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How North Georgia Premium Outlets plans to tackle blight, other concerns
North Georgia Premium Outlets

With complaints mounting about the retail center’s appearance, cleanliness and safety, officials with North Georgia Premium Outlets have proposed plans to address these issues. 

That’s what Area General Manager Randall Jackson told the Dawson County Marshal’s Office during an Oct. 3 meeting, according to notes obtained through an open records act request. 

This story continues below.

North Georgia Premium Outlets is privately owned by Simon Property Group. This company, which acquired the premium outlets’ original owner, Chelsea, in 2004, owns several other retail sites in the state, along with over 200 across the country. 

Concerns about the premium outlets go back at least two years, with a Sept. 8, 2020 letter from then-Chief Marshal Jameson Kinley to then-premium outlets area manager, Johnathan Andrews serving as a starting point. 

Kinley sent the letter to Andrews as part of a mass mailout to numerous businesses reminding them of Dawson County’s maintenance requirements listed in section 121-99 of the local land use ordinance, Kinley stated. 

Kinley also said he’d received “multiple complaints” about the premium outlets.

“The purpose of this letter is to serve as a warning. Our goal is to simply bring this property into compliance with commercial business maintenance requirements. We look forward to seeing progress soon or a response within 30 days summarizing a timeline for compliance,” his letter concluded. 


Code issues

Angela Byers with the marshal’s office sent Andrews a follow-up email dated Sept. 18, 2020, detailing the premium outlet mall’s specific code violations.

Byers, a marshal at the time, now leads the office. 

The violations included the following: 

  • Trash in the grass and pallets stacked behind businesses

  • Overgrown grass, untrimmed bushes, unpruned trees, existing plant/tree beds without mulch and dead plants in need of replacement 

  • Barely visible parking stripes or spaces on the premium outlets’ front and back sides

  • A closed road (North Georgia Avenue, the road by Dunkin Donuts) with blocked access at the edge of the parking lot due to a large pothole; the road warranted repair and subsequent re-opening


Andrews replied in a Sept. 19 email, explaining that the various landscaping observations were being addressed on a daily and weekly basis via the onsite team and landscaping contract. 

Premium outlets management was “currently awaiting a formal bid” from a contractor in order for the pothole to be fixed

“It is taking a lot longer to get quotes since COVID [19 started],” Andrews stated.

There were also plans at that time to submit a bid for the parking lot striping. 

“Redoing the parking lot is a capital project because of the high cost,” Andrews added in an additional reply. “This has to be submitted to executives for approval.”

Fast forward to Sept. 15, 2022, when Byers reached out to premium outlet mall management to follow up on talks that had taken place in 2020 and 2021. 

On Sept. 23, DCN contacted the marshal’s office in regards to an anonymous tip received about bodily fluids on the surfaces of the premium outlets’ women’s restrooms. 

At that time, the marshal’s office said unclean bathrooms wouldn’t be an ordinance violation but also mentioned the upcoming meeting with the premium outlet mall’s new general manager. 

In her notes from the Oct. 3 meeting, Byers mentioned that most leadership had changed for the property.

“With that alignment, as well as him (Jackson) stepping into the GM role, they were very sensitive to the neglected appearance of the property and the need to elevate the look and feel of the outlet mall,” Byers stated. 


Proposed fixes

During the Oct. 3 meeting, Jackson told Byers that a number of premium outlets projects were either in the works, “have gotten preliminary approval or are slated for approval by Q1 2023.” 

They discussed updates on attempts to repair the pot hole near Dunkin.

“They believe a lot of the issue with this currently is the large trucks parking near the hotel,” Byers stated. “He did note they have repaired this in house twice this year already, but it keeps failing due to the weight of that equipment.”

Byers then pointed out that the pothole fixes thus far only constituted a patch, and that it “hasn’t been holding up for the past three years, which is longer than when those trucks started parking there.” 

Jackson then mentioned a larger-scale project to permanently repair the pothole, explaining that that initiative is currently being reviewed for approval.

There is also an ongoing premium outlets project to seal and restripe portions of the parking lot. They plan to have the front side closest to Wild Wing’s Cafe done before an upcoming food truck event, Jackson told Byers. (DCN will link to that story once it is posted online).

There are also plans to restripe parking spaces near Nike and Under Armour by about Thanksgiving, with a phased project to update the outlet’s entire lot in the next few years. 

Plans likewise include replacing the 1000 block building’s entire roof, with a similar phased project to replace all section roofs. 

Jackson additionally mentioned plans for installing a new playground area, with a projected install during Q1 of 2023. 

Premium outlets landscaping has also been revamped in front of the 900-1000 block, from Auntie Anne’s to Polo Ralph Lauren. Jackson called the approach a “test design” that he and his colleagues will finalize before transposing to other exterior corridors. 

Crews have also been working to get bark for the landscaping beds, trim trees and crape myrtles that line the mall curb lines and remove some large trees near an outlet entrance. 

Jackson and Byers also discussed the general amount of landscaping installed by the premium outlets’ original owner, Chelsea, and what Byers noted as “extensive” upkeep required with the outside arrangements.  

Premium outlets officials have also purchased new strollers for the stroller vendor units, replaced the partitions in restrooms near the food court  and replaced speakers in the property’s overhead music system to ensure sitewide audio coverage, Jackson added. 


Restrooms

Byers brought up the restrooms complaint to Jackson during the Oct. 3 meeting, reiterating that it wasn’t a code issue, but she “was curious.” 

“He explained that with the labor shortage issues brought on by the pandemic, they have had issue[s] with housekeeping staff,” Byers stated. 

During the crunch with housekeeping staff, Jackson told the marshal that in-house maintenance team members worked additional hours, “some on 12+ hour shifts to ensure the property maintained a level of cleanliness.” 

To address the concerns, the premium outlets brought back a housekeeping manager who’d previously worked for them and had been promoted to a regional role which was eliminated during the pandemic.

“He was very excited to have her back on their team and said she has already filled a number of positions and is getting them back on track,” Byers stated. 

When contacted, Jackson said he had no comment to add regarding the Oct. 3 meeting. 

“In closing, I shared my excitement over the progress I had observed (trimmed bushes, trees, etc.) and over the plans ahead,” Byers added. “I did share that we would continue to watch and that I would be back to visit and discuss progress after Thanksgiving.” 

DCN will provide updates when more information becomes available.


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