Make 2016 more 'event-ful'
The City of Suwanee is currently accepting event applications for community events to be hosted at City of Suwanee parks during 2016. The deadline for applications is December 11. Once the City's event schedule is approved after the first of the year, no additional events may be added.
Each year, the City of Suwanee hosts, primarily at Town Center Park, more than 40 City- and privately planned events, including concerts, festivals, races, food truck events, and more.
"Events are an important part of community-building in Suwanee," says Events Manager Amy Doherty. "Each year, we love partnering with community organizations to bring great music, fun events, and unique engagement opportunities to our residents and others."
Seminar offers one-stop business essentials
Being a small-business owner or entrepreneur can sometimes feel like an overwhelming proposition. The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce wants area entrepreneurs to know that there are many resources available to assist them. To that end, the chamber is hosting a Small Business Essentials seminar at Suwanee City Hall from 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, October 21.
The free seminar will cover business and marketing plans, finances and lending assistance, licensing and taxes, minority certification and disadvantaged business assistance, training and mentorship programs, growth, and doing business with the City of Suwanee. Representatives from the University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center, SCORE Association, Gwinnett Chamber, City of Suwanee, and Gwinnett County will be part of the panel of experts on hand.
"A lot of times, small-business owners and entrepreneurs don't have time to seek out information that can help them out," says Adam Edge, Suwanee's downtown and business development manager. "This seminar offers a one-stop forum where they can get that critical information and connect with mentors."
While the seminar is free, advanced registration is required. Register on the Events page at gwinnettchamber.org.
'Plot' a healthier, fresher 2016
Applications for plots at Suwanee's Harvest Farm organic community garden are now being accepted for 2016. Applications from returning gardeners only are due by Friday, October 16.
Garden plots are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis with priority given to City residents, property owners, and taxpayers as well as returning gardeners.
Plots are available in three different sizes, with the annual fee ranging from $50-$100. City of Suwanee residents/taxpayers receive a 25 percent discount.
Annual fees include use of a raised bed, utilities, basic community tools, social and educational events, and, when available, compost. Gardeners incur personal expenses for items such as seeds, plants, amendments, stakes, and trellises.
Municipal election on Nov. 3
The City of Suwanee will hold a general municipal election Tuesday, November 3. Two City Council posts – Post 1 and Post 2 – will be on the ballot. Qualifying candidates for those positions are:
Doug Ireland (incumbent)
Dick Goodman (incumbent)
Stephan B. Caldwell
The mayor's position also is up for election, but as only one candidate – current mayor Jimmy Burnette – qualified for the position, it will not be on the ballot.
Early voting will be available at City Hall from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays October 12-30. Voting on November 3 will be from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at City Hall.
Poll officials are needed for early voting as well as election day.
Photo by Bill Mahan
Art where it matters most
Suwanee's new public art master plan, adopted by City Council at its September 22 meeting, calls not for placing public art everywhere, but rather for putting art where it matters most. The plan, developed over the past six months in consultation with Todd Bressi, an independent art consultant from Philadelphia, and Meridith McKinley, a public art planning and programming professional in St. Louis, suggests that Suwanee focus its efforts on public art that is "engaging, fun, memorable, and distinctive;" helps strengthen community connections; and that, in many cases, is temporary.
The master plan suggests two themes for future projects: art + play and art + identity/City image.
Art + play projects are creative, likely pedestrian-focused, and encourage community engagement. "Think about art that you can interact with," says Bressi, "things that are related to sound and light, things that are kinetic or related to STEM education. People will see fun and interesting things, things that they've not necessarily seen before or are expecting."
Art + identity projects promote a sense of arrival within Suwanee in general or perhaps to the downtown district. Such projects could strengthen the physical connections between areas of the City. "Art can create scale, break down distances, and make those connections more interesting for people," notes Bressi.
Overall, the plan suggests a variety of art projects that could be rolled out over the next decade as opportunities arise and funding becomes available. The plan emphasizes strategic use of temporary art pieces, which Bressi notes, may be more cost effective, allow for experimentation, and keep things fresh and different.
A preliminary concept drawing, provided by Terwilliger-Pappas, of the proposed mixed-use residential/retail project at Chicago Avenue and Buford Highway.
Proposed project to extend Town Center
The City of Suwanee Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has taken initial steps to enter a public-private partnership with developer Terwilliger-Pappas that will create a mixed-use multifamily/retail building at Chicago Street and Buford Highway adjacent to Town Center. The proposed development, on a 3.5-acre tract currently owned by the DDA, is expected to feature a five-story structure with 10,000 square feet of street-level commercial/retail/restaurant space and 235 high-end apartments. The project also is expected to include a parking garage around which the mixed-use structure will be built.
"The City of Suwanee DDA is pursuing an exciting public-private partnership that will extend our incredible Town Center," says Mayor Jimmy Burnette. "This project would bring more residents, commercial opportunities, and energy to Town Center's vibrant 'live, work, play' lifestyle. This could be a win for all of us."
The Suwanee DDA and Terwilliger-Pappas have executed a letter of intent and are currently negotiating details on the $46 million project. Under the terms of the letter of intent, Suwanee's DDA would receive $600,000 in cash for the property plus ownership, at no additional cost, of the 10,000 square feet of commercial/retail space. The approximately 3.5-acre property being purchased by Terwilliger-Pappas was acquired by the City of Suwanee over time for $497,000.
The primarily one- and two-bedroom residences that are part of the project are expected to appeal to professional millennials and empty-nesters and would further the City's efforts to be a lifelong community. "We fully expect that these apartments will set the bar for quality in Gwinnett County," says Suwanee's Downtown Manager Adam Edge, "and that rental rates will exceed those of any similar existing Gwinnett County development. Studies have shown that Town Center has some of the highest property values in the county. We believe that this project will not just contribute to, but enhance, Town Center's value." Get more information.
As part of its growing public art program, the City of Suwanee has installed a temporary interactive public art experience – a street piano – at Town Center Park. The donated piano, painted with a colorful tree theme by the North Gwinnett Arts Association, is located at the back of the park (along Town Center Avenue close to Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road) in the area where the Farmers Market is held each Saturday.
Area residents are invited to view and especially play the piano and then post photos or video to the City of Suwanee's Facebook and/or Instagram pages. Use the hashtag #letsplaysuwanee.
The project was coordinated by Suwanee's Public Art Commission, a six-member board appointed by City Council that manages Suwanee's public art initiatives, including SculpTour and working with developers to include public art as part of their new construction projects. Over the past seven years, more than 60 temporary artworks and more than 20 permanent pieces have been displayed throughout Suwanee.
Suwanee's street piano project is inspired by British artist Luke Jerram's Play Me, I'm Yours program, through which more than 1,450 pianos have been installed in public places in 46 cities across the globe.
A charge for electric vehicles
A dual-head, level three, fast-charging station for electric vehicles is now operational at Suwanee Town Center. This is the first fast-charge station to be installed by a municipality in Gwinnett County.
Located along Savannah Square Street at the back corner of City Hall, the station is capable of providing an 80 percent charge to most electric vehicles in less than half an hour and is available 24/7 on a first-come first-served basis. The current rate is $1.50 to connect plus 10 cents per minute. Only credit card payments are accepted; electric vehicle network membership is not required.
The City of Suwanee contracted with EnviroSpark Energy Solutions of Atlanta to install the charger system, which has two connectors, one that serves SAE J1772-enabled vehicles and the other CHAdeMO-enabled vehicles.
"It's really exciting to be able to offer an environmentally sensitive service such as this," says Public Works Director James Miller. "This effort continues the City's commitment to sustaining our environment, as signaled previously by LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design]-certification for City Hall as well as certification as a Green Community through the Atlanta Regional Commission. But the electric vehicle station also serves to give folks another reason to come to Town Center and further promotes downtown Suwanee."
Multi-winner Business Services Director Jessica Roth, on the left, holds Voice of the People Awards previously won by the City of Suwanee.
City wins two national awards
thanks to resident ratings
The City of Suwanee has been named a winner of two Voice of the People Awards for Excellence – in community engagement as well as recreation and wellness – by the International City/County Management Association and National Research Center. Suwanee is the lone community among 21 jurisdictions being recognized nationally to win multiple awards.
Voice of the People awards are the only awards given in local government based on community opinion. Ratings by residents on customized National Citizen Surveys determine local government nominees in a variety of service and community characteristic categories. Suwanee administered its most recent National Citizen Survey in November. In survey results, released in March, Suwanee residents rated the City higher than other participating communities across the nation on eight questions, and Suwanee scored among the top 10 communities nationally in 27 percent of the questions.
Suwanee residents reported extremely high levels of satisfaction, compared to the more than 300 other participating jurisdictions, with community engagement, recreation and wellness, built environment, and economy. The City also is a finalist for Voice of the People Awards for Excellence in the built environment and economy categories.
The City of Suwanee was ranked #1 compared to other benchmarked communities on questions that addressed:
- City-sponsored events
- job Suwanee government does welcoming citizen involvement
- overall built environment
- availability of affordable quality childcare
- overall confidence in local government
- generally acting in the best interest of the community
- being honest
- treating all residents fairly.
City begins FY2016 with $14.8 million budget
At its June 23 meeting, Suwanee City Council approved a $14.8 million operating budget for fiscal year 2016, which began July 1. This budget represents a 9.2% increase over the $13.6 million budget adopted by the City last year.
The adopted 2016 budget assumes that the City's millage rate will remain at its current level of 4.93 mills; no tax rate increases are anticipated. The millage rate is scheduled to be adopted by City Council in August.
Suwanee's $14,843,060 FY2016 budget includes $45,000 in continued funding for the City's downtown and public art master plans; three new positions and two position upgrades; a maximum 4% pay-for-performance salary increase for staff; and just over $763,000 for capital expenditures that include seven replacement vehicles for the police department and other personnel, two mowers and a chipper, and police dispatch console upgrades and other equipment. Health insurance expenses increased by 11 percent; the City will cover approximately two-thirds of that increase with employees picking up the rest.
The budget also includes Suwanee's annual debt payment for bonds used to construct City Hall and several parks. That payment in FY2016 will be about $1.6 million.
'Dancer XX' by Jack Howard-Potter
The 2015-17 Suwanee SculpTour, a walkable public art exhibit in and around Town Center, is bringing more – in some cases, a lot more – than ever before.
- This, Suwanee's fourth SculpTour exhibit, features more sculptures than ever: 17.
- It includes more local artists: Six of the 15 artists represented are from Georgia; other artists are from Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and New York City.
- Dancer XX, a 20-foot tall galvanized and powder-coated steel sculpture created by Jack Howard-Potter, is the single heaviest sculpture to ever be included in a SculpTour exhibit. Weighing in at 2,700 pounds, this kinetic sculpture of a male figure, who stands on one leg with his arms raised and holding a long piece of fabric, rotates with the wind.
The 2015-17 exhibit is weighty not only in poundage. While several pieces represent the forest canopy and sunflowers or a variety of animals – birds of prey, cows, horses, goats, and birds in flight – several pieces reflect the artists' perception of heavy topics. Some of the themes addressed include the pain of love, looking forward optimistically while absorbing losses of the past, unattainable success, notable attributes of friendship, parent-child relationships, the dichotomy of science and faith, and the concept of awareness. See a list of 2015-17 SculpTour artworks.
A walkable public art encounter, Suwanee SculpTour is a program of the Public Arts Commission. The new exhibit will be on display through March 2017.
'Friends' by Nnamdi Okonkwo
2015-17 Suwanee SculpTour Artworks & Artists
Ball and the Red Staircase by Adam Walls – Hope Mills, NC
BRD by Michael Dillon – Milton, GA
Capacious by Isaac Duncan – Chattanooga, TN
Carry Forward by Joey Manson – Central, SC
Cascade by Gregory Johnson – Cumming, GA
Corey by Jonathan Bowling – Greenville, NC
Cow on a Horse by Jim Collins – Signal Mountain, TN
Dancer XX by Jack Howard-Potter – New York, NY
Faith by Adam Walls – Hope Mills, NC
Father & Son by Adam Walls – Hope Mills, NC
Friends by Nnamdi Okonkwo – Fayetteville, GA
The Herd by Phil Proctor – Atlanta, GA
Love Hurts by Lee Benson – Jackson, TN
Oak Leaf Horizon by Jim Gallucci – Greensboro, NC
Sunflower Gate by Andrew T. Crawford – Atlanta, GA
Taking Flight by Jennifer Freeman – Duluth, GA
Three Muses by Hanna Jubran – Grimesland, NC
2015 Snap Suwanee winners
Suwanee appears fun, outdoorsy, artsy, and snowy in the dozen winning photographs that comprise the 2015 Snap Suwanee exhibit currently on display at City Hall.
Sixty entries were received for this year's annual community photo competition. The winning photographs will be on display until February 2016.
"Snap Suwanee has become one of the City's favorite community engagement projects," says Public Information Officer Lynne DeWilde. "It's always fun to see what strikes our photographers as noteworthy from year to year. This year's winning photos capture moments one doesn't see every day in Suwanee – from a hot air balloon in Town Center to snow to a paddleboarder on the Chattahoochee. They also capture those moments that are more ubiquitous, including folks interacting with public art and utilizing Suwanee parks as backdrops."
Enjoy a few 2015 Snap Suwanee winning photographs in this online slideshow, but stop by City Hall to see and appreciate all of the photos.