By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Business incubator plans revived
Former Michaelangelo's/Mann home to house incubator

The idea of a building hub that will cultivate startup businesses was discussed in a little more detail at the City Council's annual Winter Retreat at Lake Lanier Friday afternoon.

This new business incubator will be a located at the former Michelangelo restaurant building in Olde Town Conyers, and it could utilize the building's 1,200-square-feet fully functioning kitchen and 2,000 sq. ft. bar to assist in those types of businesses, says David Spann, chief operating officer for the City of Conyers.

The project model the City discussed would be private/public partnership with Harris Tessler, an investment and real estate broker who leased the former Michelangelo building from the Conyers Downtown Development Authority, who will handle the cost of renovations and management of the facility.

"This model business incubator will be on a smaller level," said Spann. "Only thing he needs or wants is a public/ private partnership on the project."

Spann says that by entering into a partnership, it will allow Tessler to receive federal grant money that can be used in the makeover of the building. Total cost for interior and exterior improvements, including painting, carpets, electrical, window and others, to the building would be about $180,000.

Although, it wasn't exactly clear what the city would have to do establish itself as a partner in this project. Spann says the fact that the property is owned by the DDA may be enough of a partnership, but he also stressed that the city would bear no financial responsibility in the project.

The idea of creating a business incubator for the city was first discussed five years ago after Acuity Brands Lighting donated a building with more than 50,000 square feet of office and warehouse space to the city. After two years of due diligence, the city determined that the building was too big to house a business incubator and be too much of a financial burden on the city.

The current site being considered for the project features is about 1.2 acres with 8,400 sq. ft. of space combined on the lower and upper levels.

It'll feature a lounge area, conference rooms, a kitchen, bar and another workstation area for individuals who need to work on their computers on the first floor.

The workstation area is a major key in the project as most millennials, people under the age of 45, don't need, or want, an office when starting a business, says Spann.

"Most millennials simply need a workstation," he said. "That's why you see so many sitting down at Starbucks on their computer."

The second floor would have private offices for anyone who feels they need it or could utilize it well, says Spann. Conyers Main Street Program Director Brittany Evans would move from her current area in the Conyers Welcome Center and historic depot at 901 Railroad Street into one of these offices.

"What's better for the (main street program director) than having a bunch of young people downstairs with business ideas," said Spann.

In other city business, the city officials discussed rezoning the West Avenue area from a mixed used developmental zone to a gateway village-neighborhood village district. This change would make legal non-conforming businesses in the area conformed.

Conyers Public Information Officer Jennifer Edwards requested the board consider hiring a new tourism manager.

The winter retreat was held at Legacy Lodge Conference Center, Lake Lanier Islands Resort, 7000 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford. The public meeting lasted from 12:30 to 6 p.m. in Conference Room 3.

The retreat continued Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again all-day Sunday in executive session to discuss personnel, potential litigation and real estate issues.