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Moments Moments Season 1

Bob Voyles’ Moment was hearing Atlanta’s traffic would prevent his daughter’s return

By Chris Schroder

Bob Voyles has spent much of his career developing signature buildings that grace Atlanta’s prime intersections and highways, so “it was like a fire bell going off in my head” when his daughter Virginia revealed she wasn’t moving back to her hometown because of Atlanta’s growing congestion.

“This was a huge surprise to me, because I love Atlanta and worked here nearly 40 years and my family is from here and always expected my children to want to embrace the city that I loved,” Bob recalled in our accompanying video.

The two were having dinner 10 years ago while Virginia was a freshman at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where she had earned a Morehead scholarship. Excited to think she might bring her talents back to the city he was helping shape, Bob asked her about her plans following graduation.

”She said she felt the city getting too large, too crowded, too congested and she didn’t think it was a good place to at least raise her family,” Bob recalled. “I’ve spent 30 years in the commercial real estate industry developing large office projects, land developments, and tried to do good things for the community and I’ve been involved in a number of different governmental quasi-governmental organizations that work on transportation and other issues. But that night, sitting at that restaurant, made me realize if my kids didn’t want to come back to Atlanta, I really need to redouble my efforts with regard to trying to help solve some of these problems.”

Though his family’s roots are in Georgia, Bob grew up in Southern California, returning east to attend the University of Virginia, earning a law degree at Emory and a master of laws degree in land development planning at George Washington – all the while serving as an Air Force officer on the legal staff of the Secretary of the Air Force. Impressed by his drive and his educational résumé, the law firm of Jones Bird & Howell, later Alston & Bird, hired Bob to strengthen its environmental and commercial real estate practice groups. He eventually became partner in the firm that jockeys with King & Spalding for top billing in the city.

Bob left Alston & Bird in 1988 to join Hines Interests, which was then establishing itself as one of the prominent developers in the country, where he became the project manager for Ravinia. When Chip Davidson and Fred Henritze left Hines’ Atlanta office to open their own investment firm, The Brookdale Group, in 1994, Hines turned to Bob and asked if he would head its growing development interests in Atlanta and other cities in the Southeast. Bob agreed and for 10 years led Hines’ efforts, developing signature developments that help define the metro area, including:

Deerfield, a large office and mixed-used community in Alpharetta
Perimeter Summit, a 1.5-million square foot office complex near Perimeter Mall
Overton Park, a planned 2-million sf office project near Cumberland
1180 Peachtree, a 41-story tower at 14th & Peachtree home to King & Spalding

While he immersed himself in the complex details of law, zoning and finance, Bob spent much of his free time building a sense of place for his wife and their four children. In 1985, he found a large tract of wooded property in Vinings in the hills above the Chattahoochee River and carved out a residential neighborhood for his family and a group of friends. Along a creek behind his house and at their Lake Rabun house, Bob pursued his love of gardening, nurturing legions of hydrangeas to enrich his family’s wooded refuge amidst the exploding Atlanta market.

In 2004, Bob sensed his position at Hines was becoming too institutional and he longed to get his hands back into the details of development. He left to start his own firm, Seven Oaks Company, LLC, drawing up plans to expand communities at Deerfield and Riverwood, before the 2008 Great Recession put some plans on hold. Today Seven Oaks manages Perimeter Summit, advises a number or high net worth families and institutional investors on land holdings around the metro area, and is working with Legacy Property Group to develop a “Times Square South” mixed-use tower near the Georgia Aquarium downtown.

Bob has devoted much of his time to serving regional issues, being a founder and six-year chairman of the Perimeter Community Improvement District as well as chairing a land development committee and being on the board of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. He is a board member of the Livable Communities Coalition, the CID Coalition and the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Stadium Authority.

“When the Regional Transportation Referendum was passed by the state legislature – this 1 percent sales tax that is going to be voted on July 31 – they needed to raise $2 million from non-profit entities to support the program and I agreed to chair that effort. We were ultimately successful in raising that money among the CIDs and Michael Paris and I are leading the voter education portion of that initiative (MAVEN),” Bob said.

“And that is one small way that I can give back to this community and help address some of those concerns that my daughter first expressed to me 10 years ago.”

Meanwhile, Bob’s love of Atlanta and his family eventually prevailed upon his Virginia, who did settle back in Atlanta with her husband – and two years ago, their own baby daughter – giving Bob yet another generation to convince that Atlanta’s best days are ahead of her.

Disclosure: Chris Schroder is a cousin of Bob’s wife, Belle, and his agency occasionally represents Seven Oaks in media relations matters.

Next week in Moments: Tom Key, legendary actor and producer, about the time he almost left Atlanta for New York City.

Video by Reid Childers of Schroder PR.

Don’t miss previous 2013 Moments: Jay Smith, Jennifer Johnson, David Geller, Cynthia Jones Parks, Lee Katz, Keegan Federal, Brandi Helvey, Alwyn Fredericks, George McKerrow, Wright Mitchell, Shawn Wilson, Bill Bolling, Tracey Jackson, Fran Tarkenton, Drey Mingo, Andy Cash, Fred Northup, Wendy Binns, Ann Curry, Bill Clarkson, Alicia Philipp, Dennis Creech, Meredith Leapley, Raymond King, Jerry Farber, Larry Gellerstedt, Sally Bethea, Ken Thrasher, Herb Nelson.
Don’t miss previous Moments from 2012: Solon Patterson, Charles Ackerman, Santa Claus, Mark McDonald, Frank Skinner, Tom Murphy, Matt Arnett, Kasim Reed, Alana Shepherd, Charles Driebe, Hank Aaron, Kevin Rathbun, Larrie Del Martin, Mike Luckovich, Dan Matthews, Arthur Blank, Doug Hertz, Thomas Dimitroff, Jenny Levison, Brad Cunard, Joe Roberts, Plemon El-Amin, Bob Williams, Gary Price, John Dewberry, Bill Tush, Milton Little, Hope Arbery, Bo Jackson, Lisa Borders, Tom Key, Bob Voyles, Joyce Fownes, Joel Babbit, John Pruitt, Noel Khalil, Chuck Leavell, Bill Nigut, Eveylyn Winn-Dixon, Steve Nygren, Chris White, Josh Starks, Ryan Gravel, Shirley Franklin, Sam Massell and Clark Howard


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  1. The Last Democrat in Georgia April 9, 2012 9:22 pm

    Mr. Voyles, I’m very glad that your daughter decided to comeback to Atlanta to make a life for herself and her family after college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an institution for which I personally have a deep affinity for, especially when it comes to Tar Heel basketball.
    Congratulations, as any parent is happy when their adult children decide to build a life in relative close vicinity to them.
    Now let’s do all that we can to make Atlanta a place that people will want to return to live their adult lives in after college.Report

  2. VOTE NO July 31 April 13, 2012 8:49 am

    No way in hell am I voting YES for the T-SPLOST when the projects are so last century! Give us a real transportation future and then we will give you access to 6-9 billion dollar slush fund for Atlanta’s elite!Report

  3. facts please April 16, 2012 4:33 pm

     @VOTE NO July 31 What projects do you consider to be “last century”? I’m also curious as to how this is a “slush fund for Atlanta’s elite”.
    The referendum raises $8.5 billion (adjusted for inflation) for a pre-determined list of transportation projects. How is this a slush fund? These projects will address road safety, road widenings, interchange improvements and transit expansion across the 10-county region. Additionally, 15% of the funds raised will go back to local jurisdictions for transportation improvement projects that are important to that community. Report

    1. The Last Democrat in Georgia April 17, 2012 12:41 am

      @ facts please:
      “What projects do you consider to be “last century”?”
      I don’t necessarily know what particular projects that the person who posted under the handle “VOTE NO July 31” may be talking about, but the projects that many people consider to be “last century” are the many numerous road improvement projects up for funding on the TIA/T-SPLOST project list.
      I personally think that most, if not ALL, of the projects on the list up for funding, both roads and transit, are LONG overdue.
      But many hard-core transit advocates, especially those who live ITP (Inside-the-Perimeter) who have seen transit long neglected or just downright ignored by the powers-that-be, mainly at the state level, don’t particularly care for or like the idea of having to split the pot of funding for long-neglected sorely-needed transit improvements and upgrades with road improvements and expansions which to many transit backers have long been the preferred, and only as far as many are concerned, mode of transportation by the powers-that-be at the state level.
      Likewise, many OTP (Outside-the-Perimeter) suburbanites and exurbanites, while very slowly but surely coming around to recognizing the need for a more multimodal transportation that involves more than just being overly or singularly dependent on an overstressed freeway network and an inadequate surface road network, are still not quite all that comfortable with so much money going to transit upgrades that they don’t think or may be aware of how they may necessarily directly benefit them. Report

    2. The Last Democrat in Georgia April 17, 2012 1:36 am

      @ facts please:
      “I’m also curious as to how this is a “slush fund for Atlanta’s elite”.”
      Many voters, both hard-core Intown transit supporters and OTP suburbanites whose preferences may be roads over transit, object to how both traffic-relief projects (road improvements and transit upgrades) and real-estate development projects (like the Atlanta Beltline) are funded through the same referendum and sales tax.
      Many voters also have understandable concerns over how some of the proposed projects on the list seem to leave room for the designated revenues allocated for them to be directed or even misdirected elsewhere for the benefit of the politically connected.
      One major example of this is the proposed $689 million project (project number TIA-CO-035 on the list) for “Enhanced Premium Transit Service” connecting the Arts Center MARTA Station/Kennesaw/Town Center.
      The description of the project, while it mentions the possibility of “fixed guideway service” in the Northwest Corridor, it does not necessarily specify whether the project will be a bus line or a rail line or whether it will be located along the US Hwy 41, I-75 or even possibly on the CSX/W&A and GNRR rail corridor routes.
      Also fueling much of the distrust over where the TIA/T-SPLOST funds may actually end up being spent are the recent moves that some of the powers-that-be in Cobb County and NW Metro Atlanta have been making to seemingly shift the TIA funds from any potential future transit project (that as of yet is still officially undefined) to finance the construction of reversible tolled carpool lanes (HOT/HOV-3/Lexus Lanes) on Interstates 75 & 575.
      Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee and many of Cobb’s legislative delegation even openly advocated for the TIA/T-SPLOST funds from the proposed undefined transit line to be shifted to fund part of the $1.2 billion construction cost of the I-75/575 HOT Lane project after Governor Deal cancelled the portion of the project that was to be funded, operated and maintained by a private partner of the state out of long-term contractual concerns that would’ve severely financially penalized the state for making improvements to any other right-of-way that ran parallel to the I-75 HOT Lanes and may have taken potential “customers” and HOT lane users off of I-75.

    3. The Last Democrat in Georgia April 17, 2012 1:43 am

       @ facts please:
      Many voters, even in the auto-dominated suburbs and exurbs where road improvements are obviously needed, are also very much HIGHLY-suspicious of the influence that roadbuilding and road construction firms had on forming the project list and using an all-encompassing sales tax to fund the road projects that these builders stand to directly financially benefit from if the regional tax is approved by voters on July 31.
      Many voters are also very wary of the very cozy relationships that state legislators have with road construction firms and how that likely influenced the decision to ask voters to raise taxes to fund the road improvement and expansion projects that will directly financially benefit those politically-connected road construction firms.

    4. The Last Democrat in Georgia April 17, 2012 2:09 am

      @ facts please:
      Another example of how many voters think that the TIA/T-SPLOST is a “slush fund for Atlanta’s elite” is the $95 million “I-85 North Transit Corridor” (project number TIA-GW-031 on the project list).
      Many voters and taxpayers are highly-suspicious of this project because, while it mentions that it will fund “existing and committed express bus services” and “corridor planning, engineering, environmental review and assessment and possible right-of-way acquisition and construction elements for the implementation of the I-85 North Transit Corridor”, it is not necessarily clearly defined as to what exactly this money will fund.
      Many voters in scandal-ridden Gwinnett County understandably suspect that this money will go to either funding some politically-connected consulting firm or funding the conversion of a couple of more untolled existing lanes (this time a couple of general purpose lanes) so that there is the addition of yet another HOT Lane on each direction of I-85 to the benefit of a politically-connected construction firm and/or technology firm.
      Many voters in Gwinnett County, in particular, are distrustful of where the $95 million will end up because, in addition to a recent series of very costly and embarrassing scandals involving county politicians and county employees (shady land deals like public money for swampland, baseball stadium, trash mess, highly-questionable political connections, etc), there were some “questionable” connections and possible conflicts-of-interests found between employees of the government agency responsible for the I-85 HOT lane project, SRTA (State Road and Tollway Authority) and the firm and the patent behind the technology that was used for the overhead sensors in the project.Report


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