That has opponents grousing about the well-documented dangers that a city can face whenever it dips its toe into the risky waters of the real estate business.
But the city wouldn’t need to buy all the complexes, just some of them, said Marietta Economic Development Director Beth Sessoms.
Different companies own the complexes along Franklin Road between Delk Road and the South Loop, and the city plans to contact some of them to determine their willingness to sell. There hasn’t been contact yet, Sessoms said.
“It’s too early in the process,” Sessoms said. “We all think there’s a need for redevelopment of that area, but it’s very preliminary.”
A drag on city services
Part of the new ownership project — which would be funded by a $35 million general obligation bond for urban redevelopment — includes building a connector road from Cobb Parkway to Franklin Road. The road would create better connectivity and redevelopment opportunities for the area, Sessoms said.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said the amount isn’t set in stone, and the bond could be for more or less than $35 million, depending on future planning of the project. Regardless of the amount of the bond, it would need to be approved by voters in Marietta.
“We’ve been looking at Franklin Road as a challenge from a fire, police and school-system standpoint,” Sessoms said. “It’s all in pretty rough shape.”
No eminent domain
The city would use the urban redevelopment law, which allows demolition and removal of structures for the prevention of slums, but wouldn’t use eminent domain. Any change in ownership would have to be voluntary, she said.
But the plan is just an idea for now, she said.
“The council just heard it for the first time and wants more information, which we don’t have yet, regarding the cost of any of the complexes who might sell,” Sessoms said. “But the council is very aware of the challenges on Franklin Road. We continue to see foreclosures, and each time (the ownership) trades hands, it gets worse.”
Although initial whispers suggested the city was looking to buy all the complexes and redevelop them, Sessoms said that’s not a financial possibility.
“The city would look to acquire some of them, and by getting rid of some of the apartments, we can build a more stable tenant base,” she said.
‘We’re stuck with those scores’
The lack of stability comes from having too many apartments in one area and incentives such as initial months of free rent and a lack of background checks just to fill the properties, Marietta Board of Education Chairman Randy Weiner said.
Weiner said the Marietta Board of Education is an enthusiastic supporter of Tumlin’s initiative.
The lack of stability is what hurts the school system, Weiner said. “The main problem is the transient nature of that area. The kids come into school mid-year, leave mid-year and come in before tests, and we’re stuck with those scores.”
Kids who stay in the school system year-round tend to perform better, Weiner said.
“If we take some of the complexes down, there would be fewer options, and the owners wouldn’t have to offer the incentives,” he said. “And the tenants wouldn’t be jumping from one apartment to the next.”
Franklin Road now has around 3,000 apartment units. If the number of units were to be cut in half from 3,000 to 1,500, then presumably the vacancy rates would decrease and properties would become more marketable and therefore more stable.
“If we can get a better balance and number of apartments there, people will start seeing change,” Sessoms said. “We’re encouraging business growth and growth from Life University and Southern Polytechnic in that area. Franklin Road didn’t become in its current state overnight, and it won’t change overnight.”