More than a year after a massive leadership transition lowered its public profile, the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts is emerging to launch a new master planning process that may be called “Perimeter: The Next Generation.”

New Executive Director Ann Hanlon is essentially rebuilding the self-taxing business districts’ organization after longtime leader Yvonne Williams’ surprise resignation for personal reasons in September 2016 left it in turmoil. Hanlon has overseen a nearly clean sweep of the staff — former key members resigned or were laid off — and says the PCIDs need a sharper focus on transportation projects, better intergovernmental relations, and that coordinated master plan, which will be conducted with general public input.

Executive Director Ann Hanlon stands at a large model of Perimeter Center in the PCIDs office. (John Ruch)

“I’m personally committed to make sure the entire community is on board with what we’re doing,” Hanlon said in a recent interview at the PCIDs office in Sandy Springs’ Northpark complex. “I live in Dunwoody and my neighbors are going to fuss at me if I don’t.”

The PCIDs are two separate but jointly operated districts in Perimeter Center, one on the DeKalb County side and one on the Fulton County side, whose members voluntarily pay extra taxes to fund local improvements. The PCIDs funds some infrastructure projects — including a $10 million contribution to the state’s I-285/Ga. 400 interchange reconstruction — and also such programs as Perimeter Connects, which advises employees about alternative commuting options.

Most of those existing programs and planning efforts will continue, Hanlon said, though “we’re going to try to do a better job of explaining what we do.” With revenue of around $7.7 million a year, she added, the PCIDs need a master plan to organize and expand those efforts.

“We’re going to begin a master plan process, hopefully in the first quarter of next year,” said Hanlon, who had a similar plan in her previous job running the Alpharetta-based North Fulton Community Improvement District. “Generally, [with] $7.7 million a year, we need to have an academic, thoughtful plan for how to spend it.”

That may include such small, unglamorous projects as filling in gaps in local sidewalks. But it can include “very large things,” Hanlon said, and a “very compelling” one she has in mind is improving the looks and accessibility of Perimeter Center’s three MARTA stations. Earlier on the day of the interview, she had walked the property beneath the Dunwoody MARTA Station tracks where PCIDs has a long-stalled concept of creating a new park.

“I’m coming from [North] Fulton, where we were trying to get transit for years,” Hanlon said, adding that in Perimeter Center “we’ve got [those] crown jewels of the commercial real estate market in our district.”

PCIDs also need to adapt to a “new day” in transportation planning, Hanlon said, with local cities launching new projects and new technology, such as self-driving vehicles, coming along. She said the PCIDs have not been involved in recent cross-city talks about I-285 transit and that it is unclear what role the organization might play, she said, but “we’d champion it.”

Perimeter Center directly includes two counties and three cities — Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs — and its projects often coordinate with governments farther afield. Hanlon has hired a dedicated government relations director, Linda Johnson, who previously served as a liaison to Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker and Fulton Commissioner Liz Hausmann. Johnson says she’s well aware that Perimeter Center is the “center for gravity” for the economy of several jurisdictions.

One relationship to immediately improve is with Sandy Springs, which is suing the PCIDs over the previous staffs’ paperwork errors on a streetscape project which forced a payback of $2.8 million in federal funds. “That was my first phone call … It’s important that we get that figured out,” said Hanlon, adding that the PCIDs is reviewing the files on all of its federally funded projects.

As a local resident, Hanlon is also aware that local cities are more than Perimeter Center. She calls Dunwoody “the tale of two cities,” with her single-family residential area distinct from Perimeter Center’s mall and office towers.

Within Perimeter Center, another goal is to expand the PCIDs’ membership. The North Fulton CID expanded by 40 percent under Hanlon’s leadership, she said, adding that organizations “should always be in growth mode.”

One thing that won’t change is the focus on transportation. “Our strength here is …in building transformational infrastructure projects,” Hanlon said. “That is the lane I see us staying in … It’s what we do.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.