facility and got those tournaments. And what kind of economic development activity would it in and of itself generate to better the city? Whether it’s to enhance an area that already has some of it, or maybe it’s in an area that needs redevelopment and needs a shot in the arm. We’ll look at, you know, the feasibility study will tell us what type of acreage we need. And then our job as a city, aside from doing this and identifying it, is to then start to cobble together those private players in this. And why that’s important is the city is not looking to just solely build this facility and then run it as a recreational component.
[00:23:02] Rico: I mean, yeah, some cities have like.
[00:23:04] Brian: We could do that, but we’re not, yeah.
[00:23:06] Rico: But then you have the maintenance and the budget to run it year in and year out. Like you said before, as we were doing, as we were doing our pre-talk before the show, public-private partnership makes more sense. Well at least the public partnerships in the sense of facilitating things to be done by a private entity that’s interested in investing in this here to help make it easier for that type of facility to get here.
[00:23:31] Brian: That is exactly a perfect scenario would be the private sector builds it and the private sector operates it and you know, whatever money they make with it, that’s great. The city has no involvement in it. However we win, because it generates the activity. And the sales tax and lodging tax that come from hotel stays and restaurants and other stuff is what ultimately does come back to the city.
[00:23:54] Rico: If we talk, we were talking about like 30, 40 courts, maybe 50 courts. Part of that feasibility study would be checking out other tournaments, national tournaments, national organizations, regional players. And it doesn’t exclude a city like ours from doing a Peachtree Corners Pickleball Invitational or driving some of our own events. We’ve talked about the only real event that the city puts on, well officially we’re just a sponsor of Peachtree Corners Festival. It’s not even like a city event.
[00:24:24] Brian: That’s right. It’s not the city’s. I mean, right now it’s really the concert series.
[00:24:29] Rico: That’s right. Okay.
[00:24:31] Brian: You know the concert series, you could maybe argue, we’ve had two years of the decathlon on the fitness trail.
[00:24:37] Rico: Right. Cool. And that, that gets better.
[00:24:39] Brian: But it is an event that people travel to. This criterium, if it generates, enough activity and interest from industry, technology industry, it could become a reoccurring event. And it is known maybe even nationally or internationally as the bike race that new safety technology is showcased every year because of Curiosity Lab. But a lot of this is trial by error and we’ve got to come up with a mix of how much of this is benefiting the community and to what degree? You know, is the juice worth the squeeze, so to speak? Is it a lot of effort by the city, but the community is like, eh, or maybe it’s not a lot of effort by the city and maybe it’s not. The decathlon has a very unique interest base, but it doesn’t require a lot of resources from the city, so it’s not a lot of squeeze net necessary. Criterium a little bit more, but still it’s not as. So, this is just a way of trying to make our community very, diverse in all aspects, including diversity of unique community events.
[00:25:44] Rico: Yeah. This is, this is what I like about it. What I like about it is, and what I like about what, how the city looks at things, is that it’s not just, you know, we talk about being a smart city and all, but we have a lot a lot of places that attract people here. Right? Simpsonwood Park, Wesleyan, Cornerstone, private schools, great private schools, great public schools, IB programs at Norcross High School and through the school system. You know, we have other things. It’s interesting what attracts you and what it comes to the city even at, that are taking place at the Hilton, for example, events and conferences that people are not even familiar with that get.
[00:26:21] Brian: There’s a range of stuff. There’s like a whiskey tasting conference. There’s been a fleet management conference and there’s been, yes. And the Marriott’s got some stuff too. And you’ve got, you know, you do have baseball tournaments at Pinkneyville Park.
[00:26:37] Rico: Correct, right.
[00:26:38] Brian: I mean, even just outside our border or you know, our city limits, like the Gwinnett Aquatic Center has swim meets, you know.
[00:26:45] Rico: That’s right.
[00:26:46] Brian: We want stuff like every weekend there’s, you know, it would be great like, oh, you know what have they got going on this weekend? Maybe it’s something they’re interested in, maybe not, but we like the diversity of it. And to council’s credit, I mean, these things also help pull people that spend money in our restaurants, our stores. And that makes them healthy. It keeps them here. And so you can’t just sit back and cross your fingers and just be like, well, I hope the Forum generates activity on its own. No, I mean, the Forum’s management company is artificially pushing activity to, or attracting is probably a better way by programming. They have events and unique things there. You know, the Twilight Run.
[00:27:33] Rico: Yeah. Light Up the Corners.
[00:27:35] Brian: Or Light Up the Corners. Yeah, the Light Up the Corners. That is a cool event, a night run, and it’s done at the Forum. I mean, that’s it’s important stuff. So pickleball could be in that list if it works out and the city can kind of facilitate getting all these players involved and finding the location and everything. A pickleball facility done right, could become a magnet for activity of people who do things before or after their pickleball league play or their pickleball tournament
[00:28:11] Rico: And still, and also serve the citizens here, because there’s lots of people getting more and more into pickleball the same way.
[00:28:18] Brian: Well, that’s why the league play. That’s why the league play in between the weekend tournaments is for the residents, yeah.
[00:28:23] Rico: Right. So there’s that. I mean, we talked about an art center as well at some point, an art culture center at some point. There’s just such a good future here of a variety of things that can happen. So I’m excited by that. Not knowing that was happening.
[00:28:38] Brian: Yeah, I mean, you know, again, devil’s in the details. But we are certainly going to get all the details and make a decision then. But, you know, to council’s credit, mayor and council are very open minded to exploring new things. They’re innovative. There’s outside the box thinking about economic development. When you are the second largest city without city property tax, it is even more imperative that we are constantly doing what we can to ensure that the commerce that generates sales tax is healthy. Because if it isn’t and those revenue streams dried up, the city has, it would have a decision to make. We either have to decrease the level and breadth of our services to cut costs or we would have to levy a milage rate and the city doesn’t want to do either. So mayor and council are very clear to me, and staff is, they do some of it on their own, is being very innovative in thinking about ways that we can keep our commerce at a high level so that we can keep that zero milage rate.
[00:29:51] Rico: And we’ve been fortunate as a city for over 10 years now. Going through even a depressive part of that recession part, I guess, that we’re still able to have enough money to do the things that we feel we need to do. I mean, city marshal system that the city’s looking into.
[00:30:06] Brian: Done within the budget without having to go out and get other revenue streams.
[00:30:12] Rico: Right.
[00:30:13] Brian: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:30:14] Rico: So all good stuff. We’ve spent a lot of time together. We covered a couple of pretty big things. So I guess the last thing I just want to really just touch on is that we did have a comprehensive plan, the first public meeting this past Thursday. And I was meaning to get there. Obviously I didn’t, but I’m sure it went really well. Do you have a couple of quick things you want to mention about that? And when’s the next one that’s coming up? Because I think there’s a second one, isn’t there?
[00:30:41] Brian: Yeah. So let’s see. The next one is at the next planning commission meeting, which is…
[00:30:47] Rico: Oh, okay. Is that the, in March?
[00:30:50] Brian: Is it the 21st?
[00:30:52] Rico: Yeah, that would be the 21st because the 28th is City Council.
[00:30:55] Brian: Yes. So yeah, March 21st, that’ll be the next one. The first one we had, I believe Diana, the Community Development Director told me we had 125 people.
[00:31:07] Rico: Cool. That’s a lot of people.
[00:31:10] Brian: Yes. People should go to the website or who, those who have, accepted push notifications. We have a survey out right now on weighing in on housing. That was the main theme of this last community meeting, or I guess the first official comp plan meeting, it was housing was the main theme. Asking people their thoughts on housing and where certain types should go and things like that. We’ll have some other additional ones, themes like public safety, transportation. These are events that if you care about the city and want to have your input on a document that guides over the next 10 years the decisions that council’s making. Now’s the time to get your input in.
[00:31:58] Rico: Cool, alright. So no excuse. Just go to the city’s website to find out a little bit more. Next public meeting again, March 21st. Planning Commission Meeting at City Hall. Cool. We’ll put out the links in our show notes as well, and you’ll be hearing it from us. Brian, thank you. Hang on with me for another minute. But thank you to our audience. Thank you for EV Remodeling, for being a sponsor of ours. And look for the next issue of Southwest Gwinnett Magazine that’s coming out. And that issue has a cover story about a young lady from Peachtree Corners, a middle schooler who became one of five girls to be part of this inspiration thing with Disney World and diverse dolls that they’ve created. It’s a cool story, so check it out. She’s our cover story. But thanks again for being with us. Thanks, Brian. Take care.
[00:32:44] Brian: Thank you.
City Manager: City Marshal Regs and Policies, Pickleball Feasibility Study, Weather Preparations and More
What’s the function of a City Council Work Session that is open to the public? The upcoming meeting will see a discussion of proposed City Marshal regulations and policies and the presentation of the Pickleball Feasibility study. We also discussed with the city manager the construction of an innovative EV charging station and the ongoing city commitment to sustainability, public safety, and community well-being. Plus, the latest updates on infrastructure improvements, the ongoing programs to address stormwater issues and power outages, and housing initiatives.
[00:00:00] – Introduction
[00:02:15] – Explanation of Work Session and Its Purpose
[00:04:18] – Parking Deck Design
[00:09:18] – City Marshal Regulations and Policies
[00:15:02] – Discussion on Pickleball Facility Feasibility Study
[00:20:10] – Preparing for Hurricane Season and Power Outages
[00:31:48] – Protecting Power Lines and Using Underground Lines
[00:34:47] – Solis Development and Its Start Date
[00:35:50] – Broadstone Development and Its Progress
[00:37:00] – Other Ongoing Construction Projects and Improvements
[00:39:48] – Trailheads and Affordable Housing
[00:43:16] – Peachtree Corners Festival and the Electrify Expo
[00:44:44] – Park Improvements and Housing Initiatives
[00:46:15] – Closing
“Where we run into a problem is when trees are into live power lines, we can’t cut those trees and remove them by blocking roads until the power company shuts off the power. So it all depends on how many crews they have out and how many trees that are still laying in live power lines is how fast we can clear the road and how fast you get power. The best way to alleviate this, they remove those limbs hanging over a power line… But it’s also controversial.”BRian johnson
Rico Figliolini 0:00:00
Hey everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. I thank you for coming and joining us for Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager. Hey, Brian. How are you?
Brian Johnson 0:00:10
Good. How are you?
Rico Figliolini 0:00:11
Good seeing you again. It’s been a while. I know we’ve been sort of a week past our normal stuff, so I appreciate you making time for me. I do want to share with everyone our sponsors and thank them. So we have EV Remodeling, Inc. A company that does a lot of design and build and a lot of renovation work here in the City of Peachtree Corners and in the metro area. Eli. The owner lives here in Peachtree Corners. Great family. They do great work. You should check them out. We do appreciate the support of our podcasts and our advertising in our magazines. So go to Evremodelinginc.com and find out a little bit more about them as well. Our other lead sponsors, Clearwave Fiber, they do a lot of Internet. All of it is internet for business and residential. They do a lot of work in the City of Peachtree Corners. In fact, you’ll find some of the highlighted businesses that are clients of theirs that have taken on their service for their work and their businesses. You’ll find some of those profiles appearing in Peachtree Corners magazine over the next few months to learn a little bit more about how those companies work here in the city. You may not even realize they exist here and also see how Clearwave works for them. So check them out. Clearwave Fiber. If you Google them, Peachtree Corners, you’ll see exactly what they’re doing here. So I want to thank them also for being a sponsor of these podcasts and our magazine. OK, now that I’ve done that and thanked everyone, there’s a lot of stuff that I just want to get into. But the biggest part is the upcoming work session, Brian and people may not realize what that is, so work session is the session that’s held prior to a city council meeting which is held once a month. Both of them are held once a month. And that work session is really to work through the process and seeing proposals and presentations prior to that city council meeting. So this way the city council can probably have their questions during that session answered during that city council meeting.
Brian Johnson 0:02:15
And in addition to prepping council for what’s going to be put in front of them for formal votes, it gives council opportunities to provide input and staff has time to make adjustments from the time between when I present council stuff at the work session and then the two weeks later the city council meeting. So we make tweaks to certain things. No votes are taken at a work session. It’s kind of the sleeves rolled up type of discussion. I also put stuff in front of council that don’t actually require formal action, but I want their guidance on things or I’ll take their temperature on stuff. It’s an informal meeting, but it’s a public meeting and council is there in their capacity as members of the governing body. And they’re getting ready these issues, ready for formal action at the subsequent council meeting.
Rico Figliolini 0:03:14
So there’s no obviously this is a work session, so there’s no public comments here, but anyone’s welcome to come visit and listen into these work sessions.
Brian Johnson 0:03:23
That’s correct. They’re public meeting, there is no public comment. So there’s no interaction with council. There’s no votes taken by council.
Rico Figliolini 0:03:31
Right. And just so then people know, I think originally there were two council meetings, I think a month when the city first started or something like that.
Brian Johnson 0:03:39
No, there was still only one. But they did the work session on the same night as council meeting. They would do it persona. The problem with that is when you go a month between getting council together, it can be problematic when you sometimes need I need interaction with them. And so I split that out. And so now it’s every two weeks they get together. One is the work session and then one is the council meeting. So it makes it to where I get them in a room often enough that I can get the answers I need or get them prepared for the votes I need.
Rico Figliolini 0:04:18
Right. So this is happening September twelveTH, Tuesday, and it may happen a little earlier than normal, it sounds like, because it’s going to be a packed meeting. So that’s what I want to talk about. I want to talk about what’s going to be going on in that meeting a little bit. Let’s start with so for example, the parking deck is going to be brought up. It’s going to be the design of the parking deck is going to be presented. Talk a little bit about correct. I’m sorry, I should have been more clear. And this is the parking deck that will be built behind Belk’s, if I’m correct.
Brian Johnson 0:04:52
Right next to Belk. Yeah. That big open surface parking lot that they have there is where the parking deck will go in. And the parking deck’s purpose is to replace the parking stalls that are being removed on the main boulevard of the Forum for those public spaces and the jewel box stores that are going in, well, they’re taking up parking and we need to replace it. So the design of that parking deck and how it’ll screen itself from the neighboring residents is the last piece of the Forum’s rezoning that they needed to do. And that is council had to approve the design of the parking deck. So that’s one of the items that they’ll see, the renderings of it and they’ll make any comments.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:44
I’ve forgotten how many floors, how many spots will be roughly in that deck.
Brian Johnson 0:05:50
Think it’s going to be three floors, or call it two covered floors. And then the top floor is open to the elements.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:56
Brian Johnson 0:05:58
It’s 300 and some change spots.
Rico Figliolini 0:06:02
Yeah, that’s what I thought, because anyone that goes through the Forum now obviously can’t go through all the Forum because of near Jason’s Deli. That’s where they’re building that two story or two floors, I guess, jewel boxes back there. And hopefully that should be finished when they said that was going to be finished, but not too far into the future, I’m sure. A few more months. It looks like they’re really on their way to getting that done. And that parking deck, I think, if I remember correctly, one of the options was also talked about sealing the wall park facing Amberfield. So this way there’s no, like it’s a full solid wall on the back there versus open.
Brian Johnson 0:06:41
That is correct. It is a solid wall as it faces the neighboring residence, so there won’t be any light pollution of headlights as cars make turns inside or park. So that’s part of it.
Rico Figliolini 0:06:54
Anything special? Any special features like EV charging station? Anything special that will be done to it?
Brian Johnson 0:07:01
There are going to be EV charging stalls. It’s going to have security cameras. It has special lighting to keep the light pollution down that are built into hooded locations along the walls. So the purpose of it is just to provide a parking deck that looks good from the outside. It ties in architecturally with the rest of the form, so it’s going to look the same as the current architectural features. And it screens the neighboring residents so they don’t have to have their quality of life affected by the operations within the parking deck.
Rico Figliolini 0:07:42
Right. I would imagine there would be immediate access from that parking deck through between the buildings to get to the forum. I guess. I’m not sure how they’re adjusting that.
Brian Johnson 0:07:51
But there is there’ll be two ways to get to the parking deck. One is under the arch right there by the big fountain.
Rico Figliolini 0:07:57
Brian Johnson 0:07:58
The other would be coming around the backside by Ted’s Montana grill. That would be the other way to get to and from the parking deck. There won’t be any way to get there from the north side of the.
Rico Figliolini 0:08:14
Start. That construction is going to start probably, I guess, somewhere in first quarter.
Brian Johnson 0:08:18
Rico Figliolini 0:08:20
Do they know how long it’ll take to finish? Any estimate?
Brian Johnson 0:08:23
Rico Figliolini 0:08:24
Really? Okay. All right.
Brian Johnson 0:08:26
And once it’s done, they can start removing the remainder of the parking stalls in the middle boulevard, heading down towards and finishing up in front of Belk.
Rico Figliolini 0:08:36
Right. According to the plans, it looks like that’s where an entertainment stage would be built and some of the jewel boxes and a concierge area and stuff. Cool. So anyone that wants to come see, there will be plans presented of what this is going to look like, and then it’ll be taken up at the next city council meeting. And that’s where a vote would be. That next city council meeting.
Brian Johnson 0:08:59
Correct. September 26, two weeks later is when council would formally approve that via a vote. But they’ll see the designs in case they have questions and provide input. Yeah, have questions, and there might be some tweaking. They’re like, oh, we don’t like that. We like x. We like y better, or whatever.
Rico Figliolini 0:09:18
Right? All right, cool. So the other big thing that’s going to be happening at that work session will be discussion with city marshal and the regulations they’re going to be in place. Stuff like do you do car chases? What do you use it for? A bunch of things like that. But also the design of the vehicles. The vehicle wrap is going to be presented as well. So tell us a little bit about what type of regulations are going to be discussed and is there anything surprising along the way that you found, or tell us something.
Brian Johnson 0:09:51
So our city marshals are going to be post certified law enforcement officers. So they’re going to have the exact same authority that you would have as somebody who calls themselves a police officer. But when you have that, you’ve got to have policies in place to regulate how they use that authority. That come with being post certified law enforcement officers. So, for instance, use of force, what kind of guidelines are we going to give them to, say, the escalation of force or high speed pursuit, or when are they going to be authorized to chase a vehicle at a high rate of speed, turn on their sirens, things like that? You’ve got other little things like the vehicle use policy. Where can they drive the vehicle, how far? Because we’re letting them do use them as take home vehicles, which is very common the law enforcement community, and how far out do you let them drive? And then even the design of some of their uniforms and the wrap of the vehicles will be discussed so that, you know, this is all getting them in preparation for the November council meeting. And why that’s important is by November, I will have the chief marshal in place. I just concluded my interviews. We advertised for the position, and I just concluded last week my series of interviews of candidates. And I’ll start the negotiation of our first candidate to see about all the typical stuff, money and everything like that, right. We’ll have the chief marshal in place by November, and we’ll have the policies in place by then. We can have the vehicles wrapped by then, and all those things that you need. The intergovernmental agreements with some of the surrounding law enforcement agencies. And there’s a lot of know, like, how do we tie into the radios that Gwinnett County uses? That’s really important because they’re still our primary police department getting access to and set up so that our marshals can look at the entirety of our video surveillance system that we have in the city. We have a significant amount of cameras getting all those things accessed. I will be ready by November. And so the November city council meeting, we’re going to have a formal call it swearing in ceremony, where they’ll be sworn in as marshals, which theoretically is symbolic because they already have the authority. But that’ll be when we’ll invite the media. They’ll be available for interviews, we’ll kind of talk a little bit more about it. That is when they’re ready to start going out into the community and you’ll start seeing them out there doing their thing. Prior to that, I need to again have the policies that sets their left and right limit and we’re not quite there. So council is going to be fed policies over the next three work session and city council meetings in preparation for that November. So some of the ones on the September work session are going to be some of those policies like use of force and high school.
Rico Figliolini 0:13:22
When they vote on that, that would be in November, I’m assuming. Will there be public comment at that point on the regulations? How does that work? If citizens want to review it?
Brian Johnson 0:13:36
Policy would be adopted via ordinance, which has a public hearing component. So when it is presented, the public will certainly be able to make comment on the policy.
Rico Figliolini 0:13:52
And that would happen in November, I guess the public comment as well, or private.
Brian Johnson 0:13:57
Anytime, any of these, each of these policies requires a separate vote. Okay, so like use of force as individual officers, that’s a vote because that’s a standalone policy. Body cameras, when they’re turned on, when they’re supposed to be turned on, how long you store it, all that kind of stuff, that’s another policy and that’s voted on separately. So you’re going to have a series of these policies. It’s not just one amalgamation of all of these together, it’s individual policies that.
Rico Figliolini 0:14:29
So does that happen over time until November or in November?
Brian Johnson 0:14:33
Yeah, there’ll be a few over the next three council meetings.
Rico Figliolini 0:14:39
All right. So people should be aware of that. If they want to attend or put.
Brian Johnson 0:14:43
Up public, just look at, watch the website. The agendas go out no later than noon on Friday before the following Tuesday city council meeting. And if you see one of the policies on there that they’re voting on that’s of interest to you, then you’ll know that that’s the meeting that you should show up to.
Rico Figliolini 0:15:02
Got you. Cool. And the city wrap that design, the uniform design, that’s also all coming out at that work session on September twelveTH. Yes, I guess. All right, cool. These work sessions are great, like you said, because it just allows stuff to be discussed and get information or adjustments done before the actual city council meeting and vote. So that’s good. The city is doing that. The other thing, I guess, is with the hurricane season starting well, real quick, real quick, Rico. Sure.
Brian Johnson 0:15:36
One other thing you may want to talk about before we get off of the work session is the Pickleball study.
Rico Figliolini 0:15:42
Okay. All right. You’re right. That’s actually going to be presented prior to the beginning of the first thing of the work session.
Brian Johnson 0:15:50
Yeah, I mean, it’s part of the work session. We just may start the meeting early. Because that is the one thing that even though it’s a work session, I think council is going to open up the floor to anybody who’s there about the feasibility study. Because we had a lot of stakeholders that we invited to be part of this feasibility study. And we’ve invited them back, and we want them, as it’s fresh on their mind, the mayor is going to let if any of them have any comments that they want to make on it, they’ll do it there, which doesn’t usually happen at a work session, and it’ll only be that particular thing. But they’re going to open up the floor, buddy, make comments.
Rico Figliolini 0:16:33
So they’re going to make a presentation first and they’ll open up the floor. And if I understand correctly, is there anything you could say about that study prior to that meeting?
Brian Johnson 0:16:43
Yeah, what they’re going to do is they’re going to come back and they’re going to tell us how supportive our area, whether it’s inside of our corporate limits or the greater area outside our boundaries. But this part of north metro Atlanta, how much support there is for Pickleball, how big of a facility they think that should be constructed if we want to have a facility that’s hitting the sweet spot, it’s not too big, it’s not too small. And they’ve looked at really three different sizes of facilities and they’ll come back and they’ll tell us which one they think is the one that hits, that makes that tuning fork go off when it comes to use and support for it from the local community. So that’s the conclusion of the study as to which size would be that sweet spot for us to meet demand but not overbuild and not be able to fill it or don’t underbuild. Where is that, what number is that, how many are indoor, how many are outdoor, is there a food and beverage component? All of that is part of the study.
Rico Figliolini 0:17:57
Well, true. So, I mean, obviously a smaller ten quart place would really be more of an altar size, maybe going anywhere from a 24 to a 50 court or 40 court going from a regional to a national. They’re going to discuss, like you said, what that sweet spot is going to be for the city. And the city is going to be talking also about, or at least the proposal will talk about that private public partnership, what that could look like, I guess. Does the city take on the construction of it and then the rest of it is done by private industry? Or is it built with public private cooperation? That’s all going to be part of that discussion. I guess, or presentation.
Brian Johnson 0:18:40
Yeah, we can only go so far on that because one, I’m not going to have a private partner standing next to me saying we’ve already hammered out the details, we certainly can’t talk about location yet because we don’t currently own any property in which this would go.
Rico Figliolini 0:19:00
Will they make recommendations though, in the feasibility study as far as possible areas versus exact location?
Brian Johnson 0:19:08
Probably not, just because what it does is it makes it difficult for us to acquire it if somebody is like, oh, we heard that you’re interested because if a certain area of the city is conveyed to be a good place, you and I both know that you don’t have to know. There’s a lot of people that can then say, oh, they want this area of the city. Well the only place it makes sense is and then they can zero in on and so it just makes it difficult when you do that because when people think the city is the one or a city is the one behind a purchase, they’re like, oh, deep pockets, and then they start holding out for more money. So that’s why we can’t really I don’t want to get we certainly have locations that we have our eye on that we think it would work, but just if we talked about it yet, we could actually hurt ourselves and would have to pay more money than we might have to pay if we don’t.
Rico Figliolini 0:20:10
That also, I think if I remember correctly, that happened with the roundabout at Medlock Bridge when people found out that that’s where the roundabout was going to be before the property had to be purchased or parts of properties had to be purchased. Yeah, that was a bit of a problem at the time, I think. Oh yeah.
Brian Johnson 0:20:28
We had to ultimately condemn two of the slivers of property to get them to sell because their sale price was 300% higher than the appraised value.
Rico Figliolini 0:20:41
No doubt people want to make their money when they can, I guess. All right, cool. So people should be able to come, you should be able to attend and you should attend September twelveTH to find out more about these things. It’s going to be a heavy duty work session, probably a longer one than usual, I’m sure. So let’s also get on to a little bit about like I was saying before, the hurricane season is coming in. Some of these hurricanes are possibly going to be worse than usual. Certainly the category four that hit Florida and went through Florida, missed Peachtree corners. Really, we got some heavy rains, but it wasn’t bad. It had been worse and it skirted southeast of Georgia going up. But when I saw that, I think Bush Road got hit with no power at one point, I think during that or around that time. So a section of Bush Road, that area, those communities were without power for a few hours, I think. Does the city between power outages, possible floodings? We talked about this a little before and I didn’t even know this. I’ll admit that things are built based on a 50 year floodplain, a flood zone. I just assumed it was 100 or more. I didn’t realize it was only a 50 year mark. And people don’t even know. I think if you go to certain parks, you could actually see a 500 year mark of flood, a flood mark in some of the I saw that, I think it was Tilly Mill, one of the big parks. So we’ve been hit with major floods in certain parts of Gwinnett County at one time over the last 200 and 5500 years. Not to say that that would happen again, but how does the city look at weather, power outages? I know people sometimes next door say they say we’re a smart city, why do we keep when the wind blows, the power goes out or something? That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but sometimes I feel the same way when it’s not even storming and the power is going out or flickering. So how does the city address those things?
Brian Johnson 0:22:46
Well, let me unpack this and separate two components of what we really face in Peachtree Corners when it comes to severe weather and that’s flooding and power outage. Flooding, the city has much more of a direct role in that. So I’ll start with we’re part of the National Flood Insurance program with the federal government and FEMA, and we are also part of their community rating system, which is basically like ISO for fire, which is you get graded and the better you’re prepared for, say, fire, you get a better ISO rating. And the better ISO rating you get, the lower your homeowner’s insurance is, because insurance companies say, hey, we feel like that community is less apt to have a fire event destroy the property because the fire department and the water supply and everything is good. So we voluntarily enrolled in that program and we have a rating for the first time two years ago, I think we got, and we improved it last year, which helps everybody’s flood insurance, homeowners insurance, decrease the rate. But we have a stormwater management plan within the city and we do things and the stormwater user fee that you pay on your property tax bill every year, which is a fee based on how much impervious surface that you have in the city, which is surface that doesn’t allow water to percolate into the soil. So rooftop, driveway, sidewalk, things like that. What that goes to is the program of us managing the overall drainage infrastructure for the city. And we maintain, inspect and maintain and repair as needed. A lot of underground and even open drainage facilities, detention ponds, underground drainage lines, detention vaults, stream, bank restoration, keeping erosion from and we have creeks in the city, we have lakes in the city. We’ve got all this stuff that we have to manage because everybody’s water has to flow at some point into the public system. And that public system is our responsibility. So the city uses this money to both proactively make upgrades to our public drainage system and to make repairs. The result is we don’t necessarily have a flooding problem like a wholesale one. We do have isolated locations where you can get certain structures that are below grade and water flows kind of through their property, and we address it on a case by case basis, but we’re set up pretty well. One thing people have to remember is a lot of these subdivisions and homes were only designed back in the day to a 50 year flood event. And so that’s essentially like, handle rain that you would get once every 50 years. Well, weather has changed, and now we’re getting into 150 year flood events, and the standards have gone up on new builds. But we have a lot of subdivisions that were built 25 years older. And sometimes you just get a lot of water that hits in a very short period of time. And the drainage pipes can only handle so much water, and then water backs up until it’s like traffic. Rush hour is merely an example of trying to push so many cars down a road that has so many lanes all at once, and water is the same way. And so our flooding tends to be temporary when we have it in areas, and it just has got to let the system flush it out. But that’s the drainage part, the flooding part. Yes, it can happen when you get a lot of rain in a short period of time. Or I guess if we had a long rain, like days and days and days of it, where the water gets so soaked that it does not take any more water, that can also do it. But that is one now transitioning into electricity. As we all know, you lose electricity through a number of ways. Most of the time here, it’s due to falling trees or limbs into power lines. That’s how most of it happens here. Now, rain can actually, we could have an event. In fact, the storm, we had, what, two days ago? Two nights ago, we didn’t really have any high wind, we just had a lot of rain. And we actually had a really big tree fall into the roadway just because the ground got so saturated. It had been leaning just enough, and then just the roots were in ground that had become so that is one now when it comes to high winds, that can certainly wreak havoc. And when that happens, we react by having we had this, what, a month ago? Six weeks ago, we had the big.
Rico Figliolini 0:28:11
40, 50 miles an hour gust of.
Brian Johnson 0:28:13
Wind, not for long trees down here in the city. And our public works crews came in and started cutting trees that were blocking roads. Now, where we run into a problem is when trees are into live power lines, we can’t cut those trees and remove them by blocking roads until the power company shuts off the power. So it all depends on how many crews they have out and how many trees that are still laying in live power lines is how fast we can clear the road and how fast you get power. The best way to alleviate this, there’s the more inexpensive way, and that is Georgia Power goes through sections of the city, and they basically stand under the power lines. And they look up and they look at limbs that are hanging over the power lines and maybe a few trees that they feel are and they remove those. So a limb hanging over a power line falling doesn’t cut power because they’ve cut the limb back. And so that’s one way. And they have done that. We did a lot of that about a year and a half, two years ago in the Long Spalding Drive down at Neely Farm, gun and Road. There was a lot of it. East Jones Bridge. West Jones Bridge. They’re due to do another one of those. It’s also controversial. Sometimes people don’t like that, or sometimes the limbs that have to be removed are going to kill the tree. And so the whole tree has got to go. And some of those trees are actually not they’re on private property, and so some homeowners get upset about it. So that’s not without controversy either. So that’s one way to do it. And that’s the more inexpensive way to help protect the power lines. The best way is to what they call harden. And that is basically to bury and burying power lines is always the best way to protect and harden the system. But it’s very expensive.
Rico Figliolini 0:30:27
Has that been done and where has it been done in?
Brian Johnson 0:30:30
I mean, you know, you have know, Technology Park, all the power lines are buried, but in the neighbor residential neighborhoods, you oftentimes only have it inside the neighborhood. So, for instance, I live in Riverfield, inside a neighborhood, it’s buried. But where we tie in on East Jones Bridge is not. So if East Jones Bridge gets hit by a tree, we’re out of electricity. Now, power company also tries to do loop. They try to loop the electricity. So there’s a redundant or call it a secondary method to get electricity. So if you had a circle and there was a break in one part, you still have the ability to get electricity. The other way, that’s an expansion of the system. They try to do that as well, but it just comes down to money. And where Georgia Power is looking, there are other communities that have risks that are greater than ours. So I can’t speak on their process, but I do know that they use and we’ve loaned them or helped. Supplement their technology by using LiDAR to a form of radar to actually map where limbs were creating a risk to the lines. And so they’ve used technology to identify the more higher risk areas. But that’s the flooding and the electricity part and how it happens and how we address it. We certainly as a municipality are here when trees go down or blocking roads or people are stranded. We have an emergency response plan. We can stand up certain positions within the city. Our marshals will be another resource. When they start going out and work in the community in late November, they’re going to carry things like chainsaws in the trunk of their vehicles and they’ll be able to go out and do things like that. So it’s unfortunate. We all live with it. Weather is not getting any more calm.
Rico Figliolini 0:32:39
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Since 95, I think, perceptibly I’ve seen more harsher weather happening here. Anecdotally anyway, I’ve seen it, it is not going to get better. And they’re even talking about a harsh winter maybe.
Brian Johnson 0:32:57
And then you can get ice on the power lines and they get too heavy and you get power poles that will fall because of that. Or power lines snap. Yeah. Burying it is always the best, but it’s expensive and it requires sometimes more property and people’s yards and front entrances of subdivisions. And I wish it was easy and inexpensive, but it isn’t. And so that’s where we’re at.
Rico Figliolini 0:33:27
I think people just, if they really are in need of electricity, for whatever reason, they should make sure they have a generator, a gas generator or generac, something that’s installed using gas or propane or something like that. If you really need it for some reason, that’s a good way of backing that up. I just want to go through a couple of quick things and then we could do a wrap. A couple of things I’m just curious about right at this point. Charlie Roberts, what we call the Charlie Roberts property, which is the property which is not Charlie Roberts property anymore. It was bought by a different company. I can’t pronounce the name right now. Thank you. And I could have if I had it written in front of me, maybe, but I think they’ve moved a few things. But when are they actually going to do you have any idea when they’re actually going to break ground behind Chase and HW Steakhouse there? I guess.
Brian Johnson 0:34:29
In November they’re going to start site work. The development is called solis. Solis. And they’re going to break ground in November or not break they’re going to start site work, prepping the pad for them to go vertical. But they’re going to start in November.
Rico Figliolini 0:34:47
Okay. And they’re probably going to take six to twelve months, I guess, to build it out.
Brian Johnson 0:34:51
Yeah, it’ll be a twelve month project.
Rico Figliolini 0:34:53
Yeah. So I mean, the other one that’s north of Racetrack and the wine store that Span, they’re already preselling. I don’t know if they finished any units yet. I think they might have some units finished, but they’re pre selling units there now. They’re actually doing tours. I think they actually have a complete unit or two. So they’re moving along, it sounds like.
Brian Johnson 0:35:16
Yeah, that’s broadstone. The apartment units. I do believe there’s a section that’s done, but the townhomes have gone vertical. You can see those ones closest to the liquor store there. And then they’ve got the office, the commercial building that was existing there, it’s being rebuilt. That’s going up right now, too. So I think most what they’re going vertical with has actually gone vertical.
Rico Figliolini 0:35:50
Lots of stuff going on. I think, obviously, intuitive, is further along where they want to be. Some of the building looks like it’s actually the outsides are actually a little closer to finish and they’re probably working on the inside as well. Quick trip demoing. There’s nothing that they have to they’re just going to build right on where they have it. They’re probably going to take up that same building pad, I bet, to be.
Brian Johnson 0:36:16
Okay because otherwise it’s a little bit bigger. But they’re basically building a newer store right on the very same location. But these kind of things, as you know, it’s a competition. Racetrack has their floor plan and their site plan, and QT has got to compete with it. They’ve got to have certain stations and a flow about it. So their store was showing its age. So they just said, we’re going to know it’s not uncommon. We had Chick fil A do the same thing. We had Wendy’s do the same thing, just upgrading their store. So, yeah, QTS is going down to the ground and building a brand new one on the same they do.
Rico Figliolini 0:37:00
You know, if they’re going to assuming they’re also going to take out the origin of the gas tanks underground or are they going to keep what they have there?
Brian Johnson 0:37:08
No, they’re going to keep it there. I don’t know if they may be going to more pumps, like one more additional pump on each of the islands. I don’t know that for sure. But tanks are staying underground.
Rico Figliolini 0:37:24
So they’re in good condition, I’d imagine. I just keep wondering why half the pumps are yellow bagged over there. But I guess that’s a question for them because maybe they’re not getting enough supply or something. The other building that I saw was the BB T building, which right across from CVS, part of the Forum, not part of that property, but an extension of it that they just gated that out and they’re pulling things out of it. It’s going to remain a bank, it sounds like.
Brian Johnson 0:37:55
Yeah, it’s a credit union of some sort. I don’t remember the name. I had not personally heard of this credit union, but I know they’re doing a renovation over there. I think they’re removing some of the drive in stuff. Nobody uses drive in really anymore.
Rico Figliolini 0:38:13
Right. ATM, probably.
Brian Johnson 0:38:15
Right? ATM. Or maybe they’re even removing some of the lanes completely because there’s just not enough because I think they have like four lanes that you could go into drive through.
Rico Figliolini 0:38:25
Brian Johnson 0:38:26
So, yeah, there’s some renovation of some sort, but it is staying in the financial it’s another financial institution.
Rico Figliolini 0:38:34
Anything new going on that we should be aware of? Revitalizing wise or redevelopment wise? Anything special that pops out over the last month and a half?
Brian Johnson 0:38:44
I mean, Redevelopment Authority has got two big projects they’re working on on the south side of the city. One is some trailhead locations where you’re talking about being able to drive your car and park it there with bathrooms and playground, picnic areas and it’ll tie into the multi use trail system. And then we’ve got some housing going on down the south side as well that we’re going to help try and facilitate the construction of what is oftentimes called starter home workforce housing. But equity product. These are buildings you purchase, you don’t rent. But to try to do it in a way that it’s affordable, meaning it’s market rate. But we’re going to try to help facilitate keeping it from the owners, from maxing out the amount they can get for it because that tends to price people right out of the market.
Rico Figliolini 0:39:48
There’s no way to keep it to one purchaser, someone that buys it, that lives there, versus someone picking up ten of these properties as an investment.
Brian Johnson 0:39:59
You mean owner occupied?
Rico Figliolini 0:40:01
Correct. Thank you.
Brian Johnson 0:40:03
Well, interestingly enough, we are looking at potentially an ordinance where we are going to limit the commercial purchasing of equity products in which some company buys, say, ten townhomes, and then they turn around and rent the townhomes. And that defeats the purpose of trying to get somebody who is an owner occupied tenant of the building, which we feel increases the odds that they put roots in the community. They own something here, so they’re like, you know what, I may want to stay here a long time. I may want to get civically active and get my kids enrolled versus sometimes not all the time. There’s always exceptions to this. Sometimes renters feel that they’re much more flexible in where they live and so they don’t get as involved in the community because they’re thinking, well, I can leave very quickly and I may not stay here, so I’m not going to get involved like I would if I own. So that’s generally the debate between two products.
Rico Figliolini 0:41:12
There’s more pride, I think, when you own it and more investment also that you take care of it because you do own it. It’s an investment in what you can sell later at a better price maybe.
Brian Johnson 0:41:24
Yeah, I agree with you there’s. Again, always exceptions, but I think if you own something and if it gets damaged, it’s on you to fix it. You tend to take care of things more than if you were a renter.
Rico Figliolini 0:41:36
Yeah, and I think I’ve seen it at least in the city of Atlanta and in some parts outside, like Habitat for Humanity, is that right? Yeah. And some other organizations that actually do these types of they’ll do ten or 15 home structures like that in an area. I mean, has the city thought about working with organizations like that? Because those end up for sure in the hands of people that could use them, that are starter homes like that.
Brian Johnson 0:42:07
Oh, they will be a part of this project. We’ve already oh, yeah, absolutely.
Rico Figliolini 0:42:13
Excellent. Do you know when that’s happening or when the regulation that you talked about, the owner occupied stuff, the limitation on that? Any idea?
Brian Johnson 0:42:23
We’re internally, city attorney, community development director and I are kind of looking at case law and other precedent to see how far we can push that. We’re probably a month or two away of presenting council, something for them to consider.
Rico Figliolini 0:42:41
All right, cool. All right, great. I think we’ve covered a lot of the stuff. Peachtree Corners Festival is coming up in September. I know that the second annual Electrify Expo is that what we’re calling it? Is happening during the I think during the festival last year. The second day, maybe. Yeah. Cool. And Jim Ellis is one of several probably dealerships that bring in their cars to it, and anyone can actually register to bring their own electric cars, vehicles to this event to show off.
Brian Johnson 0:43:16
Yeah, it is an EV car show of any type, and we’ve had everything from just your run of the know, off the line electric vehicle, Tesla, whatever, to very unique retrofitted vehicles, some vintage stuff that’s been, I mean, the Batmobile, just some interesting stuff. So, yeah, if it’s EV and you want to bring it out, or you want to come and see some of the unique EV options that are out there, come to that part of the show, I mean, it’ll be in the same parking lot as the vintage car show that’s associated with okay.
Rico Figliolini 0:43:55
And I think I remembered last year, even Paul Duke Stem had their electric race team there with their car that they built.
Brian Johnson 0:44:03
Rico Figliolini 0:44:04
And they’ve been racing around the region actually ever since then, I think, or before. So kind of kind of cool stuff. So if you have an electric vehicle that looks interesting that you put together, definitely go to the city’s website, register, and show up and show off your stuff. So that’s a good thing. Great. I think we’ve hit more than I thought we had. So it’s all good. Appreciate, Brian, that you join me every month to talk about these things. Eventually, at some point, I’d like to actually do this live. You all are watching this. If you’re watching it live, it’s actually a simulcast live stream, which means that we’ve recorded it, but we’re streaming this live on our Facebook pages and YouTube as well. But at some point we may be looking at TikTok doing some of this on there or on X or Twitter, do we call it that? I don’t know, space where we might be able to stream some stuff, take some live questions. So still working that up. Looking for a sponsor if there’s anyone out there that would like us to do that and just to share that. We’re also doing a sports podcast. So I have a former student intern that’s actually taking up and doing a sports podcast with student athletes and such. So that’ll be a video podcast, follow up with an article. We’re going to be doing that once or twice a month, so check that out when it comes out. And if you have any ideas that you’d like to share with us about coverage and stuff, certainly do that. I want to thank our sponsors again, EV Remodeling Inc. And Clearwave Fiber for stepping up, for supporting us for these podcasts as well as the publications and doing the things that we do. Journalism isn’t always easy. We try to get the facts right as best we can. This is why I do these podcasts also, and Brian does it with me to make sure that we’re putting out good, accurate information versus what you might see sometimes posted that may be totally wrong or inaccurate. So this is what we’re trying to do. And sometimes we’ll make mistakes on the print reporter side, but between me and Brian will clarify these things as we go. So thank you, Brian. Appreciate you being with us.
Brian Johnson 0:46:15
Thank you, Rico. Thanks for having me.
Rico Figliolini 0:46:17
Sure. Thanks, guys.
Redevelopment, Solis Apartments, Updates on the City Marshal and Siemens Partnership [Podcast]
From potential redevelopment plans for the Ingle Shopping Center to cutting-edge collaborations with Siemens, this episode uncovers how Peachtree Corners is positioning itself as a hub of innovation and progress. Discover how the city is attracting international businesses, utilizing additional real estate, and embracing the latest advancements in public safety technology. Join us as we explore the thriving landscape of Peachtree Corners on this episode Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager.
[0:00:00] – Introduction and Sponsorship Acknowledgment
[0:02:00] – Discussion about the Ingle Shopping Center Redevelopment
[0:11:54] – Discussion about the Roberts Property Redevelopment and Solis Apartments
[0:19:34] – Updates on the City Marshal Department
[0:28:20] – Partnership with Siemens and Economic Development
[0:32:58] – Closing
Rico Figliolini 0:00:00
Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, and today we have Prime Lunchtime with City Manager Brian Johnson. Hey Brian, thanks for joining me.
Brian Johnson 0:00:10
Thanks for having me.
Rico Figliolini 0:00:11
For sure. Before we get into the show, we’re going to be talking, just to wet your taste buds a little bit, everyone. We’ll be talking a little bit about the shopping center, the Roberts property behind Chase Bank, what’s going on there, as well as the progress on the City Marshalls. But before we get to that, I just want to say thank you to two of our lead sponsors. One is EV Remodeling Inc. They’re a local company owned by Eli. Eli has done a great job with home remodeling. Anything from $10,000 to $100,000 in work from your backyards to whole house build outs. So check them out. They’re at EVRemodelinginc.com, does great work there. Second one, the second lead sponsor is Clearwave Fiber who’s come on board. They do a lot of the business internet work here in the City of Peachtree Corners. They have over a thousand plus customers, both business and residential. And you can check them out by going through our links, go to our website, you’ll see their ad there and click right through to them. And that’s Clearwave Fiber. So thank you to those guys for supporting us in what we do here. Now let’s get on to doing this every month. Guess part of we’re going to talk about with Ingles is that we’ve talked a little bit about this on another podcast. And we have an article out that came out this morning as we’re taping this. And we talked a little bit about the Ingle Shopping Center possible redevelopment, and it’s really coming from the owners of the property. So tell us a little bit exactly how this is being talked about because I know this has come up several times over the past few years.
Brian Johnson 0:02:00
Well, economic development projects or the pursuit of economic activity are always hard to talk about because they’re moving targets. There’s lots of considerations going on. You’ve got land acquisition and negotiations and different developers or owners kicking tires, seeing what. So it’s always difficult because at any point in time, short of having an inked deal, these things could fall apart. So I only say that to say that it happens. And sometimes all it takes is a word or phrase and done. Not quite as accurate. All of a sudden people, the community thinks that it’s going one direction. You’re like, hold on. So this is no different in that the work that’s being done, the development that’s happened at the Town Center, the redevelopment of the Forum under North American properties ownership has gotten a lot of people excited about possibilities of growth and capitalizing on increased activity that those two sites are generating. And a lot of the property owners that have current existing commercial property adjacent to or near the Town Center and Forum have approached us recently to discuss possibilities. Hey, how might we change or redevelop our property in a way that’s beneficial to the Town Center, and we can benefit from the Town Center and Forum’s activity. And so the Ingle Shopping Center parcel development and the owners of it are no different. They have discussed with us possibilities. And when this happens, sometimes the city, given that we have in house capabilities of doing this, we know the zoning better than anybody else.
Brian Johnson 0:04:13
We know setback density requirements, all that stuff. We can sometimes come up with renderings and conceptual site plan possibilities that it’s easier for us to do than a consultant working for the property owner. And so, in the case of Ingles, in our discussions with the owner of possibilities, we in house generated just a few ideas, not ones that were generated at the request of that development or the owner, but the owner was very open to yeah. If you could show us how it might lay out differently, we could consider it. And obviously, since Ingalls is the anchor tenant there, we all know it as that, and that’s a significant corporate tenant of the.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:09
To. So then people know because they may not know CVS is an out parcel, not part of that property, if you will. So is the Duncan Baskin Robbins store that’s separate also, I believe, right? No, that one’s part of so the.
Brian Johnson 0:05:28
CVS is an out parcel.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:30
Correct. Okay. And the old McDonald’s, is that also separate?
Brian Johnson 0:05:35
Well, it is separate. In our renderings, we just made an assumption based on the owner saying they have a relationship with McDonald’s corporate office because it’s owned by McDonald’s corporate. It’s not owned by a you know, again, but that’s why in economic know, for you to master plan something sometimes to make assumptions of certain things. And so the assumption was that that would be, if this happened, would be acquired and would be added to the block of property that’s just there. And so some of the renderings did have a newer, somewhat smaller footprint for Ingles. It would be like, hey, Ingalls, there would be a smaller footprint built closer to 141 for Ingles to move from their current footprint into a smaller version in which there are some locations that Ingalls has a smaller footprint but has not been discussed with them. They haven’t requested they are not the one requesting any kind of a footprint. You know, you just never know. It’s not uncommon. We’ve done this with some of the other ones as well. But this is what happens. And this is oftentimes, to a degree, how North American properties redevelopment activities at the Forum happened is we generated the city with the previous owner before North American got it. We generated some suggestions in the forms of site plan renderings that got the wheels turning. Ultimately. It was one where the previous owner said that’s great, we’re going to sell it.
Brian Johnson 0:07:21
But when we sell it, we’re going to share the fact that the city is open to some change based on the rendering shared. So these are all very fluid situations which unfortunately, oftentimes more than not, they don’t serialize but miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So we’re open to trying. So that’s kind of where we are with that, which is nothing may ever happen or there could be a significant upgrade.
Rico Figliolini 0:07:54
And the owner is not a REIT. The owner is a local business group.
Brian Johnson 0:07:58
No, the owner is a Canadian company.
Rico Figliolini 0:08:00
It’s a know, you know, we did talk about it on a podcast and an article about possibly coming from Ingalls, but this was really from the owners of the development of the property there. Now it’s the mean, I think it was about a year ago, maybe a year and a half ago. They also talked about maybe putting gas pumps at one point similar to what Kroger’s has over there. So interesting. But even if anything were to mean, obviously before even ground would break, could probably take two years, I bet, because of rezoning and stuff like that.
Brian Johnson 0:08:42
Yeah, probably not. Well, for them to go vertical with buildings right now, there literally is nothing. So it would have to start from scratch. You’d end up having to do site plan, come up with use, go rezoning, and then that’s when you get the design professionals of architects and engineers that are going to need many months, probably a year to actually generate the construction documents. Then you got to go to construction. And even if you move the angles to a building that’s more forward facing on 141, you would have to construct the new building. And then after they move into the new space, then go back and demolish the existing space to put the new use there. Which is why the Forum is fully redeveloped as probably a five year process because you’ve got new build and then you’ve got some demolition and then you’re fitting pieces into existing properties. Redevelopment is always a lot more challenging and time consuming than new builds.
Rico Figliolini 0:09:51
Well, and you have that whole big right behind Inglesh. You have that whole big not empty, but you have the warehouse park behind Ingles that takes the trucks in that can turn around and stuff. That’s a whole big driveway, if you will, back there. I don’t know if anyone’s really driven back there. It’s huge back there. So even to move that building forward, even on a smaller footprint, you still have to accommodate trucks coming in and stuff. I don’t even know, you know, where the setback is, a valley part near the parkway.
Brian Johnson 0:10:21
I don’t know if that’s a big ditch along 141.
Rico Figliolini 0:10:25
Yeah, that probably would have to bet you that could get filled in or something. I bet you that’s part of that discussion, I would think.
Brian Johnson 0:10:32
Well, it is. We’ve actually looked at that before because it’s horrible, but it is not easy. If it was easy, we would have done it. It is over a million dollars just to fill it in because of the utility work that you’ve got power lines, power poles, you’ve got drainage under it, and being used as a detention facility, a holding facility for extra water when it rains hard. So we’ve looked at it, but yes, redevelopment of the whole thing might include that just to get more real estate, developable real estate. Sure, yeah, big thing may or may not happen. But right now this is pretty common when there’s an interested owner who’s like, look, I’m in this to make money. Like everybody is on these things. And I’m willing to consider what redevelopment changes I might be able to do to ultimately maybe be a better value add to the Town Center Forum and then they can derive more. Maybe they have a use that makes people want to walk over to that location, whereas right now it’s more of a drive to destination.
Rico Figliolini 0:11:54
Yeah, interesting, because even some of the renderings that the city drew up and even their rendering that we’ve put out on our website that we’ve seen that was out there, it would be a multi use. So there’s multiple could be multiple stakeholders in it because one of the things was inactive living maybe seven story tower, six story, whatever would be the center of it, and then retail around it, possibly offices. So it might be two, three floors addition to that. So more use out of that property going vertical like you’ve mentioned before. Yeah, for sure.
Brian Johnson 0:12:33
Definitely closer to 141.
Rico Figliolini 0:12:35
Right. Because there’s all that space. So going from something like that, which is speculation, possible redevelopment going to something consuming. Yes, not just that, but just everything that goes into it. Public hearings, I guess, and all that stuff. Right. So let’s go to somewhere that is pretty much set already to a degree, because it was part of the North American property deal with the Forum and Town Center. So the property that’s commonly known to some people as Roberts property, charlie Roberts that owns the land that’s behind Chase Bank and H and W Steakhouse, that property was rezoned, I think absorbed into the multi use plan that’s there. Right. And then allowed to be departments, I forget how many units, 260 plus maybe somewhere like that. So that was approved, that was all okay. The deal didn’t work through for some reason, whatever that reason is, with North.
Brian Johnson 0:13:38
American Properties and Charlie Johnson interest rates and borrowing money. But yes, that side of the road was an out parcel to North Americans Forum redevelopment.
Rico Figliolini 0:13:52
Brian Johnson 0:13:52
And so they changed or that deal fell through.
Rico Figliolini 0:13:58
And so now there’s a new buyer. And I heard that it was going to close. And you just confirmed before we got on that it closed. So who’s the new buyer? Tell us. A little bit because there will be apartments there. I mean, that’s what it’s zoned for. So it’s not like it’s a question anymore.
Brian Johnson 0:14:15
That’s correct. And they’re going to be building what is materially. The same thing that was the same renderings that were presented to council. There’s some subtle tweaks to the exterior, but generally that product, and it’s a residential developer named Or Pappas. And so that’s who closed on the property. And so they are going to construct those units as presented to council during the entire North American property application.
Rico Figliolini 0:14:52
Now, most people don’t know that business, but they own is it Solas? Solis.
Brian Johnson 0:15:00
Yes. Correct, Solis.
Rico Figliolini 0:15:02
And that’s what type of apartment is it? Solace Apartments, I guess. I know there’s one in Sugar Hill that’s an active apartment community.
Brian Johnson 0:15:12
It says they’ve got property on Swanee Town Center.
Rico Figliolini 0:15:16
Swanee Town center, right?
Brian Johnson 0:15:18
They’ve got property up Brian Johnson Creek that they’ve developed. So this is what they do. They’re a quality developer. We were pleased on who it was sold to.
Rico Figliolini 0:15:29
Yeah, I’ve seen some of the Solace properties are very nice properties, very sort of luxury driven a bit.
Brian Johnson 0:15:35
Yes, it’s a higher end building. And this is structured parking, as you know, pedestal parking, where your parking deck is underneath the units. And yeah, so again, we were pleased that who was sold to and they’ve met with us. And their intent is to start site work late this year.
Rico Figliolini 0:16:00
Oh, really? Okay. So they’re going to start doing work. And so the property that’s by north of the wine store, corner Wine and Spirit, that’s a different property. But they’ve been out of the ground. They’re already selling at this point, I think it’s been about, what, a year maybe, that’s been built. Yeah. Broadstone at Peachtree corners. So they have a beautiful website and they’ve been already doing pre sales on it. And to some degree it has almost the same look, I think, as Solace Properties does to a degree. But I remember the renderings, I guess that were put out for that. So I’m going to probably put that in the show notes for those that are listening because I think there were some renderings on there.
Brian Johnson 0:16:47
You can pull the application for North American property, the rezoning application and the renderings for that side of the road are going to be generally, I mean, again, the toilet where I do know that they’re lightening up the colors a little bit dark. And I think that there, again, might be very subtle tweaks, but there are no material changes. So I think that would be fair to put that out because it has to be in material compliant or general compliance with that rendering and also with.
Rico Figliolini 0:17:23
The conditions on it. If I remember correctly, there was individually wired units. There was a bunch of things in there like that.
Brian Johnson 0:17:30
That’s correct. EV charging stations. They also have to connection across the creek.
Rico Figliolini 0:17:37
Brian Johnson 0:17:38
Okay, walk directly across the creek from the property and not have to go out to the sidewalk on 141 and walk up.
Rico Figliolini 0:17:47
So that could be out of the ground really in a year and a half to two years.
Brian Johnson 0:17:51
Yeah. Look, right now they’re starting the architectural actual construction document design of the building because they don’t need to go back to the conceptual stuff.
Rico Figliolini 0:18:04
Brian Johnson 0:18:04
So, yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if nine to twelve months, they’re going vertical, which is pretty quick from not having gone through rezoning or whatever. So, I mean, site work in November or December is fast. Yeah.
Rico Figliolini 0:18:24
Cool. So, yeah, people should be aware of that. That 260 plus units and doesn’t need any rezoning or anything. But this company is a good company from the properties that people can see around, like in Sawani or Sugar Hill in these places. Will that have retail also I forget now if that had any retail space on there. So it’s strictly apartments. Cool. Now I passed by the Forum every once in a while. I’ll go through there at least once a week and stuff. They’re already vertical with two story framework, metal framework for what we call the jewel boxes that they’re going to have there. And they’ve already announced that they’re going to have a food hall by Palatan Row, I believe, which should be great. I’ve seen some of the stuff they’ve had at Colony Square. It’s all good. Chef driven brewery, also centered around a brewery area within that. So they’re moving along, but we don’t see anything else coming there besides that north end piece right now through until next year, I guess.
Rico Figliolini 0:19:34
Have they suggested to you that they’re going to break down on anything else? The beginning of right, sure, but other.
Brian Johnson 0:19:42
Than that, the next thing would be sometime late summer. Well, we’re kind of late summer, fall sometime they’re going to probably break ground on the parking deck, which is that behind Belts, behind Belk. And that will be the next project, because they can’t remove any more of the middle parking stalls until the new parking deck is built, because then they would be below the parking threshold that they need to properly service the property. So the next thing would be the parking deck, which would run into say, summer of next year. And at that point then they could transition back into removing the middle parking stalls and continuing down towards the small event area that they’ll build right in front of Belk.
Rico Figliolini 0:20:37
Okay. All right, cool. Sounds like they’re on track to do everything that they said they would be doing. All right, so why don’t we also segue a little bit into well, it’s not segue, really, but the city marshal system is moving along. We’ve talked about it several times over several podcasts and of course we want to set expectations because you just don’t stand up a city marshal without regulations, without equipment, without office space, without officers without a chief of police, if you will. So there’s a lot still going on. I had thought, even myself, I had thought maybe the end of July that we would see marshals on the street, but that’s not really the case. Things take time. So tell us a little bit where the city is at right now with us.
Brian Johnson 0:21:24
And I appreciate you bringing that up, because for those who may have seen read, watch city council meeting, we have to go through a series of steps within what state law requires as a city for us to stand up a public safety component unit of the city. And so we had to adopt an ordinance and creating the department it’s created. And we have two of the three positions that we have funded this year have been filled. But for those who have seen that, like you said, to manage expectations, I don’t want there to be anybody who thinks or is expecting to see them out. Really just all over the community doing all sorts of things right away. It’s important to remember two things. One City Marshal Department is a supplement to Gwinnett County Police Department. It is not to replace I mean, we as residents of Petrie Corners are paying for Gwinnett County police because Gwinnett County is allowed to charge the police millage rate inside our city limits to fund the police department of the police officers out of west precinct that provide police coverage. We are not changing that. And we have every intention at the city to continue to expect to get services because we’re paying for them. But as you and I have talked about Rico, there’s gaps, and that’s where the marshals are now. So that’s one thing is reminding everybody that the other one know we have to stand up and go through all the policy intergovernmental processes that any brand new law enforcement agency would have to go through. Because these marshals are post certified sworn marshals, which means an example would be they have the authority to take away somebody’s civil liberties. If you commit a prime and they detain you. Well, to do that, you’ve got to have a policy on use of force.
Brian Johnson 0:23:43
What’s the escalation of force and when can you use it and when can you not? Just one example of many policies that have to be adopted. Body cam. Are we going to require it or what’s the policy on when it’s turned on and off? How long are we going to store the data, things like that. Are they going to have a role in or what’s their role in interacting with the community? Are they going to be our primary points of contact with HOAs, things like that. We’ve got to get them fitted for uniforms, order the equipment, the vehicles, get the vehicles wrapped. I could go on and on.
Rico Figliolini 0:24:28
And so there’s a list of things, I mean, even access to. There’s all the cameras we have around the city. Do you give them access to that? How is this going to work?
Brian Johnson 0:24:41
So it is a process, but even at the end of the process, again, I can’t beat that dead horse enough. This is to supplement. This is to be a force multiplier to Gwinnett PD. Gwynette PD is still our primary police department. The marshals are not going to be responding to 911 calls.
Rico Figliolini 0:25:02
Brian Johnson 0:25:02
That’s still Gwynette PD, those kind of things. But we’ve got intergovernmental agreements that we’re going to have to enter into with or amend existing ones like Gwynette PD or the sheriff’s office and things like, you know, we’re getting there. We’re getting there to where these assets can really know, kind know, vectored to areas that know, spring up and could use a little bit of extra assistance to what? FPD. But we’re not there yet. And so we’ve got to do this very carefully because this kind of stuff is you can get into trouble if you don’t do it. Right. Expectation management, as you said.
Rico Figliolini 0:25:47
Right. So setting those expectations, when do you think they have any estimate of when the first cars may be out on the street? Will it be the end of the year?
Brian Johnson 0:25:57
Yeah, I would say by the end of the calendar year. You’re going to start seeing the cars out in a little bit more. Six months from now is probably a good time. We’ll have the chief marshals position filled by then. That job announcement is going to go out probably tomorrow.
Rico Figliolini 0:26:16
Brian Johnson 0:26:20
I think by the end of this calendar year is fair. There may be a little few areas that they’re not quite involved in for another period of time into next year. Because mind you, as a supplement, they’re going to be in areas that Gwynette PD isn’t really very active in. For instance, use of drones in problem areas when FPD has too many constraints that have the resources to be able to do it. Ours will. Interesting, our marshals will be using drones as a supplement when there are situations where it makes sense. And in addition to that is as a location for there to be some innovative use of drones in the public safety space. Because of our partnerships with Curiosity Lab and the infrastructure have in place, including the our recent meetings with their regulatory team in DC. They’re very interested in using our marshals or collecting data our marshals will generate on some of the innovative ways to use it as they write regulations around the use of drones for public. So we might be helping write policy here just because we’re going to be more flexible and department as big as Gwinnett is, they just don’t have the same opportunities that we will with us being smaller.
Rico Figliolini 0:28:01
Well, for sure. And having Curiosity Lab here and the ability to partner with different companies to do cutting edge work in public safety is just enormous. Very exciting to be able to get down that and to be able to provide that sense of safety and security to a community and to be able to see how far we could go with that cutting edge technology. So the other thing that there’s always a lot of things going on here. One of the largest, I guess the largest current largest employer, Siemens, has finally come into partnership with the city eastward corners. We’ve talked about that a bit before. So tell us a little bit about what that means to have, at least at this point, the largest employer, Intuitive Robotics, will be once they’ve completed. But Siemens being now being a partner, what does that mean? What does that do for the city?
Brian Johnson 0:28:59
Well, when you have an employer that’s approaching 1000 employees within your city that is a major player in the technology space, whether it’s facility technology, electric and Emobility technology, they’re all over. They’ve got a lot of fingers in tech and they’re North American headquarters for, well, people don’t know they’re a German based company, german headquartered company, International. But their North American headquarters for their facility technology, their smart facility technology, is here in Peachtree Corners and their worldwide headquarters for electric mobility is here in Peachtree Corners.
Rico Figliolini 0:29:47
Brian Johnson 0:29:48
And it’s always been a little bit, I guess you could say, embarrassing that our largest employer was not a partner with us, the Curiosity Lab. And it’s a matter of navigating the labyrinth of international companies and where decisions are made and things like that. But we finally ended up getting opportunities to see the value each could provide the other. And so now they have some of their new innovative EV charging stations both here in the city for use by customers. But also they’re going to have a significant play in the EV multimodal expansion that we have here at park, that we’re finally coming to a point where we can start construction. That was the half a million dollar grant that former US. Representative Carolyn Bordeaux got for us to build this multimodal center. And so it’s going to have all things EV coming together at one location. And Siemens will have a significant play in the development of that site for them to test and enhance some of their technology. So we’re mean, in the course of what, two months. It’s our second German based international company that we have a partnership with after Audi. So yeah, good.
Rico Figliolini 0:31:17
I mean, anyone that follows the city or Curiosity Lab on LinkedIn can see all these posts about companies coming here, even us going to countries like Israel and other countries that we’ve been to. So a lot of international businesses are just seeming to find the little city of Peachtree Corners, which isn’t so little anymore, really. Right?
Brian Johnson 0:31:42
Well, we’re certainly punching above our weight class, but yeah, we’re a soft landing pad for international companies. And guess what? Some of those, when they land here, we actually convince them to stay here.
Rico Figliolini 0:31:57
And there’s your economic development so it’s paying off and I think the city is also continuing to look at other avenues. I mean obviously this is smart technology, this is good high end stuff but we’re also doing smaller things that is going to know an economic impact but also good things for the community. Like just recently the Atlanta Sci-fi Film Festival decided with the city as a sponsor to be able to come out here and instead of doing it in the city of Atlanta, the Atlanta Sci-fi Film Festival is going to be hosted here in, you know, nice decent festival and very different from what we normally might see here. So it’s good to see that type of stuff happening and I’m sure there’s other things along the way that we haven’t even know about yet so can’t wait to see. But I do appreciate you coming through with all this information Brian and helping.
Brian Johnson 0:32:53
Always a pleasure Rico, thanks for helping keep our citizens informed.
Rico Figliolini 0:32:58
Yes. Appreciate you being here. Thanks Brian and everyone else that’s listening. Appreciate you joining us. If you have any comments or you want to hear other subjects that we should be talking about let us know. At some point. I’d love to be able to do this a bit more live. This is a simulcast live feed. You may be seeing this on or you may be seeing this on demand but at some point we may be doing a live feed question and answers or submitted questions ahead of time or maybe live. As we’re doing this, I’m still trying to figure out the logistics on that and how we’re going to do it. Twitter or X, who knows where it might be that we might do this. Maybe it’s Instagram Live. Maybe it’s Facebook Live. We’ll take comments and Brian is more than willing to answer those or if he can’t let us know. So we’re looking forward to doing some of that. So thanks again for being with us and catch us in the magazine that’s going to be coming out shortly. Peachtree Corners magazine will hit in about a week actually next Tuesday it’s hitting the post office so you’ll see the latest issue coming out. Thanks everyone.
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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