With no one else in the race and the rumor mill quiet, many thought Walker would have a leisurely stroll from now till Election Day in November.
Downtown Marietta real estate baron James Eubanks, president of Wharton Properties, unexpectedly announced Thursday to Around Town that he plans to run against Walker, even though it appears at this point like a steep uphill struggle. Walker, after all, has been quietly laying the groundwork for his run for the past year or so, has blanketed the district with signs and stands to inherit support from many former Sinclair supporters.
But Eubanks is unfazed.
“I know I’m coming to the party late and the music is already playing, but I think there’s still some punch left in the bowl and I can still get a dance with the prom queen,” he told Around Town.
EUBANKS, 35, is a third-generation Mariettan and the son of attorney and Wharton founder Gary Eubanks, who is in the latter stages of a valiant struggle against brain cancer. The senior Eubanks was instrumental in bringing the Marietta Station complex out of bankruptcy and preserving it after it had been renovated by Harrison Merrill in the early 1980s. Eubanks resuscitated the project, which consists of renovated factory warehouses from the late 1800s along Church Street that now are used as offices. And it now is the anchor of a downtown real estate empire second in size only to that of the Goldstein family.
The younger Eubanks has an undergraduate degree from Rice University and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford. He and wife Julie (a yoga teacher) live on Wright Street, are parents of three children and moved back to Marietta six years ago. He says as president of Wharton he does “everything from negotiating leases to changing light bulbs and fixing toilets.”
His core advisors include John Norton of JMWilliams Contractors, music minister Bryan Black of Marietta First United Methodist Church, Brad Respess of Tip Top Poultry, Johnny Fulmer of Church Street Market and Casey Smith of Wiser Wealth Management.
Concluded Eubanks, “I gotta try. I think I can win.”
EUBANKS has been active in downtown Marietta politics, serving on Mayor Steve Tumlin’s Building Height Task Force, spending four years on the Downtown Marietta Development Authority and also serving for two on the DMDA’s Historic Board of Review. While on that board he voted against Councilman Philip Goldstein’s request for a three-year extension of the demolition permit for the century-old Cuthbertson Building on the Square. That rejection ultimately led Goldstein to go ahead and knock down the century-old building before his permit expired.
Eubanks also has been a high-profile advocate for quiet zones at downtown rail crossings.
AS FOR the $68 million redevelopment bond for Franklin Road that is to be voted on in this November’s referendum, Eubanks said he is “leaning toward voting for it.”
“There is a lot of opportunity there and a lot of risk,” he said. “City Hall will determine if this bond is successful, like the creation of the Marietta BLW and the Marietta City Schools, or a failure like Marietta FiberNet and the Marietta Redevelopment Corporation. All four examples were great ideas for development in Marietta. Two have proven their worth for generations, one was sold off at a tremendous loss and one is an ongoing liability. We need leadership to create a plan with a clear vision for what should happen on Franklin Road before a single dollar is spent.”
MORE POLITICS: Mayoral candidate Charles Levinson said he was “perplexed” by Mayor Tumlin’s comments in the MDJ after the arrest of seven prostitutes along Franklin Road in July as part of an FBI-led initiative.
“By using this sting operation to justify his plans for the corridor, Mayor Tumlin seems to believe that government-subsidized land development can be this mythical guarantor of civic virtue,” Levinson told Around Town. “I can point to the case in Gwinnett County where a drug and prostitution ring was being run out of a $2 million subdivision. Sorry, but gentrification alone is not the answer Franklin Road needs.”
Tumlin is pushing the $68 million redevelopment bond for Franklin. He told the MDJ after the arrests that they proved to him that “that area needs help.
“I mean, if it’s on the federal map, that shows me we have an obligation to help that area be better. ... It does go hand in hand as one of the many factors of why we want to reinvest in Franklin Road, to do it and upgrade those apartments and hopefully to cut down the residential density will also be a start toward having that place be better. This obviously shows that … there is a problem. A lot of good people do live there, but they’re having to be around a lot of challenges.”
Answered Levinson, “I reject the straw-man argument that it’s either this bond or nothing. There are things to be done with transit, green retrofitting, recycling and wage growth that are far more cost effective and beneficial to the residents already there. Density does not bring crime in general. Lack of economic opportunity leads to crime. Artificially inflating housing prices on Franklin Road through massive government spending restricts opportunities further for the corridor’s current residents.”
Levinson also complained the arrests focused on the prostitutes and not on “the entire cast of characters,” i.e., their customers.
“If there was no demand, there would be no supply,” he said.
LOOK FOR the Marietta School board to consider a late addition to the agenda for its meeting Tuesday evening that would result in the Georgia Symphony Orchestra moving its performances to Marietta High School from the Murray Arts Center on the Mount Paran Christian School campus off Stilesboro Road. Marietta High just opened its $8.5 million, 750-seat auditorium last month. ...
The Marietta Visitors Bureau board will meet in special session at 5:30 p.m. Monday to finalize its selection of a new director to succeed Theresa Jenkins.
WARD 1 City Council candidate Stuart Fleming will hold his campaign kickoff fundraiser from 9-11 a.m. a week from today, Aug. 24, at 325 Alexander St., (the corner of Frasier and Alexander streets). Donuts and coffee will be provided.
BARELY A WEEK after being featured on the front page of the New York Times, Cobb immigration reformer and MDJ immigration columnist D.A. King was flown to Miami late this week by Univision TV to be the main guest Sunday on “Al Punto,” its Spanish-language Sunday morning public affairs show hosted by Jorge Ramos, a household name in Hispanic homes around the country.
The show airs at 10 a.m.
THE COBB United for Change Coalition will hold a town hall meeting at 10 this morning at the Victory International Center (Redeem Christian Church of God) in Mableton to launch its “Equal Justice and Opportunity Initiative for All” initiative in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, says spokesman Rich Pellegrino.
GABRIEL’S DESSERTS in Marietta is slated to open a kiosk late next month in Terminal B at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. That terminal serves domestic passengers and the kiosk will serve room-temperature foods like sandwiches and desserts.
SICK BAY: Lockheed Martin PR spokesman Jeff Rhodes is recovering from a broken sternum and other injuries suffered in a vehicle accident last Saturday. An emergency crew spent 45 minutes cutting him free after his truck became lodged between two trees.