One of the first things I contributed to the startup of the New City of Dunwoody was to write a mission, vision and values statement. These are the guideposts that any successful operation uses to develop a roadmap to the future. Lewis Carroll, author of “Alice Adventure in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” once said: If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there.
Important among things included in our mission statement are “providing the highest quality of life and fostering an environment where business can prosper. Transparency is the most used word in all of our mission, vsion and values statements. Chief among our vision statement is that Dunwoody will …support and nurture a community dedicated to the preservation of family, education, religious institutions, and the environment.
The cornerstone of our business district (Perimeter Center) is the Perimeter Mall. It is one of the largest malls in the Southeast and boasts some of the biggest names in retail. This is one of our strengths – however, it can very quickly become a weakness. No other part of our lives is changing more than the way we shop. You only have to look on our streets and see the number of UPS trucks, FedEx or U.S. Postal trucks to understand what is happening—People are doing their shopping on-line. In a recent visit to the mall, I observed that one entire corridor on the second level was boarded up and the J Crew store had closed.
This trend is playing havoc on the entire retail marketplace; from department stores to pharmacies; from grocery stores to bookstores; consumer electronics to specialty retail. The world is changing before our eyes. With these changes stores are closing at record rates. This past year 4,000 brand name stores closed. Just this past week Payless announced it was closing all 2,500 of its stores. Macy’s, JC Penny, Kohl’s and Nordstrom announced this week that they were closing more than a dozen stores. Specialty stores such as The Gap, Old Navy and Victoria Secret announced closings. Recently Sports Authority closed its Perimeter store and Sprouts recently closed the Mt. Vernon 34,000 square foot anchor store.
We have a growing number of hotels in Dunwoody, and in a recent report by the Executive Director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Dunwoody, Katie Williams indicated that a major reason for visiting Dunwoody (especially on the weekends) was to shop. It is the only reason we can claim Dunwoody as a destination. In other words, having a vital retail market in our city is important. It is important for our community to support our local retailers, or else we could find ourselves getting higher tax bills in the future. At a minimum we must plan for store closings at Perimeter Mall, as have occurred at the Gwinnett Place and North Point Malls.
Over the years I have proposed a number of initiatives that could bring tourists to our community including moving the Georgia Music Hall of Fame from Macon to our city and providing a more vibrant culture component to our city by the restoration of the Brook Run Theatre. Both of these initiatives failed. The Hall of Fame artifacts were placed in a warehouse and the Brook Run Theatre was demolished. If our community is to grow and compete with our neighboring communities, we cannot let these kinds of opportunities pass. One of the components that our city is missing today is vision.
Overall our city at age 10 has met our expectations, but not exceeded them. Sandy Springs has taken a leap forward – you only have to look at the Springs Center to see the vision that their leaders have realized. It is not too late for us. Dunwoody is a great place to live— a great place to raise our family; however, we must look at our vision statement from time to time and evaluate if we are actually realizing that vision. We have not built when the opportunity presented itself and we have torn down far too many of our valuable assets without visualizing how they can be repurposed or answering the questions “why?” and “what’s the rush?” We have not taken advantage of opportunities to expand our parkland (the park bond referendum of 2011 when land was available) and now find ourselves having to shoehorn needed facilities into our existing parks that were meant to be passive. We find ourselves having to encroach on our streams and natural resources, and potentially ignore covenants in our deeds. We call our city a Tree City then cut massive numbers of trees.
To date, I give us a B. What do you think?