Students eye changes for village centers

Fri, 02/05/2010 - 4:03pm
By: John Munford

More greenspace, better cart access among concepts reviewed

Students eye changes for village centers

A new group of architecture students from Georgia Tech who are plotting the potential future of Peachtree City’s village retail centers got invaluable feedback during a strategy session Wednesday afternoon.

Bill Hooper of Peachtree Crossing in Glenloch Village, John Sebring of Braelinn Village and Gordon Fleming of the Aberdeen Village shopping center joined current and former city officials in providing direction for the students as they proceed with the refinement of the initial designs presented last fall.

With the exception of Elizabeth Morris, who has interned with the city planning department, the other four students on the project are brand new and were anxious to get input on the direction they should take.

The students have already paid visits to Peachtree City and tootled around on golf carts to get a feel for the area. But the input from the shopping center representatives is crucial since they ultimately control the future destinies of those properties.

The first round of designs included some significant greenspace improvements for many of the shopping centers. One of the designs for the Glenloch center included a significant open park area along Ga. Highway 54 that was envisioned as a passive park and gathering place for community events such as an art show.

Hooper said he’d prefer to change the scale of the greenspace by adding bits and pieces perhaps 10-20 feet wide such as gardens.

Morris said the rationale for the large greenspace was to help draw residents to the shopping center even without the presence of a large anchor store. Peachtree Crossing last year lost the “Baby Kroger” grocery store, which has remained vacant since.

Morris noted that with four other large grocery stores in the area, the likelihood of attracting another grocer may not be feasible. Hooper said it could be feasible to have one, two or perhaps three tenants sharing the space, but it was premature to make that determination.

Joel Cowan, the city’s first mayor and long considered one of the city fathers, said he would like to see the city legally restrict the amount of impervious surface allowed in shopping centers. Tree and landscape buffers along the road from parking lot views of “bumpers and chrome,” Cowan added.

Another facet of the designs for Peachtree Crossing included improved golf cart connectivity, Morris said. In addition to making the on-site improvements, the students planned new cart path connections a short distance away on the path system to make the routes more direct.

Mayor Don Haddix said the major problem with the new connections would be funding.

Hooper said any changes to the center would have to be economically feasible, and he contended that despite the loss of the “Baby Kroger” store the center is holding its own with locally owned tenants, many of whom have been there for a number of years.

“Those owners have seen something valuable to them in what is a relatively mundane old-style looking shopping center,” Hooper said. “We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. ... To move things in a dramatic way may not be the way to go.”

Hopper suggested a dramatic notion of his own: that the area could be developed vertically as well to take advantage of views from above including those of the adjacent Flat Creek golf course.

Longtime resident Gordon Fleming, a part-owner of the Aberdeen shopping center, said a re-freshening of the city shopping centers could be a great idea. Fleming said he will be excited to see the various options for the future that the students will provide.

There was some talk of changing the city’s sign regulations to allow “tasteful” directional signage. But Fleming cautioned against going in that direction.

“It’s absolutely wonderful to come through Peachtree City without the signs,” Fleming said, noting that many residents can tell you what stores are in each shopping center.

Fleming also admitted that in the 1960s and 70s he was opposed to the then novel-idea of using golf carts to get around the city.

“I was totally against it. ... I thought it was the dumbest thing in my life.”

Not only does Fleming admit his mistake, but he is reminded of it daily as he witnesses joggers, walkers and carts along the path system which weaves through more than 80 miles of the city.

While all this talk is aimed at the future, Braelinn Village is in the middle of a significant construction project that will result in a new exterior, redesigned parking and more areas for lingering such as benches and the like. Sebring, who manages the center for The Shopping Center Group, said he wants the facility to “cater to the golf carts.”

As part of that, Braelinn Village will be improving the aesthetics of the golf carts’ entryway to the shops, which runs behind the stores. The center is also adding golf cart charging stations in an effort to attract more golf cart traffic.

Part of the idea is to provide service to the community but a crucial factor is attracting “mom and pop” retail stores, Sebring said.

Mark Hollums of the Peachtree City Development Authority said the dollars spent at mom and pop stores tend to recirculate in the local economy for a longer period of time than those spent at a chain store.

Hollums noted that small retailers also face challenges from large chains such as Walmart who can provide lower prices due to buying power

Hollums said the challenges for the city’s future extend beyond the shopping centers and into the industrial park, as the city has lost a number of manufacturing jobs. He said he would like to see the industrial park reconfigured to provide jobs for people who live in the city who currently have to commute into Atlanta for work.

The planning effort is being funded by the Peachtree City Development Authority.

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yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 6:50pm.

You people are so predictable.
The city does nothing and you are angry.
The city does something and you are angry.
For years you guys have been screaming, "Nuke" the big box stores (you even elected a mayor on the platform) but when several developers get together and attempt to give one of the older shopping centers a face lift and make it more accessible to the public and more attractive to small businesses, you moan and say it'll never work
Why not bring fresh new ideas from these Tech Student. They are young and on the cutting edge of urban development AND I am sure they work much cheaper than old school firms. It can't be costing much. PCDA under Hollumns operates with virtually no budget (that gets eaten up by the Tourism board).
Something needed to be done. That center was floundering
Give them a chance - you might be surprised.

Submitted by Spyglass on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 10:33am.

I expect nothing less from this group. IF they aren't complaining, they aren't happy. Not all of them mind you, but many fall into this category.

Submitted by PTCGOIL on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 11:31am.

and there are others who just come here with their pithy one liners and whine like the rest, but still think they are above it all. Not all of them mind you, but many fall into this category.

Submitted by Spyglass on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 12:17pm.

I don't even think our Mayor could find downtown Newnan to see what they might have done right.

Workshops like this are good to "vent" ideas....that said, as long as K-mart is in the center, it's marked for life.

I travel there frequently by car and golf cart, better golf cart parking would be nice, and I think it's coming. Charging stations probably wouldn't be used much. I never take my charger from the house. I enjoy an adult beverage at the Mexican joint, and shop the Kroger frequently. Leslies Pools gets some of my business. The pizza/wing place had pretty decent food, and some funny Karoake singing at times...and of course many seem to miss the Italian/Seafood place, not to mention Baskin Robins..

I'm still baffled at why the remodeled Ginza (Kane Yama) building decided to go with that UGLY blue roof...they do have good Sushi specials on Sunday though.

How's that for TOO much info? Smiling

The Wedge's picture
Submitted by The Wedge on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 12:40pm.

It has been successful in some areas to revitalize a decaying downtown with plazas, boutiques, and fine dining. The big part of it is the ambiance of the old buildings and updated interiors that maintain and "old" feel. Newnan has done that to a degree. Peachtree City does not have the architecture or the existing downtown to accomplish this. We have the village concept that could work in an area like Braelinn if other buildings are incorporated into a "downtown type" area. Of course strip malls do not really have the feel to make that kind of area work. We could maybe develop a "Zona Rosa" type space, but that would involve the development of additional commercial space that PTC already has a glut of

Submitted by Spyglass on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 1:16pm.

Newnan and comment was mainly directed to the Mayor...and his seemingly lack of caring what other communities have or have not done. He seems to dismiss what other Cities have or have not done with extreme prejudice. Thinking outside the box may be in order...

The Wedge's picture
Submitted by The Wedge on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 1:24pm.

I just want to draw out a discussion about what will work for our areas such as Aberdeen and Braelinn. Not directed specifically at you. Downtown revitalizations work if the conditions exist. They don't in PTC, I would really like to figure out what will so that we have functional villages that we seem hell bent to atrophy in favor of development along major corridors into and out of the city

Mike King's picture
Submitted by Mike King on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 1:54pm.

Braelinn receiving its long awaited 'facelift' will have a positive impact initially, however, to keep things positive a new blood of businesses are required. Whether they be unique shops, restaurants, pubs, or whatever they must be enticed by our city to locate here.

A comparison of the costs involved for business licenses, permits, and the like be made with those of the downtown revitalized areas would be useful. Has our city staff thought to make such a comparison? Those businesses that have all closed within Braelinn departed not solely due to a lack of patronage. The high cost of rental property combined with expensive and recurring licenses and fees do make it difficult for new entrepeneurs and start up businesses.

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 3:32pm.

I think the mix of businesses is more important than the architecture/"look" of the center itself, though it helps to have a spiffy new look like Braelinn is undergoing. Determining how to attract that right mix won't be easy but I certainly agree with you that it is something that needs to be done or it be just another strip shopping center replaced by newer versions a few miles away.

What makes Newnan or College Park's "main street" programs work isn't the old vacant buildings in disarray being utilized as much as it is a blend of businesses that make it a destination. If you look around at the older villages in PTC, the one shopping center that has some unique appeal to it is PTC Crossings. Kroger leaving the space that was really never designed for a modern grocery store hurts, but that shopping center has businesses ranging from Omega Books to Big Daddy's to the Wild Bird store to even the Tattoo place and others that you cannot find in or around PTC right now. That makes it worth a trip over there. It's not just another generic strip shopping center.

Submitted by Spyglass on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 2:17pm.

regarding the "cost of doing business" here as opposed to somewhere else. We must be competitive...don't always have to be cheaper, but being in the ballpark helps.

Mike King's picture
Submitted by Mike King on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 2:57pm.

The amount of money ($600K) derived by the city for alcohol tax did seem quite high. Further, I think I'll take a look into what our fair city charges to conduct business for the purpose of serving we mere citizens.

Submitted by PTCGOIL on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 7:55pm.

We are not an urban development, last I checked. I know costs are low, I knew that when the results we forthcoming last fall from the previous group. And we got what we paid for. Not much, I'm afraid. I don't fault DAPC for that. I think it was a good move on their part, they had no way of knowing what results would come out of it at the time. I do wonder if a second shot is worth it though. Unless this was all part of the same package. Time will tell.

Let my comments be a challenge to this current group. Come up with creativity, innovation, uniqueness, and richness of thought for a beautiful planned city. Make it practical and affordable and attractive. Make it attractive to children and seniors, and moderate income moms and dads, the population that will spend their money here. Incorporate some beauty, some eye candy, if you will. A little whimsy would be nice.

The center has been floundering for years, WAY before this economy went in the tank. It was neglected by the previous ownership, it was ignored by their management. It was allowed to empty out by them, demanding sky high rents with the thinking that the TDK connection to Coweta was going to happen, bringing thousands of customers their way and they could jack prices up to existing tenants and to new retailers that would be banging on the door to get space here.

I'm sure those who listen in here would rather ideas come forth now, while construction is going on, and plans can be modified, rather than wait silently till a year from now and then complain about what didn't get done. The old "well, why didn't you speak up back then??"

And, yes, I will continue to offer that the locals who spend their money at Braelinn should be included in the decision making. It's what makes a village, right?

yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 8:31pm.

By Urban area I didn't mean blighted, slums urban. Urban development just means city development and that area is in need of some urban renewal.

borntorun's picture
Submitted by borntorun on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 2:14pm.

Mark Hollums is right...small retailers will never be able to compete with Walmart as far as pricing goes. And with the economy in the ditch, folks are not going to pay higher prices at small retailers when they can go to a Walmart or Target. So let's quit trying to change that dynamic!

Whether the mayor wants to admit it or not, most folks are going to buy their eggs, milk and staple items at Walmart and the quaint vision of picking up a gallon of milk at the local grocer on the way home from work is a thing of the past along with VHS and eight track tapes.

What PTC needs to do is ride over to Newnan and talk to the Main Street folks. Downtown Newnan went through the same pains when the development at Bullsboro exploded. The clothiers, drug stores and hardware stores went bellyup simply because they could not compete with the pricing. Knowing that, the Main Street folks started focusing on niche type retail stores and local fine dining restaurants and now downtown Newnan has been revitalized and is alive and vibrant both day and night. There have been several well known chefs who wanted to get out of ATL and the Main Street folks went out and sold them on Newnan. My wife and I drive over a couple of times a month for some of the fine dining downtown Newnan offers.

Main Street also offers several events every month that draw folks into downtown. Our shopping center owners should take a look at scheduling family friendly events in their centers. Give people a reason to get in the golf cart and visit your place other than beer at Kroger.

Focus on getting niche type shopping, local restaurants, ice cream establishments and family type events in these shopping centers and they will come back.

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 7:55am.

Excellent ideas. I know Mark Hollums as well and I think he shares a lot of the same vision you laid out.

What's up with the Newnan bashing from some? No one is suggesting PTC be transformed into Newnan/Coweta Co but implementing some of their successful ideas that would work in PTC also seems like a no-brainer. If we are going to rule out any other entity's successful ideas simply because "PTC ain't going to be like that," nothing will ever happen positively.

yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 8:41am.

Come on NUK you know our Mayor has never had any desire to have good working relations with our neighbors. He likes to pull the draw bridge and live within the PTC bubble.
Yes, we should look to Newnan, Tyrone, Fayetteville and even Fairburn. All of them have made mistakes (so has PTC) but we can learn from those mistakes and I bet that if if look hard you will find some successes. But I guess since our Mayor is DDA Approved (I have no idea what that means or how you get that qualification but He mentions it in his post below) he doesn't need to reach out. The truth is Newnan has been very successful in revitalizing the downtown area with a collection of eclectic shops and restaurants. Even Fairburn has been able to keep a main street viable with antique shops and cafe's (yes I know there is a Pawn Shop too). These ideas may not work here but we should be looking at every possibility.
In addition, I agree with you NUK, Hollums (as an unpaid volunteer) has a good vision and has done a lot with a Development Association that has a minuscule budget. In fact his level headedness and business like approach would have made him a good Mayor but Cal and the Citizen painted him as a cronie of the past administration when he ran for council a couple of years ago.

Submitted by PTCGOIL on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 3:14pm.

when....Braelinn shopping had family events, usually on weekends, all stores(when there WERE stores) got together and did flyer mailings with promos for each store and some event going on to get you there.

How about ripping up some of the half a mile of parking lot that is NEVER used and put in a dining area with outdoor seating (with cover for hot days/eves) and a small area with a view attached to look out over anything BUT pavement. A fountain area? Maybe a play area or a park setting where you could have vendors or hold events.

How about an organic garden area in the pkg. lot where they could charge to grow your own there?

Have a Panasonic Day or week? Or an NCR week or (name your PTC business) that provides JOBS that we are all thankful for? These employees are our neighbors 5 days a week and wouldn't they just love to be honored by specials at a shopping center nearby that recognizes them? Invite them to come and shop or come to eat during their lunch break or before/after/work? These things will attract what is called a captive audience...they are already HERE, just come on over and let us spoil you!!

Where is the creativity???

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 4:29pm.

Family and other events are now being worked on between DAPC, Staff and the center owners. As well as other events.

Reduction of asphalt is a point of discussion as well.

Plus other ideas.

The center owners and shop owners are beginning to cooperate and pull together. That was a major hurdle that is now happening and gaining steam. There is some real enthusiasm finally.

As well pulling in borntorun's statements their recent joint efforts are proving fruitful on adding customers to one active center and three college have moved into PTC for their initial presence here. One is already needing bigger location.

There is other things in work but anyone working with bigger companies knows you do not make it public until they sign or they will pull out on you.

DAPC has come a long way in two years. You do not put together a fully functional authority overnight.

Things are moving forward. Now is not the time to be negative in the efforts. There are no overnight miracles in this economy, but we better being doing all we can now and to be ready for when it finally loosens up or we will loose big.

I would not be pointing to Newnan as a success story. Read some history on other counties that took that path in the past and look what happened when they could no longer just keep building to build. And go look at their blighted part of town and dark boxes.

Just some comments to think about.

Don Haddix
Mayor Peachtree City

Submitted by PTCGOIL on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 6:25pm.

I suggest to you this: Now is not the time to come here and attempt to squelch those of us who want an accounting of how and where and when our committee/association money is going. Since you are here to lay out your take on things, please tell us what the set up is for compensation to Ga. Tech directly or indirectly for these services.

In my case, please avoid substituting "negative" for my voicing genuine concerns for what goes on in my neck of the woods. Or borntorun or PTC Observer or any other contributor of ideas.

Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 7:00pm.

I do not have the exact breakdown of how costs occurred over the whole program.

Please email and ask. I do not want to mistate anything.

But I can tell you their full year budget is currently $35,000.00 for all operations, which is not much.

My point on the negative is when Newnan is thrown up as a example of what we should be doing versus what we are doing that is negative. It is saying they got it right and we have it wrong, which is not true.

A Mainstreet/DDA can only legally work with a very limited part of a city, the downtown in specific, which we do not have. A DA, which we have, deals with the whole city or even more according to how it is set up. So they are not even comparable entities.

Even the qualifications and requirements for each are different. I can sit both being DDA qualified.

So yes their DDA is doing a good job, but no, they don't deal with the rest of Newnan which isn't doing as well.

Hope that clears that up a bit.

I just wanted to clarify some points to not start undermining all the hard work and gains that have been happening. Not to engage in a big debate or discussion with all else going on right now.

Don Haddix
Mayor Peachtree City

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 5:24pm.

Another idea is to have WiFi in the entire area, we are a wired society. We should have this technology available on the shopping center property. It will certainly help in attracting and keeping people close to the shopping area. If there are small shops like ice cream, bagels, etc. then we should consider allowing those tenants to have little service carts during the day to cater those in the public area. Coupled with fountains, places to linger,public events (movies) and "push carts" would make the atomosphere compelling and fun to visit.

I agree with you Mayor Haddix, now is not the time to be negative. It's time to put our thinking hats on and come up with creative things that will make our quality of life better.

Let's hear some positive ideas on how we can make our community better, not shoot down those that are simply trying to make a difference.

Thanks to the new owners for being so engaged with our community. I can guarantee you no one is thinking of "hanging out" in the WalMart parking lot, except teens with nothing to do. Hmm.... sounds like a business opportuntiy to me!

borntorun's picture
Submitted by borntorun on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 4:10pm.

You are spot on PTCGOIL! Now thats more like it. You have some great ideas.

For crying out loud, go back and look at some of these proposals they are talking about. Significant greenspace improvements, improved golf cart connectivity and my favorite...develop the area vertically. Huh? So you are going to spend all this money on aesthetics and connectivity and when folks get to the centers, there is nothing there!

Look I don't discount completely the idea of upgrading and renovating the centers...they need it. But when is someone going to realize that there has to be a draw to get people to the centers to begin with?

Speaking of bringing in new businesses, can anyone tell me what has DAPC accomplished? The Mayor likes to brag he "took them off the shelf" and rejuvenated them but seriously what have they accomplished? Can anyone name a single new store or business they brought to PTC?

Last post I remember Mayor Haddix said regarding their recruitment efforts was they working on several potential things but he couldn't disclose them. Well we are still waiting, Mayor. Care to fill us in? After all, we the taxpayers are subsidizing their efforts. At what point is it reasonable to expect a return on that subsidy?

Submitted by ptcjenn on Sat, 02/06/2010 - 1:14pm.

There used to be a recycling center gazebo in the Braelinn shopping center, between the BOA and what is now Popeyes...that might be a good spot for the picnic tables/fountain etc. that was suggested. Does the City own that, or was the area just used for recycling as a donation by the center owner? I know the area in front of Johnny's Pizza is used despite overlooking traffic, maybe something like that but in a green area like that one would work for that corner.

Submitted by PTCGOIL on Mon, 02/08/2010 - 3:31pm.

Gazebo area is owned by The Shopping Center Group, which owns the rest of the land. But it is the most peaceful, visually pleasing section of the center, isn't it?

How about Partner's coming to Braelinn? Upscale Pizza? Redneck Gourmet? Subway?

From what I remember, the owner of Baskin Robbins said the co. priced him out of making any profit on his ice cream sales. He wanted to open a free standing bldg. in the parking lot with Baskin on one side and Dunkin Donuts on the other side, with a drive thru. The center owners wouldn't let him do it. So, he closed his shop down and last I heard, he owns the car wash on Georgian Park Dr.

Yes, we all miss having an ice cream shop on a hot summer's eve or weekend. Going for a ride to Bruster's from here on the cart is a huge production, not worth the aggravation. Neither is Rita's or Marble Slab.

Submitted by PTCGOIL on Fri, 02/05/2010 - 6:07pm.

If you own a cart here, you do NOT need a charging station. John Sebring doesn't live here, and has never shopped here when there WERE stores at Braelinn. Wanna bet he has never even been on a cart on our paths?

Typical developer who doesn't know squat about what we residents who USE the center want. And doesn't give a fig, either. Lingering on benches??? Yahoo...tops on my list.

How many people who LIVE in Braelinn were INVITED to this meeting???? You know, the ones who drive there 2-3 times a week to run in to Kroger or K-Mart to BUY something????

NO, let's get brainiac teens from Tech who have never been here before or will ever come again (they're all from out of state) to sit and come up with "Duh, you have too much blacktop and need more green...."

This shopping center had more golf carts than any other in town until the previous owners jacked the rents up to get rid of the few good tenants that were left of the "mom and pop" stores. John Sebring whadya gonna do about the obscene rents that mom and pops can't afford???

Is the Dev. Authority paying these students???

Submitted by askari on Sat, 02/06/2010 - 8:34pm.

PTCGOIL sounds a little bitter, sniping at the "brainiac teens from Tech". I would have guess that she is a jealous UGA product, but most of her screed is spelled correctly.

Submitted by PTCGOIL on Sat, 02/06/2010 - 10:16pm.

"Most" of her screed? Hmmm....

No, I just was witness to the presentation done last fall by the first group of Tech students. So uninspired and showed no true grasp of the concept of this city. None.
I could go on, but if I knew then that the plan was to bring another group here for the same purpose, I would have stated my opposition- regardless of school affiliation.
Did anyone in this city hear the results of their work last fall, other than those who were there?
Did Joel Cowan come out and give his opinion when it was over last fall?

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