By RANDY SOUTHERLAND
Published in: October 2009
The road fronting Perimeter Mall is filled with traffic as throngs of pedestrians make the trek across the multilane street to dining and shopping. This intersection is a good indication of the change that has come to the busy Perimeter area of north Metro Atlanta.
Yvonne Williams remembers a time when workers in the Ravinia complex behind the Crowne Plaza Hotel never ventured out because traffic made crossing the street too dangerous. That has changed, thanks in large part to the work of the Perimeter Community Improvement District (PCID), which she heads.
At a time when state government has punted on finding a solution to the congestion clogging Atlanta roads, Perimeter business and civic leaders have been working to create something of a little oasis. Working through the PCID, a self-taxing district located partly in Fulton and partly in DeKalb counties and including the cities of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, businesses and property owners made transportation a high priority. And they’ve been willing to put their money on the table to make it happen.
“It’s easy to sell these projects to the local owners who are willing to tax themselves,” says Robert Voyles, president and CEO of Seven Oaks Co. and longtime chair of the DeKalb PCID. “I’m not aware of a single no vote on a project and I think that’s the strongest evidence of companies’ buy-in to these projects.”
Coming to grips with transit is motivated by a simple idea — the bottom line. As a result, property owners have been willing to open their pockets to local taxation with little complaint.
“It really impacts us in two ways,” says Chuck Altimari, a vice president with UPS who serves as board chair for the Fulton component of PCID. “We have our corporate headquarters here in the Perimeter and it impacts us from the perspective of helping our people get to and from work and lunch when they have to leave the office and also making this an attractive place for employees from a hiring perspective.”
The growth in retail and office, not to mention residential, has pushed up property values. The PCID boasts more than $3.36 billion in commercial along with $453 million of residential.
This convergence of jobs and people has also made getting here difficult and recruiting talent harder. Workers who have a choice — and those are usually the best ones – won’t willingly accept long commutes into congested roads and streets.
“Where it helps us is that we can see that this market is committed to trying to address the transportation issues,” adds Dale Hughes, senior vice president with Cox Enterprises, Inc., which has several locations within the Perimeter area. “So it gives you a sense of wanting to invest in this market. To say it is OK to have 60 acres here. It is OK to think about building buildings in this market and actually owning them, not just leasing and thinking, ‘Well if things get bad I’ll move.’”
To achieve these goals the PCID has poured lots of dollars into easing the daily trek. Since 1999 the PCID has collected more than $46.45 million from self-imposed commercial property taxes. About $27 million has been committed to completed or active projects that leveraged a 4.3 to 1 investment of $116 million in local, state and federal dollars.