Gwinnett Place CID Guest Blog Post: Andy Morgan
2020 Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Candidate (Democrat)
Introduction: Gwinnett Place CID has asked candidates running for both the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman and the Gwinnett County District One Commissioner to answer several questions explaining their vision for the County and Gwinnett Place.
Andy Morgan is an immigrant from Jamaica who came to the U.S. at the age of four, a veteran who served as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, a proud father of a Gwinnett county public school student, an attorney who has practiced law for almost 25 years, a small business owner with a law practice in Lawrenceville since 2008, a Gwinnett County homeowner and a resident of Gwinnett County since 2007. He has professional degrees in Electrical Engineering and Law.
Learn more about Andy by clicking here.
Guest Blog Questions
Why are you running for Chairman, Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners?
Answer: I am not a politician and have never run for public office before. In fact, I am a very private person. I, however have a strong desire to serve my community and strong belief in the importance of active civic engagement. I have always found ways to contribute to my community in my spare time, whether serving as a recreation youth sports coach, volunteering on boards or engaging in community service activities.
I am now at a stage in my life where I am ready and willing to invest myself fully to the commitment of making a positive difference in my community. I believe that one of the best ways for me to do that is by serving as County Commission Chairman and that my life experiences and educational and professional background make me well prepared and suited for the position.
Where are your favorite places to spend time in the Gwinnett Place area and why?
Answer: My favorite thing to do in the Gwinnett Place area is to frequent the local restaurants, such as VeGreen (great Asian infused vegetarian food), La Madeline (French Cuisine), Einstein Bagel (reminiscent of NY bagel shops), Bahama Breeze (for a taste of the Islands) and The Krab Hut (where I can proudly wear a bib in public – while eating Cajun seafood).
What do you see as the role of CIDs in Gwinnett, and how would you work with the Gwinnett Place CID, if elected?
Answer: Our CIDs serve as powerful public-private partnership tools that can help to revitalize business districts and re-energize entire communities. Working in partnership with County Government, CIDs enable community leaders and property owners to participate, through direct financial investment, in the future development of the community within their district’s boundaries. This makes them perfect partners for the County because they are key stakeholders prepared to invest financially in the future of their particular district.
As County Commission Chairman, it is my intention to foster and strengthen the partnership we have with our CIDs. This will be done through joint planning and review of proposed infrastructure improvements within CID districts, incorporating proposed CID development plans in our County wide review of economic development initiatives, collaborating with CIDs on grant proposals where state and federal resources can be leveraged for maximum development impact and engaging with CIDs, where appropriate, in discussions with prospective major development partners on projects planned within a CID that will provide substantial economic gains and quality of life improvements. These are only a few ways the County can work with its CIDs, and as County Commission Chairman I will remain open to other opportunities to collaborate to the extent that it is in the best interest of the County.
If elected, will Gwinnett Place be a priority for you? If yes, what is your vision for the Gwinnett Place area?
Answer: Although representing only 1% of the County’s land area, Gwinnett Place has an economic impact of $9.5 billion annually. It is strategically positioned along the I-85 corridor. It has 6,049 jobs per square mile with an average salary of $53,000 per year and payroll of $1.3 billion. It represents 24% of the County’s retail, 23% of the County’s Class A office space and has a daytime population of 57,000 people. It also has a diverse population of 96,000 residents, 28,000 of whom are millennials. With such a substantial economic and social impact on our County, what happens to Gwinnett Place is, and should be, a priority for the next County Commission Chairman.
My vision for the Gwinnett Place area is multifold. First, I would like to see it continue to develop and grow as a major economic engine for the County. Second, I would like to see redevelopment of some of the old strip areas and the mall area into mixed use communities with a sense of place, incorporating residential, retail and walkable green spaces. Lastly, I would like to see improved transit/transportation options servicing the community with better connectivity to facilitate residential, consumer and workforce access to the area.
What is your vision for transit in Gwinnett County?
Answer: I envision a Gwinnett County that has an interconnected transit system that provides users with reliable options that will enable them to commute to points of interest, health care or government facilities and employment, education or entertainment centers within the County, as well as provide options to connect to other transit routes and destinations in neighboring counties.
How will you bring transit to Gwinnett Place?
Answer: The most immediate means of bringing transit to Gwinnett Place would be through the use of interconnected bus lines that will facilitate commuting to the Doraville train station and to other localities within the County.
Do you endorse the Transit Review Committee’s plan submitted to the Board of Commissioners in February?
Answer: Yes, I do endorse the proposed plan submitted to the Board. It provides for greater connectivity and expanded service options.
Gwinnett Place Mall has extended beyond a local issue to become a national punchline, around the topic of the “dead mall.” How will you address Gwinnett’s dead mall problem?
Answer: Since the mall is privately owned, the County has limited options with respect to what the owner does with the property so long as the owner abides by the County’s codes and regulations with respect to its use and upkeep of the property and pays its requisite taxes. As County Commission Chair, I would make sure that the owner follows the letter of the law to ensure the safety of the community and avoid blight. In addition, I would be willing to meet with the owner of the Mall, the CID and local stakeholders to see if there is any way that we can work collaboratively to create a win/win solution whereby the property can either be revitalized or redeveloped.
If elected, what would be your plan for the mall site?
Answer: As noted above, the mall is private property and therefore it is not up to the Commission Chair to decide how it is to be used. Ideally, however, I would like to see the property redeveloped as a mixed-use community, incorporating amusement attractions, retail, residential and walkable green spaces.
How will you work with the Gwinnett Place CID to accomplish your plan?
Answer: As County Chair, I would ensure that the County is involved in collaborating with the CID, the current owner and/or a future developer to encourage maximum use of the Tax Allocation District (TAD) and Opportunity Zone designations to drive redevelopment plans for the area. Such collaboration may include, subject to a cost-benefit analysis, the County partnering in the future development of the area as an economic stakeholder.
During the last SPLOST, of the $486,343,270 in transportation funding available, the Gwinnett Place area only received $9 million. Had the CID not had a list of potential projects prepared and shared information about transportation needs in the area with SPLOST committee members, it is likely even less in SPLOST transportation funding would have been allocated for the area. How will you ensure greater equity in future SPLOST funding distributions for Gwinnett Place?
Answer: I have not had an opportunity to review all of the projects that the SPLOST funds were allocated to that resulted in the CID only receiving $9 million. Gwinnett has a massive transportation infrastructure that requires continuous maintenance and improvement. There are significant projects underway to widen roads, replace interchanges, enhance signals and build bridges at major intersections. These decisions quite often will have to be made based on priorities, with the higher priority projects getting the most attention. For that reason, I will not be able to commit to a specific allocation for the CID but will commit to CID projects being given fair consideration based on the transportation infrastructure priorities that we are confronted with.
Gwinnett County and the Gwinnett Place CID collaborated on the ACTivate Gwinnett Place plan focusing on area infrastructure. However, most of the projects outlined in the plan are not fully funded. What is your plan to address this issue and move these projects forward?
Answer: The ACTivate Gwinnett plan was developed in early 2015. As Commission Chairman, I will commit to a comprehensive review of the plan with the CID and its stakeholders to ensure that it continues to meet the projected needs of the area. The County will also need to assess its overall commitment to the project and the contributions and commitments made by other stakeholders. Following this review, my determination of next steps with respect to the plan will be driven by several factors including (i) the projected impact it will have on the community, (ii) whether the investment by the County can or will be used to facilitate a commitment from a private developer to invest in redevelopment of the area, (iii) the commitment that other stakeholders and development partners are willing to make toward the success of the plan and (iv) the commitment required by the County relative to its budget and other infrastructure priorities. As I mentioned in my response above, Gwinnett Place would be a priority for me as the next County Commission Chairman. Subject to a favorable review and analysis of the plan, it would be my intention to ensure that the ACTivate Gwinnett plan is placed on a shortlist of high priority community redevelopment projects under consideration for funding by the County.