Today I ran across the UntieAtlanta.com site (link is here) and I think it’s a great resource to educate yourself about the TSPLOST vote coming up on July 31st.
It’s nice to have a quick and easy resource to show all of the projects and timing associated with this huge bill as I suspect most people are confused as to what exactly they will be voting for. My favorite part (and most educational) is the interactive map that places markers on all the projects and has brief descriptions of their timing and price.
As I mentioned before, there is no such thing as a perfect bill. There are parts that I agree with and parts that I disagree with. And I think it is important to point out the difference between doing “something” and doing the “right thing”. I know that action makes us all feel better, but action for action’s sake is a great way to go far in the wrong direction.
So my basic two questions for this bill are: 1) Is there more to like than dislike in this bill? and 2) Is this the right thing to do or just something to do to address our transportation issues?
I think the answer to #1 will tell me the answer to #2. And my answer to number one is actually very easy to figure out: Would I vote to send 1 cent out of every dollar I spend to go to fixing _______________? By breaking down TSPLOST piece-by-piece I can quantify how many of the projects I support and how many I oppose. If there are more that I support than I oppose, then I’m a “yes” on TSPLOST. If not, I basically have to figure out if the Beltline and other projects I view as crucial are worth all that money I don’t want to spend on the other projects.
And let me reiterate something I said last time.
WE NEED TO UPGRADE, IMPROVE, AND FIX ALL OF OUR TRANSPORTATION IF WE WANT TO CONTINUE TO GROW AS AN INTERNATIONAL CITY.
I don’t think that is open to debate. Atlanta will grow when people want to be here. People want to be here when they enjoy our quality of life. Our quality of life is highly tied to our ability to move in and around the city. Therefore transportation (along with water and eduction) is one of the crucial issues facing Atlanta in my lifetime. So, don’t think I underestimate the value of upgrading our transportation. And don’t think that I wish the suburban roads and transportation systems to fall into disrepair. I just want to make sure that this is the best long-term decision for our city before I throw my “yes” around.
So, enough explaining. Here are the projects and my vote on them:
Atlanta to Griffin Commuter Rail ($20,000,000) – No
SR 85 Improvements in Fayetteville ($5,900,000) – No
South Industrial Path in Fayette County ($1,210,000) – No
South Industrial Path in Fayette County ($1,150,000) – No
SR 85 Expansion in Fayetteville ($24,000,000) – No
MacDuff Pkwy expansion near Peachtree City ($6,400,000) – No
Bill Gardner Expansion in Henry Co ($27,000,000) – No
Widening SR 92 in Fayetteville ($15,900,000) – No
Improving SR 92 in Fayetteville ($20,000,000) – No
Widening 23/42 in McDonough ($44,000,000) – No
Widening SR 155 in McDonough ($48,000,000) – No
Upgrade SR 20/81 in McDonough ($11,000,000) – No
Widen SR 81 in McDonough ($27,000,000) – No
Widen East Fayetteville Bypass ($14,000,000) – No
Parallel Connector off Jonesboro Rd ($17,000,000) – No
Widen Fayetteville Rd in Jonesboro ($40,180,000) – No
SR 92 Connector in Fayette Co ($18,300,000) – No
Improve interchange at SR 74 and I85 ($22,500,000) – No
Roundabout at Hutcheson Ferry ($1,750,000) – No
Widen SR 78 in Riverdale ($22,200,000) – No
Redesign Tara Blvd ($102,170,000) – No
Improve Old Milton and 400 Interchange ($1,900,000) – No
Improve SR 92 at South Fulton Pkwy ($16,000,000) – No
Widening SR 85 in Forest Park ($34,150,000) – Yes
Widen Conley Rd at I285 ($28,500,000) – Yes
MARTA at the Airport ($7,160,000) – Yes
Widen Camp Creek Pkwy at 285 ($60,250,000) – Yes
Replace bridge over Camp Creek Pkwy ($3,500,000) – No
New Interchange at 285 and Greenbriar Pkwy ($36,400,000) – Yes
Improve Campbellton Rd ($1,259,900) – No
Improve I285 at Cascade Rd ($23,600,000) – Yes
Regional Traffic control on I20 in Douglasville ($19,000,000) – No
Multiuse Path in Douglasville ($2,210,000) – No
Realign SR 92 on west side ($49,000,000) – No
Widen Lee rd in Lithia springs ($18,900,000) – No
Widen US 78 in Lithia Springs ($20,000,000) – No
Improve intersections on Fulton Industrial ($7,500,000) – Yes
Improve MLK Dr near 285 ($3,000,000) – Yes
Improve west side 20/285 interchange ($149,000,000) – Yes
Improve Jonesboro Rd ITP ($7,395,000) – Yes
Improve I20 at Panola ($21,200,000) – No
Widen Panola Rd ($30,300,000) – No
Extend Hayden Quarry Rd in Rockdale ($27,000,000) – No
Widen Sigman Rd in Rockdale ($30,000,000) – No
Improve Commerce Crossing in Rockdale ($25,900,000) – No
Widen Flat shoals Rd in Rockdale ($11,400,000) – No
Improve Rockbridge Rd in Dekalb ($7,500,000) – No
Improve Glenwood Rd ITP ($5,000,000) – Yes
Improve Memorial Dr ITP ($738,750) – Yes
Peachtree near Spring ($434,875) – Yes
Improving Piedmont Ave ($3,604,908) – Yes
Bridge at Courtland St ($22,000,000) – Yes
Central Ave Bridge ($27,000,000) – Yes
Pryor St Bridge ($32,100,000) – Yes
MARTA Tunnel Rehab ($700,000) – Yes
Improve Edgewood Ave ($527,667) – Yes
Improve Auburn Ave ($643,750) – Yes
Improve Courtland St ($750,000) – Yes
Beltline ($165,952,132) – Yes
Beltline Midtown to Downtown ($435,940,345) – Yes
Donald lee Hollowell near 285 ($1,025,000) – Yes
Improve Joseph E Lowery ITP ($1,188,750) – Yes
Improve 14th at Howell Mill ($575,000) – Yes
Improve Boulevard near Ponce ($1,150,000) – Yes
Improve 10th to Monroe ($462,000) – Yes
Improve North Ave ($457,500) – Yes
Improve Ponce near Spring ($618,125) – Yes
Decatur to Clifton Corridor ($5,000,000) – Yes
Improve College Ave near Avondale Estates ($5,000,000) – Yes
Memorial Drive near 285 ($5,000,000) – Yes
Premium Transit form the NW to Arts Center ($695,000,000) – Yes*
Improve Spring St near Peachtree ($1,292,125) – Yes
River View Rd near South Cobb ($16,500,000) – Yes
Improve Howell Mill near I-75 ($512,500) – Yes
Improve Monroe Dr ($706,250) – Yes
Improve N Druid Hills Corridor ($25,000,000) – Yes
Clifton Corridor Rail Transit ($700,000,000) – Yes
Improve Northside Dr near W paces ($525,325) – Yes
Improve Piedmont Rd corridor ($612,000) – Yes
Improve Peachtree from Peachtree Dunwoody to Collier ($1,713,450) – Yes
Widen 360 in Paulding County ($30,000,000) – No
Improve Thornton Rd in Paulding ($43,000,000) – No
Improve S Cobb near 285 ($9,000,000) – Yes
Widening Windy Hill ($22,999,900) – Yes
I75 at Windy Hill ($77,000,000) – Yes
Cobb Parkway at Windy Hill ($93,000,000) – Yes
Windy Hill and Terrell Mill Connection ($14,000,000) – No
Hammond Dr at 400 ($33,500,000) – Yes
MARTA extension Sandy Springs ($37,000,000) – Yes
285 and 400 Interchange ($450,000,000) – Yes
Ashford Dunwoody Corridor Improvements ($5,000,000) – Yes
Improve Mt Vernon Corridor ($12,000,000) – Yes
400 from 285 to Spalding ($190,000,000) – Yes
Buford Hwy & PIB alignment ($25,000,000) – Yes
Spaghetti Junction Improvements ($53,000,000) – Yes
Trails on Hwy 29 in Lilburn ($1,850,000) – No
Widen Five Forks Trickum Rd in Lilburn ($10,400,000) – No
Intersection of US 78 and Hwy 124 in Snellville ($19,100,000) – No
Hillcrest Satellite Connector in Norcross ($19,900,000) – No
West Liddell Connector in Norcross ($39,300,000) – No
Cobb Pkwy and Barrett Pkwy in Kennesaw ($9,800,000) – No
McCollum Airport ($690,000) – No
McCollum Airport ($2,500,000) – No
Moon Station Rd in Kennesaw ($4,500,000) – No
Busbee Frey Connector in Kennesaw ($21,500,000) – No
Roswell Rd Improvements in Roswell ($20,000,000) – No
Atlanta St in Roswell ($20,400,000) – No
Holcomb Br interchange at 400 ($48,000,000) – No
Peachtree Pkwy and PIB in John’s Creek ($46,000,000) – No
Pleasant Hill Widening in John’s Creek ($11,600,000) – No
Abbotts Br widening in John’s Creek ($28,000,000) – No
Buford Hwy Widening in Duluth ($14,000,000) – No
Duluth Hwy widening in Lawrenceville ($38,400,000) – No
Walther Blvd and 316 in Lawrenceville ($10,600,000) – No
316 at Hi Hope Rd in Lawrenceville ($61,900,000) – No
316 at US 29 in Lawrenceville ($51,000,000) – No
Sugarloaf Pkwy Alignment in Lawrenceville ($296,000,000) – No
316 at Harbins Rd in Lawrenceville ($23,000,000) – No
Dacula Rd in Dacula ($10,000,000) – No
Widening lake Acworth Dr in Acworth ($29,100,000) – No
Rucker Rd in Alpharetta ($19,000,000) – No
Houze Rd in Alpharetta ($18,600,000) – No
Widening Old Milton Pkwy in Alpharetta ($37,000,000) – No
Widening Kimball Br in Alpharetta ($21,000,000) – No
Improve Buford hwy Corridor in Suwanee ($5,500,000) – No
Gravel Springs and I85 Interchange ($33,300,000) – No
Bells Ferry and Little River Br in Canton ($7,000,000) – No
Widening Hickory Flat in Canton ($70,000,000) – No
Widening another part of Hickory Flat in Canton ($70,000,000) – No
Widening a third part of Hickory Flat ($50,000,000) – No
Widening Cumming Hwy in Cumming ($40,000,000) – No
Widening Buford Dr in Buford ($4,100,000) – No
Widening another part of Buford Hwy ($28,000,000) – No
Clayton County Local Bus ($100,000,000) – No
GRTA Express ($128,000,000) – No
Gwinnett County Bus Service ($40,000,000) – No
I-20 East Corridor ($225,000,000) – No
I-85 North Corridor ($95,000,000) – No
MARTA Electric Power Rehab ($354,400,000) – Yes
MARTA Elevators and Escalators ($118,700,000) – Yes
MARTA Passenger Info System ($30,500,000) – Yes
MARTA Track Rehab ($5,600,000) – Yes
MARTA Systems Upgrade ($4,440,000) – Yes
MARTA UTC Infrastructure ($27,200,000) – Yes
Perimeter ITS ($1,000,000) – Yes
Regional Mobility Project for elderly and Disabled ($17,000,000) – Yes
Dang. 147 projects. We can get into how I voted and why a little later. For now, digest these projects a little. Go to the site and see which projects you like and don’t like.
Educate yourself and little and then let’s chat about this.
As a reminder, the way I determined my vote was by asking: Would I want to spend one cent of every dollar I spend on (insert project)?
So my answers are totally subjective and some are self-serving, but I will explain all of that later. For now, just look it over and tell me your initial thoughts below.
p.s. If you want to follow my list on the map, I went from South to North starting in Griffin and Left (West) to Right (East).
p.p.s. Big thanks to the hard-working team at Untie Atlanta! This is a very cool and interesting map that should help us all make a more-informed decision.
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I’ve been doing a fair bit of research into the CRE tech world recently as I have been considering developing some of my own software.
What I’ve discovered is that commercial real estate software is a unique animal that has some unique needs and patterns. Just about everyone in our business knows what CoStar and ARGUS are, but few have heard of good software like Skire, Ten Eight, 42Floors, Catylist, etc. I would argue that those last 4 are much more elegant and intuitive software than the preceding two, but popularity remains with the incumbents.
So that got me to thinking:
What are the basic requirements to create great software in the commercial real estate game?
I came up with 5 and I’m going to call them “commandments” because they seem pretty straight forward and more-or-less universal.
1 – Thou Shalt Make It Easy
If your software requires a training class or takes more than a week to figure out (cough. . . ARGUS . . cough), it’s too complicated. Presumably, you are marketing this tech to multiple people across multiple generations with multiple levels of technological savvy. You need to have high functionality that caters to the lowest common denominator. Think iTunes. Just about everyone can figure out how to download and organize music on iTunes. Make your product that easy and your customer service department will thank you.
2 – Thou Shalt Make It Pretty
This plays into the first point. Part of making it easy to use is making it look good. I have read about numerous experiments in psychology mentioning how font, color, text size, and readability play a HUGE role in the effectiveness of an item or message. If it’s cluttered or non-intuitive, users will stop using it.
Important messages, items, or links should start in the top left and move right and down as they decrease in their importance to the user. (see “book, face”)
3 -Thous Shalt Make It Cost-Effective
Hopefully this doesn’t need much explanation. Brokers, owners, landlords, and lenders all have some funds set aside for technology and office supplies. The bigger chunk you take out of that budget, the more game-changing your software had better be. Spend time on pricing, split test it, then pivot. This is hugely important and you should take your time to get this right.
4 -Thou Shalt Market The Living Daylights Out of It
Our industry is famously (our notoriously) slow to adopt new technologies. Your steepest hill to climb is going to be convincing a historically technically-averse industry to buy new technology. No small feat. So make sure you build an appropriate marketing and advertising budget into your business plan. “It will sell it self because it’s so awesome” is ridiculous. Don’t be afraid to copy Google, Apple, Nike, Budweiser, or other major companies to get clever ideas for your marketing strategy. And squeeze every ounce of publicity you can out of social media to cater to the part of our industry that plays in that space.
5 – Thou Shalt Test the Market and Pivot
Don’t try to tell the market what it wants. Let it tell you. I know that seems outrageously simple, but I have heard too many war stories about companies building tech products and software, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then learning that no one wants their widget. Build a Minimum Viable Product, test it, gather feedback, and then adjust your model to incorporate what you hear. If 85 out of 100 testers say it needs to be bigger, make it flippin bigger. This isn’t rocket surgery. Listen to your customers and be flexible enough to change to meet their needs.
Those are my five and I feel pretty good about them. But I will be the first to admit that I’m new to the software startup game and could be wayyyyy off base.
If you think I am or have had another experience, let me know in the comments.
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Everyone seems to have an opinion, so I might as well throw my hat in the ring.
I think I like T-SPLOST overall, but I think it may be short-sighted. I think it’s apparent that we as a city have some transportation and traffic issues. What I question is whether or not this bill is the BET solution to some of those problems.
I was reviewing the major projects in TSPLOST in the business chronicle and I was struck by how many of them focused on suburban projects. I have no problem with the suburbs and I grew up there myself, but the opportunity cost of spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the suburbs seems enormous.
95 out of 100 Gen Y workers (straw poll) are moving into the city limits (ITP). That’s millions of young people moving in-town as the future leaders and innovators in our city. That influx of people who live, drive, and work in-town is putting a huge strain on our aging transport and infrastructure.
Since Atlanta is a city built around the car, it’s imperative that we pay attention and create solid programs to address people moving into the city. If millions of people move into Rome or London or Paris, no big deal. The sidewalks are a little more crowded and RE prices rise to meet demand. But those cities were built around pedestrian traffic and you won’t see the same kind of gridlock that we deal with daily. In Atlanta, just about every person moving into the city is doing so with a car. So WE HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO COMMUTES.
For decades, Atlanta has been the poster child for urban sprawl and white-flight into the suburbs. Now that this trend is finally reversing and our best and brightest are moving back in town, why are we spending hundreds of millions of tax payers dollars on improving suburban transportation? Or, more to the point, why are we using money that we could use in-town on projects that make suburban living easier?
Again, I have no problem with the suburbs and I’m from Gwinnett County. I understand that we need to maintain our transportation system. If it’s about to collapse, let’s fix it. But I would certainly rather spend $100 Million on improving our pathetic MARTA system (paint job, anyone?) than broadening some suburban freeway to six lanes. Those suburban projects are not bad projects or bad ideas, but there is only so much money to go around and every dime you spend in the suburbs is a dime you could be spending in town.
Maybe the simplest way I could put it is:
Why are we spending so much money on our past (sprawl) at the expense of our future (in-town transit)?
And let me be clear on something. I am certainly not advocating that we abandon all transportation and infrastructure projects in the suburbs. The reason cities and counties have large budgets in maintenance is to keep the roadways safe and infrastructure current. If they can’t, then they need to find a way to reallocate the funds or people just need to move somewhere else. I just get bothered by the idea of Atlanta tax payers paying for Alpharetta roads. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think Alpharetta residents should pay for Alpharetta roads.
Much like people, bills are neither completely good or completely evil. There are good parts and bad parts. I LOVE the Beltline project and think it’s a great long-term investment for our city, but there are at least a half-dozen projects on this bill that I see as superfluous and costly to in-town residents.
So, the crux of the matter is that you have to convince me that the benefit of projects like the Beltline outweigh the superfluous spending on suburban projects. Show me why the good outweighs the bad in this particular version of the TSPLOST bill.
I am open to being convinced . . .
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Alright, so we are creeping up on 150 posts for the site, we have multiple authors, and have integrated social media. Time for some housekeeping.
Item 1 – New “Sustainability” Page
The APJ has found a rising star in the sustainability arena here in Atlanta and we are pleased to announce the creation of a partnership on the APJ Sustainability Page. It will replace the “Listings” page (that is taking longer than expected to program but may return in the future). We will discuss everything from solar power to smart grid technology to waste management to new urbanism and beyond. If you have any suggested topics or areas of interest, mention them in the comments below and we will get on it.
Item 2 – Series
As we accumulate articles and posts on multiple topics, it makes sense to organize a few series that may interest the new reader. So, we will be creating a “Series” page that will be a constantly-updated page to display the latest posts on Careers in CRE, the Millenial Manifesto, CRE Websites, The Clean Slate project, and all of our other topics. If we miss one that interests you, let us know. Or if you have any suggestions for article topics, don’t be shy!
Item 3 – Don’t Know Much About History
It’s tough to know where Atlanta is going without knowing where Atlanta has been. We are about to start working on a recurring series on the history of Atlanta. We want to include everything from the Native Americans living around Peachtree Creek to Governor Lumpkin and Marthasville to the Terminus of the Western & Atlantic RR to integration to MLK to the Olympics to today. This town has some cool stories to tell and I think they are meaningful to all of its residents, particularly those who plan to shape its future. The structure and frequency of these articles are still up for debate, but I’m very excited about this and I think it should be fun.
Item 4 – Programmer Help
We have been looking for programmers or coders for the last few months to help us develop our Photo Gallery and Lunch Generator applications on the site. While we have found several qualified young men and women, we have yet to find a long-term partner to do either. We are going to keep scouring the interwebs and awkwardly approaching people at WordPress Meetups, but if any of the readers of this post have suggestions we would LOVE to know about it. A qualified lead is worth $50 to Buckhead Life for the first comer that gets us in front of a winner. Think about it . . .
Item 5 – Authors
We are looking for a rising star n the hotel industry and, really, anyone who enjoys writing about CRE in Atlanta. We pay for our posts and, while you’ll never get rich, you will have a lot of fun and will probably enjoy the bright young men and women who are already contributing to this site. If you are interested, email me at Duke@AtlantaPropertyJournal.com and we can chat about it.
Well that’s enough housekeeping for now. Going forward, feel free to reach out to me or anyone at the site and give us feedback on what you like, dislike, and just plain hate. We are here to provide interesting content for free to all the professionals in the commercial property industry in Atlanta. Anything we can do to make your life a little easier or more interesting, drop us a line and we will try to figure it out.
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This article may come a little late to the game as Georgia has seen 100 banks (see: hyperbole) fail over the past few years and their borrowers have been left flapping in the breeze. But I wanted to put together a little to-do list for everyone who finds themselves in a situation where your bank has failed and you find your mortgage in the hands of someone else.
This will be a two part series. Part I will be how to deal with the FDIC. Part II will be about how to deal with the firm that buys your mortgage from the FDIC.
So let’s talk about the steps you should take when your bank fails and its assets are seized by the FDIC.
(By the way, I will be assuming for this series that you are an ethical and honest borrower who wants to pay back her debts. If that is not you, call your attorney. You are about the be sued.)
Step 1 – Perform
The old adage about the squeaky wheel getting the oil is true in your favor here. Pay your mortgage payments every month and no one will bother you. Chances are the FDIC is dealing with hundreds or even thousands of commercial mortgages from this failed bank along with all the other non-CRE assets it seized. Many of them have huge problems and loud borrowers. Let the FDIC deal with them and stay out of their way. You don’t want to tangle with the US government (for several reasons). Keep paying your debt and then follow these steps . . .
Step 2 – Organize
Sooner or later you’re going to have to come to a resolution on this loan. You need to have your paperwork in order. Start gathering your info now and get organized so that you’re ready when the times comes. At the very least, you should get:
- Personal Financial Statements for all guarantors (This shows your net worth and liquidity to satisfy the personal guaranty you signed)
- 3 Years of tax returns for all guarantors (More info for the personal guarantees)
- Property Rent Roll (How is the property performing?)
- Copies of all leases (When do your tenants roll?)
- Appraisal, Phase I Environmental report, or something showing info on the property (this is a good way to have basic photos and general info on the property even if it’s outdated)
Keep all of these documents stored electronically where you can access them quickly. That way when anyone asks for this info you can quickly email them everything they need.
Step 3 – Know Your Servicer
When the FDIC takes your mortgage, they will not have the capacity to handle all of the servicing responsibilities associated with it. Someone has to handle and process all payments. Someone has to handle all the monthly notices and paperwork associated with keeping your loan current. Someone has to track the performance of your loan. The FDIC can’t do any of that. They outsource it.
As far as I can tell, they use Situs, Midland, and KeyBank. All 3 are huge servicing platforms and all three have their pros and cons (I have worked with all of them). They will be your main point of contact on your loan moving forward so don’t go poking around the FDIC website looking for someone to call. Trust me . . . you wouldn’t want to talk to them anyway.
Step 4 – Crouching Tiger
Now that you are organized and know who you are dealing with you have one of two options. If your loan is maturing this year, be proactive. If not, just chill and keep paying. In Part II I will explain why you want to be proactive no matter when you maturity occurs after your loan is purchased by a third party from the FDIC. As long as your loan stays with the FDIC, I only suggest being proactive if you borrowed money that matures this year. You are about to become a non-performing loan and therefore a “squeaky wheel.” Your non-performance is your inability to refinance your loan upon the loan’s maturity. It’s known as “maturity default” and it is a technical default. You can be sued over it and your creditor will probably win in GA (FL is another matter for another day).
So, if you’re staring a maturity default in the face, do this:
- Get a Broker Opinion of Value (BOV) – Have a broker tell you what she thinks the property would sell for on the market
- Get a term sheet from a refinancing bank – Have a lender give you, in writing, the terms of a proposed loan to refinance the loan
- Call friends and family – Find out who has some cash to lend if you’re in a pinch
If you do all three of those, you have three good data points for possible resolutions of your maturing loan. You know what you’d get in a short sale from your BOV. You know what discount you’d need in order to refinance. And you know how much you could pay to a deficiency or to structure a deal with your money from friends and family.
I will get more into your possible solutions for a defaulted mortgage in Part II. For now, let me review the steps:
Step 1 – Perform. Pay your debt and fly under the radar.
Step 2 – Organize. Have all your paperwork in order for when push comes to shove.
Step 3 – Know Your Servicer. You can’t be a winner in this game unless you know all the players.
Step 4 – Crouching Tiger. Wait and be ready for your maturity.
Do all of that and you will have very few problems with the transition from your community bank to the FDIC. I can’t promise it will be pain free because you’re dealing with the same people who run the DMV and Post Office, but those steps will make it a smooth as possible.
Good luck and check back for Part II!