Marietta mayor talks Franklin Road at hushed lunch
by Rachel Gray
October 23, 2013 12:14 AM | 3666 views | 1 1 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — City leaders and local business owners toasted to the future remaking of the Franklin Road corridor during a luncheon last week at the Red Hare Brewery.

Mayor Steve Tumlin invited 120 businesses from the Franklin Road opportunity zone, including commercial real estate and apartment owners, for lunch on Oct. 15.

According to the event’s sign-in sheet, about 20 people attended, including four representatives from CBRE Global Investors, which owns the Towers at Wildwood Plaza at 3200 Windy Hill Road off Powers Ferry Road south of Delk Road.

In June, the office complex lost 2,000 information technology workers from Coca-Cola when the company moved them to downtown Atlanta.

The event was a catered Mexican lunch that cost $885 from the city’s economic development budget.

Tumlin, who said he sipped on root beer, said it has been his goal to host a business and industry luncheon each year of his term.

The press was not made aware of the event beforehand, nor was the luncheon posted on the city’s website or calendar.

“We do not include luncheons on the meeting notices unless a quorum of council members or a quorum of committee members are going to be in attendance,” said the city’s spokeswoman, Lindsey Thompson.

Councilman Philip Goldstein was the sole council member present. Goldstein is running unopposed for re-election in Ward 7, which includes properties east of Franklin Road.

Tumlin said there was no reason the event was not promoted, except to keep the venue below capacity and promote a friendly environment.

“It is meant as a time to break bread with folks,” Tumlin said.

A focus on crime

Business owners at the luncheon were given a presentation about the $68 million bond that will be on the Nov. 5 election ballot. If passed, the bond would redevelop Franklin Road by converting aging apartment buildings into vacant lots ready to market to developers.

Tumlin said because most of the attendees do not live in Marietta, the major bond question was if the resolution had a high probability of passing.

“Obviously, the bond issue was mentioned, but it was not the primary focus,” Tumlin said.

Tumlin said the major focus was on services provided by the city, specifically efforts by the Marietta Fire Department and Marietta Police Department to improve safety concerns.

Tumlin said at a city-sponsored business luncheon the crime portion always dominates, but the concerns about Franklin Road focused on trespassers and vagrants that come out at night when businesses are shut down.

Michelle Cooper Kelly, who is running unopposed for retiring Councilman Jim King’s Ward 6 seat, attended the luncheon. Kelly is set to represent a pocket of land north of Delk Road, east of Interstate 75, starting next year.

Kelly said the businessmen at the meeting were intrigued that redevelopment of the Franklin Road corridor has made its way onto the Nov. 5 ballot.

But Kelly said the focus of the meeting was on addressing extended-stay hotels and motels with illuminated signs advertising $25 rental rates, which attendees claim has created a large amount of prostitution in the area.

“The businesses out there are looking for support,” Kelly said.

Owners and managers from the nearby Holiday Inn Express and Days Inn attended the meeting.

Owners get down to business

Haim Sternberg is president of Cherry System, a data recovery business, a block east of Franklin Road south of Delk Road, where he has worked for more than 17 years.

Sternberg said his business is next door to places known for prostitution and drug dealing.

“We are getting kind of antsy about all that’s going on here,” Sternberg said.

If the crime is not stopped, Sternberg said he will have to make an expensive move so customers are no longer exposed to the bad element.

Money has already been spent on security measures that could have gone to other areas of his business, Sternberg said.

Sternberg, who lives in Marietta, said he will vote for the $68 million redevelopment bond and hopes it will rid Franklin Road of activity that does not contribute to the city’s tax base.

“I am hoping it will elevate the quality of manpower around here,” Sternberg said.

Mike Perry is president of Optelian, a telecommunications company that designs and manufactures optical networks, which has operated on the Franklin Road corridor for almost seven years.

Perry said last week’s business luncheon focused on how to clean up Franklin Road and create a better environment for conducting business.

Many of the business owners were worried about the bad reputation of the area, and that perception affecting property values and causing problems leasing space, Perry said.

Perry said he does not see the crime other attendees highlighted, but he does not drive through the area at night and his business is not near the worse strip along Delk Road.

Although Perry lives in Marietta, he is a Canadian citizen and cannot vote on the $68 million redevelopment bond.

Perry said Marietta is the best place he has ever lived and he would never leave or operate a business in a different city.

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October 23, 2013
Let's not keep the public in the dark, Mr. Mayor. Let the sun shine in all things.
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