Mayor explores the possible futures of Franklin Road
by Jon Gillooly
October 27, 2013 12:18 AM | 4743 views | 6 6 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
City of Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin checks out some of the empty business spaces for on Franklin Road on Friday.
City of Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin checks out some of the empty business spaces for on Franklin Road on Friday.
MARIETTA — Mayor Steve Tumlin believes the Franklin Road corridor has the potential to follow in the successful footsteps of the Cumberland and Town Center Area community improvement districts if voters approve a $68 million redevelopment bond Nov. 5.

The CIDs are self-taxing districts that use the revenues for infrastructure improvements within their boundaries, resulting in raised property values.

Tumlin said if voters approve the bond, which will allow the city to buy aging apartment complexes along Franklin Road and raze them, preparing the way for redevelopment, Franklin Road could be Cobb County’s third CID. The mayor sat down with the MDJ on Friday to discuss his vision if the bond passes.

Tumlin, who is facing opposition from Charley Levinson in the Nov. 5 election, said he realizes he has become the face of the bond referendum that will also be on the ballot on Election Day. And that’s a calculated risk he’s willing to take because he believes the redevelopment projects funded by the bond would solidify Marietta’s future for years to come.

Here are his responses to our questions.

MDJ: How will the bond be allocated?

Tumlin: We’re authorized to borrow up to $68 million, of which $4 million would be for Whitlock Avenue and $7 to $9 are in there for roads. Take off the roads and Whitlock and we’re down to about $55 million.

Q: $55 million would target Franklin Road apartment complexes?

A: If we bought four at $7.9 million knowing we’re going to spend $9 million on it, four times nine is $36 million, so there’s just so many we can buy.

Q: How many apartment complexes are there?

A: We’re down to 10.

Q: The council recently put one of those 10, a 386-unit complex, under contract for $7.9 million?

A: The $7.9 million will probably turn into $10 million. You go on the market, and we’re marketing just dirt and good zoning which will probably be at $6 or $7 million, so we’ll lose more than the initial $7.9. The phasing down, the transition to get those folks time to get suitable housing thereafter will probably eat up more of the bulk.

Q: If you spend $10 million on a complex and sell it to a developer for $6 million, you’d use that $6 million to acquire other properties?

A: We can redo it again. And that would be the hope if we might not ever take down the whole $68 million. If this worked and worked quickly, we would take the residual and buy something else.

Q: We’re in year four of the $25 million parks bond. Is the redevelopment bond going to be a five or 10 year project?

A: I think it could be a five year project. You have the infrastructure in place and from the day that the Marietta Housing Authority takes it to when it’s turned into dirt is probably a year, getting permits, dealing with asbestos. These are 1970s buildings that would have asbestos, that would have lead-based paint. All these would have been on the market or torn down sooner or later. If somebody did major repairs, they’d have to do a lot of stuff to what the 1970 building code has versus 2013. That’s why this window from where we’ve got interest rates to we got eight percent unemployment, 12 percent poverty, all those things come into play. And who knows, interest rates could be four, five percent. I think that’s why we’re seeing a surge in residential building is there is some concern over what’s going to happen when we go back to old rates.

Q: What controls are in place to make sure this bond money is spent wisely?

A: Obviously No. 1 it is the openness. There’s no process that is going on behind closed doors. It’s like we’re doing an industrial complex outside of Camilla or Albany except we’re going to divest ownership very quickly. We’re not going to own this project except from Day 1 and hopefully engage the development community to come in. We will do the infrastructure, look at the roads, where the new roads could go. We’re going to market this project to get ourselves out of it. (Cumberland CID Chairman) Tad Leithead will call me back now. Pope & Land will call me back. They weren’t even looking at Marietta. They said if they were showing a client a Class A building, they’d get off at the Galleria, drive down 75 and say, ‘let’s go north, let’s look at Town Center,’ but now they are looking and they’re going to be invaluable.

Q: On a homeowner’s 2014 tax bill it would be a two mill increase?

A: Or if we drew down, say $33 million, it would be a one mill.

Q: Once you purchase property it immediately comes off the tax rolls, which would be a hit to the general fund.

A: Yes, and we lose Marietta Power revenue. We’re going to be motivated not to be long term investors. And that’s why I don’t think you’ll see another (Marietta Redevelopment Corporation). We’re not going to accumulate land for the long run. We’re going to accumulate land for the short run.

Q: The Marietta Housing Authority will manage the city-bought apartments, helping to relocate the renters?

A: Literally we give them the keys and they manage it as if they own it. Different than other cities around here that have torn them down, have somebody come in and put eviction notices, ours will probably take four to six months to run them down. About 20 percent of Franklin Road, if you don’t mind my logical guess, are probably on Section 8 or less. So 80 percent of them are not dependent on the government. I think the school system, they will have more stable students. I think most of the students will go from a transient type world to a more solid. So I think the city is going to win, win, win in every direction.

Q: You say Leithead and other developers have not looked at Marietta in the past?

A: (During a recent business lunch the mayor hosted) they will tell you that the perception is so bad that their tenants will tell you they lose clients. The CPA firm on that street, Chuck Clay’s client, the perception is so bad they lose clients so therein following they lose tenants. Tenants lose and they lose.

Q: Do you see this being developed as low density or high density?

A: Initially, low density. I can’t remember who did Cumberland. Galleria wasn’t even on the table. None of those high stories were there. That came later. And now you have John Williams wanting to build a $100 million project. The initial anchor will be a lower density. The halo I think will bring a higher density.

Q: Franklin Road could be a third CID in Cobb County?

A: In fact, we’re even closer to Lockheed and Dobbins. We’ve got three colleges close by. There’s just so much in that area that could actually happen. It was just Cumberland and then the Galleria Centre comes in. The Energy Centre. All those things came from that seed, and I think the same thing can happen here. And you already have housing incorporated in this plan, it’s already there. (The Cumberland and Town Center CIDs) see the advantage where they’re going to work with us. They’d rather have a strong partner. That way you’ve got it from the Bartow County line all the way to the river in that 75-41 corridor of people working together. This fits in so many different ways.

Q: When will the sidewalks for Whitlock Avenue be built?

A: The design will probably be through by this Spring. It will be more lights, the low lights, you’re going to be able to walk to Carriage Oaks. On both sides you’re going to be able to walk to the Square.

Q: Does the city own enough land to build the sidewalks on?

A: That’s why this was so doable because so little eminent domain will be needed. Eminent domain will slow something up. You don’t need it.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Dave H
October 28, 2013
Can we just be honest? A NO vote is an ignorant vote. You can moan about the finer points, but the alternative of doing nothing shows a pathetic understanding of the current, burdensome situation. This is the only feasible, real-world solution - the city has to clear the way before the private sector comes to play. Yes, evil developers looking to MAKE EVIL CAPITALIST MONEY (Oh my goodness!) will be involved, but their developments will create high-paying jobs and raise YOUR property value. Get you small-minded head out of the sand and help yourself by voting yes.
2 mils whats that
October 28, 2013
They just want to add 2 mills right? Sounds tiny!

But 2 Mils. What's that? Who really knows. Does some accountant somewhere know?

MDJ knows, but MDJ ain't saying. The MDJ reported the estimated dollar amount on a $200k house (as if ANY house in the city of Marietta costs only $200k), but not the percentage increase. WHy not? Hmmmmm...

I smell yet another rat on Franklin Rd! The reason MDJ is covering up the tax before its even on the books is because MDJ doesn't want to go on record supporting such an ENORMOUS tax increase.

Marietta's current millage rate is 2.867.

Add 2 to that and you just increased taxes by nearly 70%

Who would have thought Tea Party favorite MDJ would support a 70% tax increase?

Watch out Otis Junior The Third or you will be the crazy ex girlfriend's next ex boyfriend!!

When the Tea Party finds out about this, you will be alone in the pool yelling Marco..... Rubio.....

School tax is different, so please don't make excuses. This WILL be a 69.7% increase if passed, and the MDJ supports it?!?!?!
Let's talk numbers
October 28, 2013
Marietta is about to be relieved of the school bond which means if passed, the bond would only be a .813 net mill increase on the taxpayer currently paying the school bond. That means that someone in a $200k home would only pay $65.04 a year more. Is that really a 70% tax increase? No. The amount the city spends on Franklin Road far outpaces the amount of tax revenue it receives from the dilapidated apartments there. Even if the city bought every complex on the road and just sat on them the taxpayer would come out ahead because of city money spent there.

Also, this bond is crucial for our school system which over the past decade has begin to slip behind because of the crime and gang activity along Franklin Road. Don't believe me? Go ask a student at Walton High School about Marietta High School. The answer will shock you. It is a shame because the the Marietta School System is one of the best systems in the state it just has a perception issue.

Please don't pander to these Tea Party Crazies. Think about the future of the city and think about the kids in the system and vote yes.
October 27, 2013
A councilman that spends time in his district would help. When was the the last time has anyone seen Phillip Goldstein out and about mingling in his district? I know that people do not vote in Franklin Road area. My concern is where these people will move which is hopefully outside of Marietta and not Roswell Rd. Questions???
taxpayer investment?
October 27, 2013
Funny how the money they want is always real, but the return is always intangible.

If this is truly an investment by the taxpayer that will be paid back twofold or more, write that into it.

If I am forced to pay for the city to clean up the mess it grew on Franklin Rd, then write into law that the city pays me back with interest after Franklin Rd becomes the success that is being touted!

Write that we will go up 2 mills for 10 years but then down 4 mills for the next 10 years.

Nope, that aint gonna happen, because it is just my money after bad money. The good money goes in the developer's pockets. AGAIN.
Vote NO
October 27, 2013
Mayor Tumlin is misleading in this interview.

Everywhere else he says an increase of two mils and a 20-year bond; this increase is not huge, but be honest and lay out the facts.

There is no concrete plan AT ALL for this money, other than to buy it up and hope developers come.

The city did this before across from the Marietta Country Club, and now they are not paying the loan and they have done nothing with the property.

Absolutely Franklin Rd needs to have something done, but take another year and make a real plan that doesn't involve subterfuge but lays out exactly what will happen. Line up developers and get a commitment. I am voting NO, and I am voting for Charley Levinson, and I am hoping that the MDJ's editors actually let this comment be posted.
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