A conversation with Town Center CID Executive Director Tracy Styf

Town Center area mapTown Center area map from Open Maps screenshot

The Town Center Community Improvement District (TCCID) board recently chose officers for its Board of Directors and added new board members to replace those outgoing.

We spoke with Tracy Styf, the TCCID director and the board’s ex-officio secretary, about the role of the TCCID and its current projects.

The Courier asked Styf to explain what CIDs are, and what they do.

“CIDs are Community Improvement Districts, and they were created 35 years ago by Roy Barnes, Johnny Isakson and John Williams, to provide an incentive to improve and retain property values in commercial areas,” she said.

“Cumberland was the first, Town Center was the second, and now I believe there are 30 CIDs throughout Metro Atlanta, as well as CIDs being developed in other parts of the state … in Savannah and Columbus,” she said. “And really, it’s a model for commercial property owners to make an additional investment on top of their property taxes to improve the community.”

Styf said the CIDs are primarily concerned with infrastructure projects like roads, but as CIDs developed over a 35-year period, the scope of their work also evolved.

“That has led into trails and parks and safety, signage and lighting and things that help create a sense of place and help people get to and from where they need to go more efficiently,” Styf said, “but also provide places where people truly want to be.”

Styf outlined some of the quality-of-life projects the TCCID has been involved with since its creation.

“We’ve had a lot of projects in our 26-year history and the majority of those have been around infrastructure,” she said. “But I think one of the things that’s unique for Town Center is that we have had this quality of life component to the work that we do since our inception,” she said, “because the Noonday Creek flows through Town Center.”

“We had the ability to create a trail that went east to west from Bells Ferry Road and connected to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park,” Styf said. “And so that seven-mile trail opened in 2012.”

“But what it does, is it connects to a broader trail network throughout Cobb County and our region and now Cobb County is working with Cherokee County to connect the trail north to the city of Woodstock,” she said.

She said the project began 26 years ago, and provides an amenity for both the businesses and the community.

“But it really spurred a broader effort to make sure our communities stay connected in a meaningful way,” Styf said.

The Courier asked her to talk a little about the South Barrett Reliever project.

“That’s the last phase of our three-phase project that began (goodness), two decades ago,” she said.

“And so now it is in completion for Phase Three, where everybody’s probably driving past I-75 and seeing the Home Depot for the first time from the interstate as we’ve cleared the roadway there to where the South Barrett Reliever Three will have a 450-foot bridge across I-75 and the managed lanes,”

“It will connect from a new roundabout behind the Costco on the west side of the district to the new roundabout there at the Home Depot,” Styf said. “What it will do is create an inner loop through the heart of Town Center, taking 22 percent of traffic off Barrett Parkway, but also providing access still to all of the businesses and amenities along Barrett.”

“So you’ll be able to go from the east side of Town Center all the way to (Highway) 41 with access to all of the different restaurants and businesses on Barrett Parkway without having to sit in that traffic,” she said.

Styf then spoke about Aviation Park.

“That started out as an idea of putting restrooms and some parking along the trail, and we had just completed a project with Cobb County and the airport to construct a new control tower at McCollum,” she said. “And we sat with our team at CDOT (the Cobb County Department of Transportation).”

“We started talking about what we could do to make it more than just restrooms,” she said. “And so we had the idea to design them to mirror the control tower and then to create a STEM playground.”

“Then we partnered with the KSU Museum and Rare Archives Department to curate an exhibit about the history of aviation in Cobb County as well as the mechanics of flight and the history of aviation across our country,” Styf said. “So the last phase is being installed this month.”

“And we will be celebrating the completion of the educational component in addition to the park component later this month with Commissioner (JoAnn) Birrell, and I’m excited about that.”

The Courier asked Styf to describe the TCCID’s companion organization, the Town Center Community Alliance.

“They’re they are a nonprofit,” she said. “They are a 501(C)(3) that works alongside Town Center CID to accomplish our goals.”

“They are a tool in the toolbox for the work that we do in Town Center,” she said. “And so what the alliance is able to do is a couple of things.”

“One, they can seek philanthropic dollars that the CID isn’t able to do, so we have memberships and sponsorships that organize events like our yoga in the park series,” said Styf. “That is starting this weekend.”

“And also the Noonday Creek 5 and 10 K, which is every March starting and ending at Town Center Mall,” she said. “That’s a Peachtree Road Race qualifier race and it brings people from all over the region to do the run.

“And so it’s an opportunity for us to do more with the mission and priorities of Town Center in a way that engages a broader community,” she said.

Styf talked about the recent TCCID board elections.

“Our board members serve three-year terms,” she said. “We had an election last month, where we have four seats up for reelection.”

“And so two of our board members, Steven Cadranel and Darin Mitchell, returned for another three-year term,” she said.

Kelly Keappler and Marie Moore are the two departing board members.

The two new appointees to the board are Kim Bondurant, the specialty leasing manager at Town Center at Cobb Mall, and Russ Owens, a vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for Vanderlande Industries North America. Bondurant and Owens will serve three-year terms.

Jo Ann Chitty, the chief operating officer (COO) at Selig Enterprises was elected chair, and Dan Buyers, a partner in the commercial real estate firm McWhirter Realty Partners, was elected vice-chair.

The Courier asked whether Styf had any final words for the interview.

“I think the Town Center community is a place where you can get an education you can spend a day with your loved ones watching the planes land at Aviation Park,” she said. “Or you can have dinner and go to a KSU football game in the fall.”

“And for us it is it’s more than that,” Styf said. “It is a place where Cobb County goes for economic development as a thriving district. We are looking forward to what the next 26 years are for the community.”