Brian Johnson, the city manager of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, shares exciting updates and plans for the city’s technology and community development. From the successful Curiosity Lab Criterion Road Race to the construction of a new dog park and housing redevelopment, this podcast offers a glimpse into the innovative projects and partnerships that are transforming the city. Johnson’s insights also shed light on how Peachtree Corners invests in its residents’ safety, well-being, and quality of life.
0:00:00 – Intro
0:01:11 – The Curiosity Lab Criterion Road Race
0:12:34 – Pickleball Feasibility Study
0:16:46 – The City Marshall System
0:20:44 – Budget, Housing, Dog Parks, and More
0:31:50 – FAA and Drone Programs
0:33:59 – Closing
Rico Figliolini 0:00:00
Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. And today we have Brian Johnson. Hey, Brian, thanks for showing.
Brian Johnson 0:00:05
Rico, how are you?
Rico Figliolini 0:00:08
Good. Been a busy week for you, I’m sure.
Brian Johnson 0:00:10
A lot of them are lately.
Rico Figliolini 0:00:12
Yes, seems to be. Before we get right into it with Brian, city manager here at Peachtree Corners, let’s just say thank you to EV Remodeling Inc. for being a corporate sponsor of ours. Eli, who is the owner of the company, lives here in Peachtree Corners. They do great work, check them out. They’ve been a great supporter of our work as well. We appreciate them for doing that. You could check out EVRemodeling.com and see all the great work that they’re doing here in the City of Peachtree Corners as well as throughout the metro area. So, Brian, it’s been weeks leading up to the event. Last night we’re recording this a day after the Curiosity Lab Criterion Road Race, which was a big event here in Peachtree Corners as part of that speed week that Atlanta is holding and midweek on what started out as a rainy day. But I understand everything went well and phenomenal stuff. Why don’t you give us a little detail about how it went?
Brian Johnson 0:01:11
Well, as you remember, when we’ve talked about this was a result of a conversation and a meeting that we had here at the city when we were at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. And we met with a company called Spoke Safety that has created a device that can allow for enhanced safety for what are termed vulnerable road users, and that are essentially anybody who is on a roadway that’s not in an automobile. So this would be everything from motorcycles down to people who use E-Scooters to bicyclists and even pedestrians. But this device, which is about the size of a pack of cards, allows for there to be two way communication between where this device is and an automobile. And so it’ll basically be telling cars, hey, here is where this vulnerable road user is, and it can receive signals as well to where a car is like, fine, well, this is where we are. And so it can create basic safety messages to where in the case of bicyclist, if you had this device with you and you were approaching a car from the right, the driver of the car would get an alert saying, bicycle approaching on the right. And this company had come up with this technology and they wanted or needed some location that had the infrastructure in place to facilitate the deployment and the demonstration of this technology. And they already had a relationship with Audi and with Qualcomm. And we started talking and I said, well, we have proper city streets to be able to support this at Curiosity Labs. The streets inside of Curiosity Lab can do it. And they got excited. And so then there was talk about, all right, if this is going to be the world’s first deployment demonstration of this technology. We make this into a significant event. How can we make sure that when it’s deployed, it’s done well? And I had some experience both as a participant back when I did a lot of cycling, and as the city manager of a community that had a long standing Criterion event every year, the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, Alabama. And so I said, what if we did a Criterion here in Peacetree Corners and use that as an opportunity? And they loved it. So the result was, in a very short period of time, we were able to secure a date right in the middle of Speed Week, in between the two weekend events of Athens Twilight and the Sunny King and get a midday event. And we had a Criterium here that was part of the official USA Criterium annual calendar this year. And we had all the racing teams come out here and we created this Criterion. And in between the pro women’s and pro men’s event, we officially unveiled this technology, deployed it on a public street, did it live streaming. This event was live streamed internationally, and the result of it was a successful deployment. We now have an official partnership with Audi Phenomenal. Yes. We will now be exploring the enhancement of this vulnerable road user technology in a way that we can make it better, make it easier to use and to help scale it up so that we can improve the safety of those vulnerable road users that are on the roadway. Maybe one day, if this technology works out, and the theory behind it is sound, but so if it works out, look back and think that we played a small part in helping improve the safety on our roadways.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:14
Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s just the fact that the city is able to do that and provide this atmosphere, this environment, to be able to do that type of testing. I mean, everything starts out with the device. I can actually see this device becoming smaller or maybe even morphing into being able to use it as an app on phones already with GPS locations and stuff. But it has to start somewhere. I’m glad the city is able to provide that environment. And that’s just crazy that Audi is now an official partner in this stuff. There aren’t that many car companies out there, right? So to have to be able to have Audi come and say, we want to be an official partner here, that’s just awesome.
Brian Johnson 0:05:56
It has to go all the way to Germany. It’s Volkswagen Group is who owns Audi. So I had to go all the way over there for them to bless off on it. But they did because we have an environment that they’re really not finding elsewhere. Audi, like the big other Big OEMs, has their own private test track for their vehicles, sure, but this is to do testing with this vulnerable road user technology. And you need public streets and you need the public. So we’ll play a small part. We’ll put some of these devices on our public works vehicles. We’ll put them in our city Marshall vehicles, and we’ll even have our public works employees who are mowing the lawns or the mowing out like Peacery Parkway. Now, you may brought up a good point. This technology is great. And Audi’s testing was for the messages that there’s like a cyclist approaching from the right or whatever to come up on the dashboard of the car. So that’s where Audi is really wanting to have cars coming off the assembly line with the ability to receive these messages. Just where you would where if your check oil light came on or whatever, and it could even be audible if you want it to be. But as we know that even if every single brand new car coming off the line had this, it’s going to be 25 plus years before we flush out most of the existing cars that don’t have that technology. How do we scale this sooner? And you hit it right on, and that is through an app. We talked about it once before. Even if I am going somewhere, somewhere in town, especially closer to Atlanta, where it’s getting more dense, even if I know exactly where I’m going, you know what I will still do? I’ll pull my phone out and I’ll pull the up or Google Maps for the traffic because I want to know, all right, I know how to get there. But is traffic bad? Do I need to take a different route? If you can get we can get this technology to come up messages inside of like Waze or Google.
Rico Figliolini 0:08:11
Brian Johnson 0:08:12
Everybody will be able to use this. So that’s how we scale this. So again, we’re going to do our small part of making our ecosystem available for this type of technology to hopefully become and everything.
Rico Figliolini 0:08:27
Yeah, that makes sense. I can see the applications even if it doesn’t get into ways. Although small companies like this that start off get bought out by larger companies, right, because they get absorbed into their environment, like you said. So this way Waze can be able to provide that information to the driver. I mean, sometimes I’ll put on Apple Map and stuff like that, always just because I may be on the phone and I want the system to be able to tell me, remind me.
Brian Johnson 0:09:01
That’s exactly right.
Rico Figliolini 0:09:02
Yes. My wife says that I don’t even. Have to think of where’s my next turn, because I’m just a good point. Because otherwise you have to be aware of everything around you at every single minute, which I’m not a bad driver, I think a good driver, but it’s like auto assist, right? So I think that’s where we’re going. So, yeah, if it can be in an app like that or I can even see Uber let’s say a lyft looking at that and saying, you know, our drivers this is a propensity maybe, I don’t know what the data shows, but they don’t want the drivers hitting people and having problems too. So I could see a big company like that looking at this also and saying, you know what, that’s not a bad add on to what we’re doing.
Brian Johnson 0:09:52
Yeah, that’d be great points. But at the end of the day we had a pretty cool event. Had a couple of hundred people here as spectators, especially near the end of the evening around seven to around 945 when it ended. And that was with being a first time event. Wasn’t great weather and isn’t in our downtown. I was a little bit worried that the turnout would not be there but was we had food trucks here, we had some companies showing off some other types of technology. The racing teams were out here big and pro racers loved the course. They thought it was very technical and very unique and we had racers from all over the world australia, New Zealand, Europe, all over the country. It was a pretty cool thing. Puts us on the map. It gave our community a unique event go to and we were putting Curiosity Labs ecosystem to use. So all in all, a good event couldn’t do it without rock star staff that put it on. And when you surround yourself with smart people and the tell you the resources they need and you get it to them and get out of their way, it can do some great stuff. So I got an unbelievable staff and the obviously mayor and council the support us, they are open to new things like this. They well attended throughout the course of the day because it started with amateurs 03:00 we even had the small kids race. Five to seven year olds and then like eight to ten year olds and they got on their bikes and the had started here and then at the starting line. And it’s always cool to see those kids, everything from the kids who don’t pedal yet, they just use their feet down with training wheels and others bike and so that was cool too. So it was a good event.
Rico Figliolini 0:12:02
It takes a lot of logistical work to get this put together, especially in that short amount of time that you guys had.
Brian Johnson 0:12:09
Early February is when we decided to do it. Yeah, pleased with it. So I think right now we’re probably leaning forward in the saddle on doing it again. I don’t really have a reason not to so other than just the time and energy it takes to set it up. But anyway, good things happening here. Never a dull moment.
Rico Figliolini 0:12:34
No, for sure. And we should hit upon a few of these things as some quick bursts because there are quite a few things well, not quite a few things, but there’s always a lot of things, but there’s four elements that we just want to hit real quick on. We’ve dove into them in more detail before, but just to give an update on it. So we discussed at one point about pickleball looking at possibly a 40 or 50 court facility here in Peachtree Corners. And I think the largest is what I found the largest in the metro area was 25, I think, or something when I was checking stats on that, of what was available. So feasibility study happening, not happening. Where is that going?
Brian Johnson 0:13:18
Yes. So we talked about it. Yes. For us to do this right, to not shoot too high, too low, we brought some professionals in. So it’s a sports facility consulting firm that does feasibility studies. So we’ve commissioned this firm to do one. It’ll take about a month and ultimately they’ll come back and they’ll tell us what is the market we’re competing with, what’s the demand out there? What can we expect as far as special events and how much economic development activity? What about ongoing, what size does it need to be? Are we going to cannibalize something if we do it? All of the things to consider and then based on that, mayor and council can look at it, make a decision on does the city want to facilitate doing something? Maybe we do and it’s smaller than we thought because of whatever. Maybe we shoot for the stars and we want to do it, who knows? But got about a month and when they present the results, I’ll end up organizing a meeting and invite kind of the people in Peachtree Corners that are involved in Pickleball and care about it. Everything from even you as you’ve gotten more interest in it, to people who play it a lot, to companies who are looking to maybe even be involved in managing it if we do it. Just kind of get everybody together and let them hear the results and we’ll see where it goes from there.
Rico Figliolini 0:14:48
Cool. So we’ll see that study sometime after that. Four weeks probably at a city council meeting, I guess, or a public meeting.
Brian Johnson 0:14:57
To be honest with you. I’ll probably have the results presented before that at a different meeting and then go in front of council because council is going to need to make a decision based off of it. That would be more of what they do at the city council meeting is say, all right, we heard the results, we’ve had a chance to digest it. This is what we’re going to do about it. So I’ll probably just have schedule an evening one night or maybe a lunch one. And it’s going to be inviting the people who have reached out to me and are involved and have been like, man, I played a lot, what can I do? To whatever people who care about it? Those are the ones who are going to want to hear the results so maybe we do it over lunch one day and have some pizzas or whatever and do something like that. But yeah, sounds good. End of May. Beginning of June.
Rico Figliolini 0:15:54
We’ll have the yeah, I mean, there’s quite a few. It’s amazing how many businesses in the metro area and certainly there’s a few in the corners that are pickleball oriented within the industry and coaches, registered coaches and stuff like that.
Brian Johnson 0:16:10
Just announced the Pickleball League. Now I’m sorry, Atlanta just created a pickleball league.
Rico Figliolini 0:16:16
Yes, I heard that. This is the Atlanta law and tennis.
Brian Johnson 0:16:24
Yeah. So clearly there’s a demand. The question is, is it enough for the city to end up putting any time, energy and is what usually happens, money into facilitating something. And we want to make sure that we are shooting at the bullseye that we need to and it’s not too big, too small, whatever.
Rico Figliolini 0:16:46
I love the fact that the city not only looking at cutting edge technology, but they’re looking at other areas that might be great for our citizens and also the impact that it gives to this community. So got to love that. We also talked about city marshall in a couple of podcasts, the city marshall system. So it finally sounds like we’re starting to move on it. And you were saying that May 1. What’s happening?
Brian Johnson 0:17:10
May 1, beginning of May. So it’s in the budget. Council seen the rough draft of the budget and as we talked about before, they supported it. So we’re going to stand up a city marshall program and it’ll start with three. And so I’m going to start putting out the job announcement out there with the requirements and sometime beginning of May they’ll go out and the the June time frame is when we’ll be doing the interviews and job offers and July 1, when our next fiscal year starts. Now there’s the money in the budget to start standing it up. So sometime in July we’ll start having actual uniformed city marshals here and they’ll start filling in those gaps that we talked about before that we kind of feel the need to have filled. So the step in council feeling like they’re doing everything they can to try to make the city as safe as we can and they’re going to be post certified. We talked about just like Gwynette police. Duluth police, they will have the same exact authorities as any other police officer. Where they will be limited is by policy. So policy that we adopt, mayor, council adopt will end up being the one that keeps establishes their left and right limit. So for instance, by policy we’re not going to have them out on roadway shooting radar guns and riding speeding tickets. Will they have the authority to do that? Absolutely. But we’re not going to have the do that because that’s not going to be in their job description as the city marshal is defined by policy. So that’s how we’re going to orient their activities through those policies.
Rico Figliolini 0:18:55
So the city has already gotten all the logistics down and stuff. Do you know where they’re going to be? Sort of office out of, if you will.
Brian Johnson 0:19:03
Yeah, it’ll be out of City Hall. We actually, because of the lead time, purchased the vehicles. We purchased one truck. F 152 Ford Police Interceptor Explorers. They’re hybrid. They’re all hybrid vehicles.
Rico Figliolini 0:19:20
Oh, cool. Okay.
Brian Johnson 0:19:21
Not all EV. Trying to get like what’s the Ford pickup truck? All EV? What is that? The, I don’t recall anyway. But they have an all EV pickup truck. The lead time was like a couple of years. That wouldn’t work. We got hybrid. The truck will be outfitted in a way that we can have a drone take off from the back. We will be integrating a lot of drone stuff with the city Marshals as a technology asset for them to use to maybe do things preemptively. Maybe they fly them over problem areas helping to prevent hopefully, but if not solve criminal activity or do certain things. We’ve gotten some of those. They’ll be housed in City Hall. Okay, so got renovation going on to reconfigure some of the interior spaces of the building to facilitate their activity. And they’ll have a room here where they’ll be able to pull all the images off of all of our flock cameras and all the other video cameras and the fūsus system.
Rico Figliolini 0:20:40
So we’ll be connected to the fūsus system.
Brian Johnson 0:20:43
Rico Figliolini 0:20:44
Excellent. Good deal. Talking about budget, that’s coming up, right? Because it’s the June budget, the annual.
Brian Johnson 0:20:51
It is the May City Council meeting is when we’ll officially present the budget to council and community will be able to comment on what they hear. So that will be at the May Council meeting and then in June is when council will adopt it budgets. There’s not a lot of surprises. Obviously one of the big ones would be the City Marshall program. One of the other byproducts of that is we’re bringing the city attorney position in house. No longer be an employee of a separate law firm just because when you combine what additional municipal court activity we’re going to have in addition to all the Curiosity Lab stuff, we just need to have legal counsel here all the time. There’s just too much going on. And so it doesn’t make sense to always try to pay the overhead to a law firm when you’ve got somebody who’s here all day every day anyway. But yet they’re not here. They’re an attorney of another firm. So that’s a byproduct of it. There’s no financial hit. It’s just moving. Instead of paying a third party, it’s.
Rico Figliolini 0:22:05
Bringing yeah, probably better. The cost probably be a little better anyway.
Brian Johnson 0:22:11
Yeah, there’s a little bit of now you’ve got the cities having to pay health insurance and other things. So we don’t pay the overhead for that to the law firm. We’re doing it in house. So it’s a wash for all intents and purposes. A couple of things in there maybe of note, definitely got we’ve increased the amount of money we’re putting towards street resurfacing. We’ve got more money in there for multi use trail activity. Trying to do more of that. Really focusing on some of the bigger sections like Crooked Creek down the south side of the city. We’ve got a couple of projects that we’re looking to do on the south side we’ve talked about. One is some trailheads and public amenities along Peachtree Corners circle in between Holcomb Bridge and PIB. That would be part of that. We’ve got money there. We’ve got some money. A couple of million dollars set aside to do some housing redevelopment in the south part of the city to look for properties that are in foreclosure and in a state of disrepair. And the city may end up looking to acquire property and then turn around and have call it starter homes built to help with some of the housing.
Rico Figliolini 0:23:40
So we’re talking about affordable starter homes versus three quarter of a million dollar homes.
Brian Johnson 0:23:45
Correct. That’s what I’m saying. We would end up because we’re involved, we’ll be able to make it to where it truly is a starter home and it’s an equity it would be equity product. It would still be home.
Rico Figliolini 0:23:57
Brian Johnson 0:23:58
But yes, there would be some sort of a home value control set on it so that the market doesn’t push it to a point where it’s another example where it’s unachievable for.
Rico Figliolini 0:24:13
So would it be similar to like, I don’t know how Habitat for Humanity works, but would it be like a lottery system in a way because otherwise the market will push that. Right.
Brian Johnson 0:24:23
Well, you use one of the best examples is one of the partners we would look to work with is Habitat.
Rico Figliolini 0:24:28
Brian Johnson 0:24:29
That’s exactly, Gwinnett Housing Authority has programs where they’ll come in and they’ll build houses and it’ll be specifically oriented to a particular demographic. It’s an equity product, it’s a new home. But you control the purchase price through the agreement you have with the entity building it’s saying you can’t sell this for a value above X because that’s not the intent of why we’re doing this.
Rico Figliolini 0:24:58
Yeah, otherwise that would just fail at that point. Right. For being what you exactly.
Brian Johnson 0:25:03
We’re not filling a housing demand in that particular income strata in this way. We have some of the money set aside from the ARPA funds.
Rico Figliolini 0:25:15
I was going to say. So there’s federal funds also for that.
Brian Johnson 0:25:18
And so the intent would be remove substandard housing stock from our roles and replacing it with new stock, but that it’s got to control so that it doesn’t get out of hand price wise. And so now we’ve, in a small way filled the demand for starter homes in an area and at the same time we’ve removed some cases squalor or vacant homes or foreclosed on homes. And so it’s a win win. So there’s money in there to do some work there. On the south side, we’ve also got there’s going to be a dog park constructed at the Town Center.
Rico Figliolini 0:26:01
I heard that. That’s cool. A small dog, big dog, or are they going to be like.
Brian Johnson 0:26:09
There are going to be two separate halves to it. It’ll all be Astroturf inside there. So it’s not going to be like just a fence around woods, but it’ll be there at the Town Center in the woods. Probably the best way to get there would be to walk in from the side parking lot, that’s surface parking lot next to Cinnabistro. Yeah, it’ll be down there in the woodline. That’ll be about the area.
Rico Figliolini 0:26:37
That’ll be interesting. Artificial turf for the dog park.
Brian Johnson 0:26:43
Well, if you don’t do artificial turf, you start getting into dogs digging. It can get muddy. If it’s rain, it starts to defeat the purpose. So it will be Astroturf on the inside, and there will be a separation. There’ll be two different ones, one for bigger dogs, one for smaller dogs. There’ll be shade structures inside, seating areas for the owners in there so that’ll go in over the summer.
Rico Figliolini 0:27:10
Brian Johnson 0:27:11
Then right after the last event on our summer event calendar, I think it’s the last weekend in November, we will do two things. One is we will be removing and relocating some of it. The very first three playground pieces of equipment that went out to the Town Center was the slide. And then you’ve got those two playground pieces. That area will be relocated in a tot playground, like oriented for four years, and younger will go in that area. So you’ll have the call it the succession of age where you have four and under will be in that area. Then if you go five to whatever age you’ll go to where the Qantas is and the big stuff. And then theoretically, if you outgrow the Qantas and everything as like my 14 year old son would tell me that’s kid stuff, he’ll go want to go to the fitness trail? And him and his buddies like to see who can climb the ropes, navigate some of those obstacles the fastest or whatever. But for a kid, if you adhere to the rules and the ages or whatever, you have kind of a succession of difficulty, if you will. So that won’t start until after the last one because that’ll be a little bit of a mini construction area, and we don’t want to do that. The other thing we’re going to do is at the same time, after the same event is we will be closing the inside of the sidewalk that forms the big circle there for the Town Green.
Rico Figliolini 0:29:00
Brian Johnson 0:29:00
We’re going to be removing all the soil and replacing it with a drainage field. Because if you’ve been out there, you can tell that when it’s lumpy. And the reason is that way is because when it was put in. Originally our private partners just put grass over what was existing. And what was existing is the clay that we have here in Georgia. And when you put a lot of weight on the clay, when it’s wet, what will happen is it’ll squish down and then when it dries out, it hardens so it doesn’t go back to where it was. And then there’s no drainage that’s been placed in there. So we’re going to remove all the bad clay soil we’re going to put back in. It’s kind of like the French drain type of underground drainage field to allow it to drain away and then put good dirt, no clay, and then put sod back. We’re going to try one more time with the good soil and drainage to actually have real grass. Sod otherwise putting Astroturf into it. But it’s got a different feel. It’s always nice to sometimes have grass we’ll see, but we’re not averse to if we can’t keep it, we can’t keep the grass. If it’s being used too much, trampled on too much. We may have to go to the artificial turf, but right now we’re going to put back sod but that’ll happen in December, January time frame.
Rico Figliolini 0:30:33
Brian Johnson 0:30:33
And hopefully that so we’ll have one more season where it’ll still be a little lumpy and everything.
Rico Figliolini 0:30:41
I think people will be fine.
Brian Johnson 0:30:45
Those two things are not going to happen until after the concert series done. So we don’t interrupt any the dog park is not interrupting anything. So that’ll happen. So, yeah, more stuff with the Town Green. And then of course at the time of this recording, a couple of hours from now, the Forum North American Properties is having the groundbreak. Yeah, they’re groundbreaking on the first phase of the Forum’s redevelopment and they’re going to removing the first section of interior parking spaces and put in the first section of the Linear Park. And then they’re going to put in the food hall and the outdoor seating there at the north end of the Forum. So that’ll be happening. The parking deck will be start construction on it sometime later on this 2023 season. And so once that is finished, they’ll then be able to remove the remaining three quarters of those parking spaces and finish the Linear Park. So the Forum is moving ahead as well. So we got some stuff going on still.
Rico Figliolini 0:31:50
Yeah. Interesting. Well, lots of stuff to probably keep going. I know you were in DC a few weeks ago about with the FAA, and so I know that you were talking about more drone activity projects probably coming. Why don’t we make that the last thing? What quick hits can you tell us about that, about the FAA, the drone programs that you think might be coming here?
Brian Johnson 0:32:12
Based on a visit that we had from the deputy administrator of the FAA who is in charge of drone regulation. He had been out here at Curiosity Lab once he invited us back to DC to meet with the entire drone regulation team for the FAA to talk about what Curiosity Labs ecosystem might offer to the FAA as it looks to figure out how to regulate this type of thing. And they’re in the business of needing more data and data in certain areas. And so we discussed and have come up with some areas where we can really help them out. Areas partnering with T Mobile, Deutsche Telecom and their 5G wireless environment here. FAA is very interested in how well it can handle multiple drones using the same wireless signal, especially when it gets beyond visual line of sight where the drone operator can no longer see directly drone. We’re going to do some stuff in that space and then our city marshals are going to end up doing some things around law enforcement and the use of drones, which is a different area of regulation that they’ve got to get into. So we’re going to be doing some things to help them ultimately come to a point where they can feel like they can start issuing regulations on some of this stuff. It’s the wild west to think about it. There’s a lot of regulations have to be created for private drones. One day they just become so common that everybody walks out, throws up their own drone and starts doing the thing. Well, if everybody’s doing it, how do you keep becoming a problem?
Rico Figliolini 0:33:59
And it’s been out there a while, so it’s interesting how long it’s taken to get that regulation place. People are talking about AI and how long regulation will be in place for that. Who knows? It’ll be another decade before we say, that cool. Just a lot of stuff going on in the city of Peachtree Corners. You guys are busy and have a vision and I’m just excited to see these things happening. So Brian, I appreciate you coming out every month giving us all thanks for having me.
Brian Johnson 0:34:28
Again, thanks for providing us this opportunity to let everybody know of the cool things that our great community has going for it and what we’re doing to leverage to make it even better. So appreciate it.
Rico Figliolini 0:34:39
Yeah, no worries. Thank you again and thank you to EV Remodeling Inc. For being a great corporate sponsor of ours and the work that we do in both in print and the podcast. So check them out. EvRemodelingInc.com. Brian, thank you so much and we leave your comments if you have any, in the comments below. And stay safe out there. We’ll see you next time. Thanks, guys.
Mayor Mike Mason and the City of Peachtree Corners Join the Mayor’s Reading Club
At the July 25, 2023, Council Meeting, Mayor Mike Mason and the Councilmembers issued a Proclamation supporting the Mayor’s Reading Club.
Georgia City Solutions launched the Mayor’s Reading Club program in August 2022 to encourage, support and lead city mayors in improving literacy skills and early reading success for children and youth in Georgia cities.
Designed to foster partnerships and collaborations between the city, county, local nonprofits, schools, libraries and business community, the program can be delivered virtually, in person, on-demand, year-round or at specific times.
In addition to the Mayor, other elected officials, city staff, youth and community members can participate in the program as guest readers.
To learn more about the Mayor’s Reading Club, visit gacitysolutions.org/Programs/Mayor-s-Reading-Club.
A copy of the full proclamation is below.
A PROCLAMATION OF THE CITY OF PEACHTREE CORNERS, GEORGIA SUPPORTING THE MAYOR’S READING CLUB
WHEREAS, literacy is not just an education issue. It is an economic, workforce, and quality of life issue; and
WHEREAS, research shows that children who can’t read proficiently by the end of third grade are more likely to experience poor health, have discipline problems, and drop out of high school; and
WHEREAS, each year in the United States, low literacy levels are linked to hundreds of billions of dollars in non-productivity, healthcare, and judicial costs; and
WHEREAS, 68% of Georgia fourth graders do not read proficiently; and
WHEREAS, collaborative efforts and strategic partnerships must be undertaken to address literacy issues; and
WHEREAS, the Mayor’s Reading Club program is offered through Georgia City Solutions, a Georgia Municipal Association nonprofit; and
WHEREAS, the goal of the program is to improve literacy skills and overall success with early reading among children and youth in Georgia cities through encouragement, support, and leadership from city mayors; and
WHEREAS, Georgia City Solutions has commissioned a children’s book series to use as part of the program to teach young readers about local government and a copy of the first book in the series titled, Georgia Caroline Visits City Hall, is provided in the program starter-kit; and
WHEREAS, the Mayor’s Reading Club is flexible and can be delivered in person or virtually and promotes partnerships and collaboration between the city, county, schools, public libraries, local nonprofits, and business community.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT PROCLAIMED by the Mayor and Council of the City of Peachtree Corners, do hereby join the Mayor’s Reading Club program and proclaim July 25, 2023 as:
“MAYOR’S READING CLUB DAY”
In Peachtree Corners, Georgia and encourage all residents, businesses, and community partners to help promote and elevate literacy as a community priority and support the Mayor’s Reading Club to improve Georgia’s economic vitality one book at a time.
SO PROCLAIMED AND EFFECTIVE, this day, July 25, 2023.
Peachtree Corners Awarded GFOA Certificate of Achievement for Fifth Straight Year
The City of Peachtree Corners’ Finance Department has been awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its 2022 financial year-end comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR).
The GFOA’s Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. It is the city’s fifth year of receiving the award and represents a significant accomplishment by the City’s Finance Department and its leadership.
According to a GFOA release, “The report has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive ‘spirit of full disclosure’ to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the report.
“We are pleased to again receive this honor,” said City Manager Brian Johnson. “Our finance department, and Finance Director Cory Salley, are to be commended for this achievement as it is the highest form of recognition GOFA presents.”
The city’s Finance Department produces the CAFR each year and works with independent auditors to verify the city’s financial situation and standing. The CAFR is judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the report.
“This is an important award that validates Peachtree Corners’ commitment to go beyond the minimum requirements to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports in the spirit of transparency and full disclosure,” said Assistant City Manager Brandon Branham.
The Government Finance Officers Association, based in Chicago, is a non-profit professional association serving approximately 17,500 government finance professionals. With offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C., it serves the member organization by advancing uniform standards and procedures in financial management for governments and assisting with professional development for public finance managers.
On topic with Alex Wright: Ingles Shopping Center, Tech Park Acquisition, Public Safety and More
City Councilman Alex Wright and I discuss a proposal from the owners of the Ingles Shopping Center for redevelopment and other housing developments in Peachtree Corners. Plus, we discuss a new Tech Park acquisition for the city, public safety, the new City Marshal system, a possible Pickleball Complex and its economic impact, and more.
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:04:06] – Closure of Anderby Brewing
[00:05:56] – The Pickleball Complex and its Economic Impact
[00:09:13] – Ingles Shopping Center and Housing Developments
[00:26:07] – More on Zoning and Developments
[00:31:24] – City Marshal System and the Hiring Process
[00:45:30] – October Decathlon Event
[00:48:37] – Closing
Rico Figliolini 0:00:00
Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, a monthly podcast with different people, different individuals that influence the things that go on in this city. And today we have a special guest, City Councilman post three, Alex Wright. Hey Alex, thanks for joining us.
Alex Wright 0:00:17
Thanks for having me. It’s good to be back.
Rico Figliolini 0:00:19
Yes, it’s always good to be able to talk to people that know what’s going on because I don’t know everything and to get it from those that are plugged in would be fantastic. But before we get into today’s question and answer and things that are going on I’d like to ask you about, I just want to say thank you to our sponsors. We have two. EV Remodeling Inc. and Eli, who owns that company, and lives here in Peachtree Corners. They are a terrific company that does design and build from ground up remodeling, whether it’s your bathroom or your whole house. EV Remodeling does a great job and they’re local to Peachtree Corners and they’ve been a great sponsor of ours. If you go to their website, EvRemodelingInc.com, you’ll see some great work that he’s done, some videos. You’ll get to know a little bit more about Eli and the work they do and check them out because remodeling is their business. Second is a new sponsor of our corporate sponsor and that’s Clearwave Fiber. They’ve joined us over the last month or two becoming a good supporter of ours, our journalism, our podcast, they are here in Peachtree Corners throughout the state of Georgia, really, and the Southeast. But they’re really big here in the city of Peachtree Corners with more than 5000 businesses that they do work with right here in the city of Peachtree Corners, providing services, launching the fiber optic setup that they have. And they’ve been a clear supporter of the City, of Curiosity Lab, of the recent Criterion Road race that was happening here and they’ve been a good strong supporter of what goes on in the city and a good sponsor. So I want to welcome them. You can find the link in our profile to Clearwave Fiber for the Peachtree Corners Life. So check them out and see what they can do for you, whether you’re a business or even a resident. So check that out. So let’s get right onto it. It’s amazing the things going on in this city and the stuff that I don’t always know about because I don’t know everything. Even though we publish Peachtree Corners magazine, we do these podcasts. But Alex is on here because specifically because I subscribe to his newsletter that he puts out every so often and there’s things in there that Alex has brought up and I just want to know more about. So thank you Alex, for putting out that newsletter to your list of residents and people that follow you. I want to say thanks for doing it.
Alex Wright 0:02:49
It’s definitely a good way to stay in touch with people. Obviously you can reach out to a lot of people at once versus being on the ground. That’s not always the most efficient way to communicate.
Rico Figliolini 0:03:03
No, but doing that and quite frankly, even have life podcasts like this and articles that we put out. I mean, all this stuff that we put out, the content that we put out comes from knowing what’s going on in the city, whether it’s from Brian Johnson, the city manager, or Mike Mason, the mayor, or you or Eric Chris or any of the other councilmen, the great people that work for the city Peachtree Corners as well. So got to say that. So there’s a lot of things going on, and I know you plugged into quite a bit of it because of your position. So I guess let’s start right off. Well, first things first. I hadn’t acknowledged this before as far as and to Be brewing, unfortunately, they’re closing their doors. Actually. They’ve closed their doors as of the weekend of July 4, set to see them go and close up shop like that. I think they may be doing things in the business and the industry still, but and to Be brewing is is no longer a place, I understand. How do you feel about when things like that happen? They were one of two brewers in the city.
Alex Wright 0:04:06
Yes. I’m kind of a risk averse person to a certain extent myself, so I’m always impressed when people are willing to kind of follow their dream like that and put so much at risk to do that. It’s kind of inspiring in a way. So you hate to see it when it doesn’t work out, though. I was over there actually the day closed, talking to one of the owners, and she was telling me that they’re going to continue to be in the, I guess the brand business, if you will, where I think outsourcing some of the brewing of their brands. So they’re still going to be around in that regard. And she said that might lead to depending on how successful that is, just to stay in that route. So you alluded they’re not going. It’s just that bricks and mortar location unfortunately won’t be available anymore.
Rico Figliolini 0:04:57
Yeah. Too bad because they’ve been around for, I think it’s been four years.
Alex Wright 0:05:02
Yeah. I think they went in there right before COVID and obviously that wasn’t part of their business plan. I think they were counting on a lot more office workers right there in Tech Park stopping by.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:15
Yeah. And that blew it during COVID But they sounded like they were coming back at a point. But I guess once you go through that, sometimes it’s never coming back. That was a whole year and a half and they thought they were coming back. There was March 2020 when everything looked life. It was coming back. And then all of a sudden things shut down again, like three months later.
Alex Wright 0:05:37
Yeah. Every time I would drive by there. It seemed like they had a good, decent round. So I I don’t know the details, but it’s I’m not a big beer drinker, but I did like going there just for the I was talking about newsletter. Just had kind of a fun vibe. You could bring your dog or kids. It’s just very welcoming place.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:56
Yeah, no, the owner is precedent. His wife and the other people that worked there very passionate about what they do. I mean, he was doing stuff in his kitchen before he got to the brewery, so it wasn’t like he just decided to do it. He was passionate and still is, I think, with what he’s doing. So the other thing that we’re talking about, business is closing, businesses opening. Maybe there’s been a feasibility study that may be finished by this point or not. I don’t know about a potential pickable complex. Private public partnership, possibly maybe 30, 40, 50 courts. So there’s a company that was hard to do that feasibility study. I think I was at one of several meetings, stakeholders or shareholders, I guess, to give feedback or to give their point of view on it. So have you learned anything more or do you have a thing you want to talk about as far as how you feel about it?
Alex Wright 0:06:50
Nothing really new since that meeting that you’re talking about. I think we actually both were that one.
Rico Figliolini 0:06:55
Alex Wright 0:06:57
So still waiting to hear back from that company, though I’m obviously very interested in the money part of it, but I suspect there’s a lot of, whether it be cities or companies or whoever, thinking just like we are, like, hey, this is a huge opportunity. And I’ve used the analogy of 25 years ago, search engines, there’s so many of them. And Google basically won that. Now it’s a verb, but you got to get there first and kind of establish your dominance, if you will. It’s the kind of way I’m thinking about this, where if we wait a couple of years to see what happens, someone else is going to. When I say get in there, I think what we’re looking at is not just say, let’s have ten public pickleball courts. I guess that’s an option. It’s more of an economic redevelopment opportunity in maybe an area that I mentioned my newsletter, like down Holcomb Bridge, where because it’s got a good if you think about that intersection, Holcomb Bridge, and say, 141, that’s only four, actually, probably about 4 miles to 285. So good access to the interstate. Wright but if you built a complex there, I think Brian’s probably mentioned this on one of your podcasts, where the ability to host big tournaments, you can bring a lot of people into town for that. I don’t think we’re just envisioning just pickleball ball courts, but something where it’s a destination unto itself, almost, where you’ve got locals going there, whether they’re playing or not, just to hang out. So you’ve got your local crowd that be there all the time and then layer on top of that the tournament aspect, that could bring in a lot of activity for the city, hotel rooms and restaurants and things like that. So my thought is if the numbers look good, you got to move quick because someone else is going to move quick as well. So the quick you get in there, you’ll get the word out, hey, we’re almost like a dog mark in this territory. Like, hey, we’re here, and other people will say maybe just move on. We don’t want to cannibalize.
Rico Figliolini 0:09:13
I think you have to if you’re going to go in, go in big the expression, I guess, yeah. I think part of that discussion was obviously private public partnership versus the city running it. City doesn’t want to have a parks department or anything where they’re going to do ten pickable courts and have to maintain it. Right. And if it’s going to be a pickable complex or center, it’s really maybe an entertainment complex that has pickleball restaurants, maybe playgrounds, maybe certain other amenities that draw besides the pickleball. I would think Wright or something along those lines.
Alex Wright 0:09:51
Yeah, that whole Holcomb Bridge corridor, if you will. Literally almost from day one, the city has tried all kind of different things to get, I say redevelopment, some kind of I always use the example of over. I used to work, I still work over in Cobb County, but worked near Franklin Road, which street of kind of dilapidated apartments. Marietta came in, bought several of those up, tore them down and they said, hey, here’s some dirt, come in, try to attract come in. They got landing. United’s Training Facility there. Home Depot did a big data center there. The reason I mentioned that is you really just need say one thing to come in, make a big splash and it can create redevelopment. I mean we’re already seeing that, like with the town center where areas around that they want to be near that. I use the analogy or the metaphor of an anchor, people want to be near it. And we’ve had several different things that just didn’t come to fruition, unfortunately in that area. But kind of the way I look at this is we inject some of the money deal, but to your point, we’re not owning it, we’re not running it, but if it’s enough to make the numbers work for a private company, then ultimately the ripple effect more than pays for the money we would inject into it.
Rico Figliolini 0:11:15
It’s similar to, I guess, the town center when that first happened. I mean the city bought property there and then eventually sold it to the developer that developed the property there. And I guess we own certain portions like the parking deck and the town center, but the surrounding part of that town center versus the green and the veterans monument probably.
Alex Wright 0:11:35
Yeah. So that land originally was 21 acres, we ultimately ended up with eight. And the reason that kind of worked out that way was the developer to kind of make their numbers work, they wanted to build apartments. And for that particular piece of land, we had just bought it to stop apartments. It was like, okay, that doesn’t really make any sense. So to make the numbers work, we said, well, we’ll keep these eight acres and do these other things with it. So that’s an example of they need to show a return on their investment. The city doesn’t have to do that. So those eight acres, we can say, well, three years, we’re going to have an ROI that pays for that. But I would argue that by basically putting that money out there to hold that property, to build the green, which the developer didn’t even want to build because he couldn’t monetize it without the green, that was just another kind of almost a shopping center. The Green is really the difference maker there. And so that’s the difference what government can do. They can invest money and they don’t have to have a private equity firm that’s breathing down their neck to pay. Where’s our 22% annual return, right?
Rico Figliolini 0:12:40
Especially when it’s a developer that’s just a retail developer that has no interest in managing really the place. I mean, I understand Fuqua Development probably wants to sell most of what they have already. It’s just they don’t want to be a mold developer, right. Or retail developer like that. They want to flip it. So that worked out great. I mean, we get we there are concerts there with 5000 people showing up. There’s all sorts of events that go on. I know that at the beginning, some people were vocal about why is the city doing it? Why are they spending money, why are they buying that land? But to me it was similar to life. The Simpson Wood Park. Why did the city put up a million dollars to help that purchase or get involved in it? Well, that was also going to be sold to apartment developers, or to developers, I should say, because I don’t know if apartments would ever have been able to be zoned there. But it’s still a park because the county came in and bought it and is managing it versus the city being having a parks department and doing it. So there’s potential out there. And then you have North American properties right, that bought the Forum and they’re committed to it. They’re willing to put green space. They’re willing to put a stage in there. They’re willing to do things similar to Avalon. And I know there’s always another side to that. People don’t want that type of density coming or that type of traffic coming. But you know as well as I do, the Forum was heading south with almost 17 vacant storefronts. At one point, you were part of the group that decided that that made sense North American Properties being there. Right.
Alex Wright 0:14:23
The purchase of that, someone definitely needed to buy the forum. The previous owner, I think, was a REIT out of Boston. We had approached them about this green idea in the middle and even said, we’ll help fund that because we were so worried about the Forum and they had no interest, which I found baffling was like, we’re offering to literally almost give you money and you don’t want it. So someone that sat incompetently run it’s good that North American Properties bought the property. There are aspects of vision that I’m not crazy about, but as a whole, one of the things I did like about North American Properties was unlike most of the other developers that we’ve interacted with, mr. Perry definitely had a vision beyond just their little piece of property that this whole downtown Peachtree Corners life idea had. I liked that because I agree that there’s some synergies between the two properties and he got that that these other folks were just looking for that return every quarter. So NetNet it’s definitely good that they ended up with the property.
Rico Figliolini 0:15:34
So talking about also that whole area, Alex, I think that whole area, I think, has an overlay. That’s an entertainment overlay, if I remember correctly, right, that includes the Forum, includes town center, then goes into where Lidl is and also includes the Ingle shopping center, that whole part there, which is what we are calling the downtown area, essentially. Correct. So to that effect, there’s other things going on. For example, ingle shopping center. At one point, Ingles came in, they wanted to see if they can do gas pumps there, similar to, let’s say, Costco’s or Kroger’s. That was denied probably for a variety of reasons. But now the owner of that shopping center, not just Ingles, but everything that’s in it, has approached the city, I guess. Tell me a little bit about what’s going on there, what they’re looking to do.
Alex Wright 0:16:26
Wright so just back up just a second. Sure. They have developers that will approach the city kind of a regular basis, all kind of stuff. For example, a lot of the office parks near the town center, we’ve had people approach and say, hey, we’re interested in doing some kind of mixed use because they want to be near the town so much, the town center as the town green. They want to be near the activity there because people life, I think people naturally like to gather and be part of what’s going on. So it just happened to be that in the case of Ingles, that the council was given a briefing about this. And it’s not so much that the staff is saying, well, we’re not going to tell the council about this and we’re going to tell them about this. It’s just there’s so many that they try to be prudent about, okay, we think this one is serious enough to loop you in on some conversations. And so basically the update was Ingles lease apparently is coming up the next year or so. The owner kind of looked at the situation, said, all right, well, we obviously don’t want to lose Ingles. But Ingles was telling them is we’d like a smaller footprint. Apparently that’s the thing now in new grocery stores is a smaller footprint, more like a sprouts size. So they were looking to not so much leave, but shrink their footprint. So I think the owner looked at this as an opportunity. We’re looking to better monetize this property. We see what’s going on at the forum with the redevelopment. We see the town center. They probably hear about some of the other things behind the scenes that are potentially on the horizon. And they wanted to approach this. What they did, they approached the city and said a lot of times the way this will work is they’ll say, we’ve got this kind of rough idea of what we might want to do. Do you think that the council would be open to that? Obviously the staff has no idea the council is going to vote on anything, but normally have a good pulse of life. I might have a certain view of how I want things to be in five years and some of my colleagues different view and good staff is going to going to know that. And so that helps to be able to tell a potential developer, hey, we don’t know exactly what will happen, but this is kind of the sense we have and it helps them determine whether to move forward with a proposal anyway, kind of the pitch, if you will, that they put out. There was, again, another mixed use development which would include a housing component. But one of the things that made this different than some of the other ones we’ve seen is it included a senior living component. And at least it’s just my opinion, but we are in really short supply of that. I know we’ve got Waterside, which is coming online, but I hear a lot of people say it’s more than I want to pay and I’d rather live near things I could walk to. What a lot of people I know we spend a lot of time trying to attract young professionals. But if you follow demographics, the United States had a below replacement birth rate for almost 50 years. It’s kind of been masked by immigration, but you’re seeing this happen all across the world. So the point, point of my story is that in absolute numbers, there’s less 18 year olds today than there were ten years ago, 20 years ago. But the number of people that are 65 and older continues to go up. So we really need to give that some attention as well. We want places for those folks to stay versus having to leave Peachtree Corners. So when I heard that, I was very interested in that proposal because I think we’ve got a big housing shortage in that area. And I think we’ve got a big housing shortage for people, younger people who want to own versus just rent. Most people, if they’re 28, they’re not going to move into a $500,000 house. That’s just difficult.
Rico Figliolini 0:20:29
I think you had said active living community.
Alex Wright 0:20:33
Yeah. So this isn’t like at least my interpretation of it wasn’t assisted living or memory care. Like what you’re talking about active people, maybe they’re 55 and they want to move out of their 5000 square foot home into something smaller, which I know Waterside has got that as well. But they’ve got more some other stages as well. I don’t think this included that is significant housing piece that was the grocery store would stay but shrink the retail. So all the retail, the grocery store, it would move up closer to 141 and then the housing and maybe some other things could go further back. So you ultimately would take some of that cement that’s unused right now and put it to good use. When I say good use, they’re going to be able to monetize it. So it’s a win for them.
Rico Figliolini 0:21:29
I think they had a rendering you shared in your newsletter.
Alex Wright 0:21:32
Yes, there was actually several renderings. That one was just one of probably like four or five. We saw different kind of combinations of things.
Rico Figliolini 0:21:42
Alex Wright 0:21:43
The other ones were a little more like drawings, more so this one looked more appealing to the eye, I guess to illustrate what is possible.
Rico Figliolini 0:21:52
I was looking to see if I could put that up. What I’ll do is I’ll include that in our notes, show notes, so people can see that what that picture looks like. And actually we have a writer that’s doing some work on this. I think she interviewed you already. Or we’ll be reaching out to you.
Alex Wright 0:22:08
Yeah, I talked to her earlier, either earlier this week or late last week we had spoken. Right.
Rico Figliolini 0:22:14
So we’ll have a bit of an article on that with the picture. Certainly I would think I would hope also with something life that that maybe there’s a possibility at looking actually even looking at the rendering right now is CVS and Dunkin Donuts. Those are not out parcels or are they to that process?
Alex Wright 0:22:34
Those two parcels are not owned by the guy who owns the company that owns the shopping center.
Rico Figliolini 0:22:40
Got you. Okay. So those are ad parcels along with the former McDonald’s property that’s on the other side.
Alex Wright 0:22:46
That’s correct. And also the daycare center is also separate.
Rico Figliolini 0:22:52
So it’s just everything other than that the parking lot and then that strip around Ingles and all the shops along that park. Correct. Is what we’re talking about. Okay. Hoping there might be equity type housing. There life condos, but versus granted it’s active living apartments, but versus another set.
Alex Wright 0:23:15
Of apartments, I got the impression that you never know what someone’s going to propose but that they understood that, hey, there’s been a lot of apartments approved recently that we’re looking for some balance. So I think that was communicated as well, that we prefer at this point an equity product. I’m not retirement age, but if I was, if I was going to downsize maybe I’m an apartment briefly, but probably want to own something or at least have that opportunity. Because I talked to the city manager sometime about this, where if you’re trying to create activity, whether it be at the forum or the town center, I mean, who better to have than an active, retired person who’s got plenty of time on their hands and probably a lot of disposable income to give that kind of all day activity that places want to have where they’re from nine in the morning till ten at night. There’s people moving around. I think the trick with the ingles is how do you transport people around where they’re not having to constantly get in their car? You know, that’s something, I mean, listen.
Rico Figliolini 0:24:29
Lawrenceville is city of Lawrenceville is doing something downtown that they’re looking to be able to provide, like a walkable supermarket in the downtown area versus having to drive to a huge place where there’s a Walmart or a publix. Just having a local neighborhood grocer like you said, life the size of Sprouts or something much smaller.
Alex Wright 0:24:50
Well, those, the people that live in the town homes over at the Town Center, if you think about they can walk to a grocery store. I think there’s a dentist at form. They’re ready to walk across those doctor’s office. They could just about walk to anything they wanted to. So there’s some of that vibe already going on that’s very convenient to just you don’t have to hop in your car, right?
Rico Figliolini 0:25:14
So getting onto that more, of course there’s the flip sides of these things, right? The more density, people don’t want more density, more traffic. There’s already a bunch of traffic going up John’s Creek, never mind trying to get into Peachtree Corners. Life but the next development is what some people call Charlie Roberts property, which is, I think you called it the dirt hole behind Chase. That’s that empty lot that everyone sees if they’ve ever been to Chase or look at HWD Steakhouse that’s looking to hire, by the way, if anyone’s interested. And that’s right near Town Center. I mean, that’s all in the ground. And I think that is definitely zoned for apartments at this point because it’s part of that multi use track now. And they could go up seven stories, I think, or six stories or something like that. So tell us what’s going on there because that sounds like there’s a movement.
Alex Wright 0:26:07
At least going sounds life that property, mr. Roberts has owned it for I guess, 20 plus years and probably about 2016 he approached the city about getting it zoned from, I think it was commercial. He wanted to get it changed to apartments anyway. That was a big discussion, and the compromise was you can have some apartments, but it’s got to be connected to kind of like a boutique hotel. It was all going to be kind of the same building. And the zoning, he had four years to basically start coming out of the ground, and if he didn’t, the zoning would revert back to commercial. And so I think within like a year or so, he had gotten a hotel brand to go in.
Rico Figliolini 0:26:56
Indigo. I think it was the indigo.
Alex Wright 0:26:59
And shortly thereafter, the world flipped upside down with COVID and no one’s staying in hotels. And that blew his plan up, no fault of his. And by the time the four years came, he wasn’t able to pull that off. So it reverted back to commercial. And I don’t know all the details behind the scenes, but some time goes by, north American comes into the picture as part of their Peachtree Corners Life downtown idea. They also looked at that property as part of that larger development of how do we create activity feet on the ground. So it got rezoned from commercial to apartments. Now, Mr. Roberts company is the one that got the rezoning. Even though that night at the meeting north American if you didn’t really know what was going on, you would have thought that they were the one getting the rezoning, which kind of made sense because their plan was as soon as it got rezoned, they would buy it and it would be part of their plan.
Rico Figliolini 0:28:00
So that rezoning was never done on condition of the purchase. That was rezoned, period.
Alex Wright 0:28:06
Right. There was no time limit. There was no conditions anyway. So get the Rezoning plans to sell it to North American, and then interest rates start to go up on everybody, and it starts to make the financing problematic is my understanding, which I think that’s case for all of us, our own personal finances or stuff’s costing more now, whether it be inflation or interest rates. Anyway, so North American, they basically didn’t have the money lined up or the numbers didn’t make sense at this point because of those two things. And so that deal fell through. So then I suspect at least what we were hearing kind of behind the scenes was Mr. Roberts was floating it around to other potential buyers and kind of heard through the Great Vine recently that he had found a buyer. I don’t have the name in front of me.
Rico Figliolini 0:28:57
I think it’s Tur. Villager Papas.
Alex Wright 0:29:01
Yeah, I’m not familiar with the company, but I heard from various sources that deal would close at the end of July. And if you kind of been paying attention over the last few months that I call it the Dirt hole, it went from having huge mounds of rocks and debris in it to totally cleaned off, ready to build. So obviously there was stuff going. On behind the scenes. And now when it closes, I suspect that will move pretty quick because the zoning is already there. All they have to do now is get building permits from the city.
Rico Figliolini 0:29:37
Alex Wright 0:29:38
Probably I don’t know how long that takes, but suspect that if I bought a piece of property, I’d want to get it to use as quickly as possible. They get the buildings built the quicker the money comes in.
Rico Figliolini 0:29:50
So I think if anyone wants to know what type of properties they do if you go if you search Sola, S-O-L-I-S Suwani, you’ll see the type of apartments they do. They’re all over the southeast. The biggest things is they have probably about 15 communities either planned or in place in Georgia. Swani, Sugar Hill, Decatur, kennesaw, Dumwoody, Dunwood, Gainesville. Bunch of places, I think. Sugar Hill 294 class A apartment with 12,000ft of retail and restaurants. I don’t know if they’re looking to do if that ever came up in that conversation either, but that’s in Sugar Hills Town Center. So they’re doing stuff in these places. All right, so then we’ll find out, I guess towards the end of the month, if they close on that.
Alex Wright 0:30:42
Yeah, like I said, that was all just I think these are pretty good sources that have been talking about this.
Rico Figliolini 0:30:49
And I think that was zoned. Not only was that enveloped or taken into the multi use track of what Town Center is right. I think it was included into that. And they’re zones for similar unit count, probably 200. And if I remember right, 200 and 7280 apartments.
Alex Wright 0:31:06
Yeah, something in the mid upper 200s.
Rico Figliolini 0:31:08
Right. Okay. Either way, that would have been there whether it was North American properties or a new developer.
Alex Wright 0:31:16
Yeah. Once they got that rezoning back in September, there’s going to be apartments eventually with somebody.
Rico Figliolini 0:31:24
Okay, cool. Let’s talk a little bit about I think the city Marshall system is going to be stood up the end of this month or the beginning of August is what I understand.
Alex Wright 0:31:35
So the new fiscal year began July 1, and that’s really the first year we had money budgeted for this. So there’ll be three officers. My understanding is two have already been interviewing. They’ve identified two. I don’t know if they’ve officially been hired, but they’ve got two that are been offered jobs, I guess you could say, got you. And then the third, which would be, I think the head person, will come on a little bit later this year. So then there’ll be three initially, right?
Rico Figliolini 0:32:11
Alex Wright 0:32:13
Rico Figliolini 0:32:13
I mean, they still have to work through. I think some of the original some of the preliminary stuff was done, like type of cars, equipment, some stuff. But there’s a lot going to this. Right. Office spaces.
Alex Wright 0:32:26
Yeah. So we’re going to obviously have to expand the footprint of the government. Some of that will be upstairs. City hall at the top level is private company rents from the city, which actually been a great deal for us because it’s basically been almost like a duplex. Right? They’re paying for the mortgage force. Yeah. And then we’re buying another building over near the old City Hall that’ll give us some additional capacity.
Rico Figliolini 0:32:55
That one’s across from Curiosity Lab. Right. That’s wright on the street side, I guess.
Alex Wright 0:33:01
That’s correct. And then on that whole kind of complex, if you will, those two buildings, a lot of flexibility.
Rico Figliolini 0:33:08
So there’ll be more on that as we get more details to segue into why, to some degree, this wasn’t necessarily why, but conversations I had with city manager information from before makes sense for us to have a city marshal system because they can do things that Gweneck County Police either weren’t able to or really not shouldn’t be tasked to. Like code enforcement maybe, and stuff like that. And to be able to, the city can sort of put their police force where they feel most necessary.
Alex Wright 0:33:42
Wright yeah, that’s all very accurate. The Gwinnett County Police, I think they’re budgeted for 930 officers, and I want to say they’re staffed right now in the upper six hundred s. And I don’t think that’s unique to Gwinnett County. There’s an issue across the nation with we could spend all day speculating on the why of that. But anyway, they’re not able to be fully staffed right now. So if you’re down, say, 30%, you just going to prioritize where you’re sending folks. Sure, we have an intergovernmental agreement with Gwinnett County. They provide our police services, but we don’t have any control over what they do. We can ask, hey, can you do this, can you do that? But they ultimately have to make decisions beyond what’s best for Peachtree Corners life because the west precinct is pretty large area. So it’s been a combination of the things you mentioned. One they’re just understaffed, and then they also have been directed by the legal department of Gwinnett County that if there are any ordinances in a city that are city specific, that they are not to enforce those. And an example of this, several years ago in a neighborhood here in Peachtree Corners, there was apparently a pretty big party going on really loud, and people nearby called when that county showed up and there was, I guess a city specific ordinance regarding I think it was the noise. I don’t know all the details. And basically the police officer said, this is a code enforcement issue I’m not allowed to involve. And so he left and then the party continued unabated. There was a lot of people upset about that. That’s just to illustrate an example of where think about it, if you’re having that party and you know the police aren’t going to do anything, some people it could easily spin out of control. So it’s not something you want to have happen. Again, that’s just anecdotal but it illustrates where those are two issues we’ve got. And I think a third part. We’ve had some things over the last couple of years, some of these intersection takeovers where people would get frustrated and in some instances, the police did a great job. They got there and arrested a ton of people. And then there’s some other instances where because of other commitments in the west precinct, they didn’t show up for quite a while because they just didn’t have the resources, the stuff to go to the residents and say, hey, there’s nothing we can do about it. They expect more. So I think some of what we’re doing is us trying to, in a measured way, respond to, okay, we are doing something, we’re creating resources that we can control. With these three marshals been at a stop at the intersection takeover? No. However, we’re showing that we get it, that people are frustrated. And I just got our crime from Gwinnett County just today, and it only goes through May. So this is an update from my newsletter, but the numbers through May for the first five months type one crimes, which are the more serious kind, up 60% year over year through April is only 39%. So maybe May is anomaly, I don’t know. But that’s not a good trend.
Rico Figliolini 0:37:05
That’s in the city proper and Peachtree Corners. Yes, those types of crimes include felonies, robbery, burglary.
Alex Wright 0:37:18
They could be property crimes as well, you know, breaking into a car or, you know, simple assault. But yeah, they’re definitely the more serious kind, the one that people that’s the stuff you read about on next door where someone’s window got smashed in or it’s the kind that really make people feel unsafe.
Rico Figliolini 0:37:37
Yes. And then obviously we won’t get into it. But then there’s the crimes unreported, like smash and grab, three or four people running into a store, taking what they please.
Alex Wright 0:37:49
Rico Figliolini 0:37:50
We could go through that and spend more time on it, but that’s okay. Yeah. Hopefully I understand we’ll be plugged into to some degree with Fusis maybe even. And we’re adding cameras, led cameras and stuff. Not Led, I mean LPRs, I think.
Alex Wright 0:38:07
We’Ve got to say 50 of the LPRs. Maybe it’s not that many. We’ve also got 82 cameras at the town center. Like literally almost every inch of that is covered. And I think the city manager said the forum is going to get in on the Fusis program. I have mixed feelings about the cameras because you’ve got the kind of the creeping Big Brother aspect, but then on the other hand, there’s a force multiplier. I don’t know if you saw the thing that was on an E a few days ago about there’s a show called 48 Hours. I don’t normally watch it, but it was about the young man who got murdered at the QT, I guess it was last year. And so this is like a national show. Very interesting because it went into the whole gist of the show is for crimes to be solved, you basically have to get on top of things within 48 hours because then things start to go cold. And so they had all of the characters from what happened with all the police officers, the families, they had video of these people being interviewed at the police headquarters. They showed how they tracked them down with the cameras and it was fascinating. So I would encourage we get done. I’ll shoot you the link, but it’s really interesting. But it showed the power of the cameras. That was the key for them tracking these guys down, using cooperating with other municipalities to track these cars down.
Rico Figliolini 0:39:34
Yeah, remember the I mean, I haven’t seen that. I’ll share that in the show notes as well. But I knew that they were able to track them down into Atlanta through cameras and other things and fuses with part of it. But that would be great to see that back behind the scenes stuff.
Alex Wright 0:39:50
It was very interesting because some of it was recreated, but they had all of the police officers that were involved in it kind of acting, if you will, recreating what went down. It was very well done.
Rico Figliolini 0:40:04
Wow, cool. I think within a decade, you can’t hide anymore. At some point, if you’re in the city causing crime, I mean, it’s going to be tough unless you have a bandana on your face or something, a mask. And even then, I think, from what I understand, from what Fusis is doing even, and the technology out there, that they can pretty much fingerprint a car based on dense colors. So you don’t even have to see the license plate anymore almost to be able to ID a car eventually using AI. And the way they track these things, especially the muscle cars and the stuff that the guys that do the spinning of the wheels of the street takeovers, I mean, they’re not doing it with cheap cars. They’re doing with these big cars, these really bulk down, pimped out cars and stuff. I’m sorry, that’s the Brooklyn and me, it just came out on that. But okay, cool. So, I mean, there’s just a lot going on and you hit upon the acquisition of the property in Tech Park for the city that’s going to happen and it’s just other things going on. We still have zero millage rate. Yes, quite a bit of money, unspent money in the bank. Is it $59 million or something?
Alex Wright 0:41:22
That’s correct. Now, to be clear, a lot of that money, it’s not just we can spend on anything there. Some of it is earmarked. When I say earmarked, it’s money specifically has to be spent, say on stormwater or on lost money. It’s got requirements. We’ve created some specific savings funds for different things. So it’s not just all laying around. We can go crazy and it’s unallocated. But we are in a very strong financial position. One of the ratios that I like to mention that apparently in city finances is one of the things they measure is they look at, they call the general fund, which would be things other than Sploss and stormwater and say, well how much money do you have saved versus what they call operating budget. So if our operating budget is let’s say $20 million, well if we had $20 million say, that means basically twelve months of savings. If you think about it in your own personal life, sure. The gold standard in municipal finances is roughly three months. So we on a regular basis are at and beyond twelve months of that. So that’s a good measuring stick that you can kind of compare against cities across the nation. So to think that we’re able to do that with a zero millage rate and I would argue probably the main reason is because we’ve got so many businesses here. If you look at your business to kind of residential balance, we’re about 60 40. If you went up to say, Johns Creek, it’s more like 80 20, which is the reason their property taxes, they’ve got one and we don’t. So we’re a very unique municipality in that regard. So that’s one of the reasons that is so important. The council is so focused on, hey, how do we help revitalize tech part because that’s the golden goose, if you will, that keeps us able to have a zero military. And that’s ultimately where your average person is going to pay attention to what’s going on is when suddenly say, hey, we’re going to start taking money from you. They’ll perk over and say, hey, what the heck is going on? You don’t want to do that.
Rico Figliolini 0:43:41
Spoken to a few people about like just because it’s Technology Park and its offices doesn’t mean it can’t be revamped into something a bit different. I’d love to see this college campuses that have offshoot. GSU has a satellite campus in Dunwoody, I think. And there’s no reason why Georgia Tech for example, can’t have a satellite campus here in Peachtree Corners taken over several buildings. I mean there’s things like that that can happen if it’s attractive enough for certain places, right?
Alex Wright 0:44:14
Yeah, no absolutely. I know the mayor has been a big proponent of trying to get the Gwinnett College or Gwynette Tech I can’t remember to open up a campus Peachtree Corners life that I don’t know the stats of that, but literally from day one, he has been an advocate for getting a local college presence here, which I think would be a great idea.
Rico Figliolini 0:44:33
Yeah, especially if it’s a technology based type of school. So yeah, I can see that. That would be great. The only other thing I would love to see is an art theater center, a complex of some sort.
Alex Wright 0:44:47
Be surprised if that I think that’s probably going to happen. I don’t know the timing but I’m just speculating here that. I would bet you in five years that the city’s got some type of facility. Again, it’d probably be like a private public partnership, something like that, if not sooner, is kind of my speculation.
Rico Figliolini 0:45:07
Good to say. Good to hear. All right, so before we end, I know it’s sold out, I think, so there’s no more places for it. But the Decathlon, the third annual Decathlon that you’re really invested and involved in and actually started was the founder of it, if you will. Can you tell us that’s coming up in October? October 21.
Alex Wright 0:45:30
That’s correct. October 21. So it’s held over at the fitness trail out the town green. And if you’ve never there’s a new playground there. If you ever kind of venture into the woods beyond the playground, that’s where all the fitness trail is. And kind of the origins of that. Not to go into too much detail, but I’m a member of the Y, and they used to have kind of a similar concept at the Y to raise money, and it was meant different things inside the Y. But basically the way it works is you would have ten events at the decathlon, and you had five minutes at each obstacle, if you will, and the quicker you finished it, someone will record your time, and then the rest of the five minutes was your rest, if you will. So it’s almost like capitalism. The harder you go, the more time off you got. So anyway, they would add up all the times, composite. Whoever had the lowest time was the winter. So we took that idea out to the fitness trail, and it’s very much a niche kind of thing, because some of the obstacles, like climbing ropes, most people can’t do that. It’s often kind of difficult to explain to people what it is. But I’m pretty excited because we sold out, like, in a month. And the reason there’s only a certain number of slots, because the capacity to handle a lot of folks is just kind of limited. But the word is spreading to kind of cross the north metro area. We’ve got a waitlist. And my biggest concern always is rain, because nothing I can do about that. The week leading up on just kind of a nervous rate, like, please don’t rain. But yeah, they got some really impressive people that come out and do it. It makes you realize how old you are when you see some of these ladies. I’m pretty excited about it. Definitely have a passion for it. I love going out to the fitness trail. I’ll just be walking through there and you’ll see people of all ages trying to do different things. And if you think about kind of our state of physical fitness, if you will, like in the country where my own kids, they’re on video games or whatever, where you see people out doing something, I love to see that. Especially like the younger kids, even if they can’t necessarily climb a rope, they’re intrigued through stuff, whether the playground, whatever. It’s great seeing that.
Rico Figliolini 0:48:01
Just get out there and do something, right.
Alex Wright 0:48:04
Rico Figliolini 0:48:05
So 72 available slots, all gone. There’s a waiting list now, and we’ll have the Hype video, if you will, on our show notes. This way people can see what it’s all about rather than trying to envision it. So it’s a great video. I think Titan Pictures put that one together.
Alex Wright 0:48:22
Yeah, jim Stone did some videos from last year’s, and most of the people in there are local residents that you might recognize. That’s the other thing that’s kind of neat about it is very much a local kind of a community building activity.
Rico Figliolini 0:48:37
Very cool to see it. We’ve come to the end of our time together. This a little longer than we had planned, so I appreciate you hanging in there with me, Alex, and talking through this. Yeah, no, I think hopefully everyone listening to this or reading the synopsis of this, because we’ll be doing a short piece on this as well. Will know quite a bit more about what’s going on in the city. So appreciate you being with me, Alex. Thank you.
Alex Wright 0:49:03
Yeah, thank you.
Rico Figliolini 0:49:04
Stay with me for a second as I just close out. I just want to say thank you to everyone. If you’re listening to this on Audio Life, Apple podcast or something, like or review us, give us a star rating because this way people can find us. If you’re listening to this on YouTube or our Facebook page, feel free to share it with people or tag people in the comments that may want to find out a little bit more about what’s going on in the city of Peachtree Corners. Again, I want to thank our sponsors, EV Remodeling Inc. You can find them at evremodelinginc.com. And Clearwave Fiber. You can find them also on our link in our profiles as well. Thanks again and hope to see you soon.
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