Alpharetta predicts ‘new normal’ could bring long-term changes for city income

Alpharetta is considering changes to North and South Broads Streets. CITY OF ALPHARETTA
Alpharetta is considering changes to North and South Broads Streets. CITY OF ALPHARETTA

Alpharetta city officials anticipate a new trend when the coronavirus pandemic finally ends. This new normal — a substantial number of corporate employees working remotely – could reduce the city’s revenue.

That could decrease the amount of commercial office space that Alpharetta-based employers need to lease, said Matthew Thomas, Economic Development manager for the city.

“Companies are realizing now how nimble and flexible their workers can be in working from home,” said Thomas, during a Monday videoconference workshop with Alpharetta City Council. “That could potentially lead to companies executing smaller leases in the future.”

Thomas said he is regularly in contact with a variety of businesses in Alpharetta to get a feel for how they are coping with the public health emergency. Alpharetta issued a state of emergency in March to help stem the coronavirus outbreak. Gov. Brian Kemp ordered a statewide shelter-in-place last Thursday.

Carla DiGiovanni, a change management consultant and trainer in Atlanta, said that in this new era of working from home, managers could be seeing an unexpected level of productivity. “The scale of working remotely during this pandemic isn’t nearly what it was in the past,” she said. “Before, an employee might save certain work to complete at home without distractions. Now, they likely have more in-depth work to get done that affects other departments."

Alpharetta has 25 million square feet of office space. Before the public health crisis, the city doubled its population during a typical work day. Businesses have been paying 62 percent of the city’s property taxes.

“Alpharetta has become a boom town over the last six to eight years, primarily on the back of the redevelopment of our mixed-use commercial real estate and the hospitality to support that,” said Mayor Jim Gilvin. “This is a gut punch. This virus and everything that’s going on — it’s completely changing the field of how businesses large and small are going to adapt to that.”

Before the coronavirus hit metro Atlanta, RKG Associates consulting firm was working on a new economic development plan to build on Alpharetta’s success.

“We’re going to need a strategic plan even more than we thought six months ago, for sure,” said Gilvin.