Mayor unveils big plans for the Marietta Square
by Hilary Butschek
July 20, 2014 04:00 AM | 8466 views | 18 18 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin talks in Glover Park on the square. Under a plan proposed by the mayor, the stage area would be upgraded including the installation of restrooms. The plans also include removing the permanent left-turn lane in the center of each road, widening the sidewalks, installing parking meters, and building a tourism office on the site of Councilman Philip Goldstein’s empty lot.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin talks in Glover Park on the square. Under a plan proposed by the mayor, the stage area would be upgraded including the installation of restrooms. The plans also include removing the permanent left-turn lane in the center of each road, widening the sidewalks, installing parking meters, and building a tourism office on the site of Councilman Philip Goldstein’s empty lot.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
slideshow
MARIETTA — Mayor Steve Tumlin has a few big ideas for the Square he believes could change the way people view the city.

They include removing the permanent left-turn lane in the center of each road, widening the sidewalks, installing parking meters and building a tourism office on the site of Councilman Philip Goldstein’s empty lot.

“I want to make Marietta more of a destination city than a cut-through city,” Tumlin said.

Complaints frequently arise from residents when the City Council tries to make changes to city roads that would ease traffic flow through the city, Tumlin said.

Residents don’t want commuters to drive through the historic districts of Marietta on their way to and from work, said Councilman Johnny Walker.

“The residents, they don’t like the traffic, but they just don’t want anything that’s going to help get traffic through Marietta because they’re worried more people will come through,” Walker said.

So Tumlin created a plan for the Square that caters to pedestrians.

“It will be a nice complement to an older way of life,” Tumlin said.

Tumlin estimates the plan will take three years to complete, and he will present the details at the July 30 public works committee meeting.

When the mayor announced his plan at the council’s meeting in June, Councilman Stuart Fleming was enthusiastic about the suggestions.

“I think it’s very timely and appropriate as we think about enhancing our city,” Fleming said.

Although the mayor has not talked about the plan in depth with the council yet, he shared the key points with the MDJ.

Wider sidewalks

Tumlin will propose widening the sidewalks that run next to the storefronts on the four sides of the Square. Tumlin said more people walk in the area than drive.

To incorporate a wider sidewalk, Tumlin said all four roads around the Square can be narrowed from four lanes to three.

“We’re becoming a more walkable city. That’s a high priority,” he said.

Tumlin said the permanent left-turn lane in the center of each road would be taken out, and the inside lane could be used as a lane for people who want to go straight or turn left.

There would still be parking on both sides of each road, he said.

The extra 10 to 15 feet of sidewalk space would be useful for the numerous events the city holds in Glover Park, Tumlin said, such as its concerts and Saturday farmers market.

Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly said she likes the mayor’s idea for wider sidewalks.

“Anything that gets people out and about on our Square is a good thing,” she said.

Tumlin said he thinks he might get backing from supporters of historic preservation because he isn’t making drastic changes — just adjusting something that is already a part of the Square.

Goldstein’s lot put to use

Tumlin said he’d like to begin more discussions with Goldstein about the possibility of putting the empty lot he owns on the Square to use for the city.

The fenced-off hole at 77 North Park Square, near the Strand Theatre, has been empty since Goldstein demolished the 1917-era, two-story brick and wood building known as the Cuthbertson building in 2010. Goldstein said he wanted to build a five-story mixed-use building in its place, reaching a height of 66 feet. But in 2011, the City Council passed an ordinance lowering height restrictions on the Square from 85 feet to 54 feet. Goldstein filed a lawsuit against the city over the ordinance and lost.

Tumlin said he thinks it’s an ideal spot to build a new location for the city’s tourism office. This isn’t the first time Tumlin has asked about the property, he said.

“There’s several of us that would like to rent that property,” Tumlin said.

Tumlin said Goldstein has been telling people for years that he has a tenant for the lot.

Goldstein did not respond to requests for comment.

Right now, the city’s Visitor’s Bureau is on Depot Street, off of West Park Square. Tumlin said the location is not easy to see and isn’t ideal because of the noise coming from trains passing on the nearby railroad tracks.

Tumlin said the council has long heard complaints about the port-a-potties that line the alleys around the Square, so the new tourism building could also house permanent restrooms accessible to the public.

Kelly said she supports Tumlin’s vision.

“Restrooms are something I’m a big advocate for our parks,” Kelly said. “So, I was really excited to see that that had been mentioned.”

Parking meters

Tumlin said he thinks the city should begin regulating the parking along the Square with parking meters.

He said the free parking spaces on the Square are used more often by people going to the courthouse in the morning than by people visiting the shops and restaurants. The city and the county both own parking decks near the courthouse, but they charge $5 per car.

Tumlin said it’s not fair for those who want to eat breakfast or lunch in the Square to not have a place to park. So, he said if the parking spaces were metered, people going to the courthouse would use the decks they’re supposed to.

Tumlin said he wants to charge for the spaces on the Square from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., but leave the spaces free after that.

“We can have both worlds,” Tumlin said.

In 2009, Tom Browning, chairman of the Downtown Marietta Development Authority, proposed deeding over the historic Kennesaw House on Marietta Square to the city. In return, he requested the city turn over to the DMDA the on-street parking spaces. Browning wanted to charge drivers for those spaces and use the revenue to build a several-story parking deck off Mill Street. But that idea was killed by then-Mayor Bill Dunaway, who opposed allowing the city to give up the parking spaces.

Solution to overflowing dumpsters

Tumlin said he would like to see less trash piling up around dumpsters in the Square, but he doesn’t know the answer to that problem yet. The City Council has debated about what to do with downtown dumpsters for years.

“I go to other cities, and you don’t see trash on the streets there near as much,” Tumlin said.

A simple solution could be to have the trash picked up more often, he said. Councilman Johnny Walker brought up the idea of installing a new kind of dumpster to the council at its June meeting.

The new dumpsters look like regular trash bins above ground but empty into larger dumpster-sized receptacles below the surface. But, Tumlin said they could be too expensive to be practical.

This idea, he said, is up for discussion.

Funding the project

The mayor said he knows he will get pushback from the council, but he’s also open to others’ ideas.

“If (the council members) think (the plan) is impossible, the things they want will be just as good or better,” he said.

Kelly said she’s excited to begin talking about the improvements.

“By the time we get it through (the public works committee) it may be something different, but it’s good that we talk about it,” Kelly said.

Tumlin said the city has not planned out details for the project, so he doesn’t have any cost estimates yet. He said revenue from the parking meters and loans from the Downtown Marietta Development Authority could be potential sources of funding for the project.

“You usually can fund it if it’s a worthwhile project,” Tumlin said. “We’ll tighten our belt one place and put it here instead.”

Comments
(18)
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TIMUS
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July 25, 2014
He had me until he said parking meters!!
Be Careful
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July 21, 2014
So court employees are hogging the free spots.

The answer to that problem is punish EVERYONE else by making them pay to park?

First, meters all over the place will make the square ugly.

Second, I will never go there again if I have to pay to park. Bye bye.

Les Tums
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July 21, 2014


MAKING MARIETTA MISERABLE

Ultimately, ¢ity leader$, in cahoots with wealthy developer$, will have it THEIR WAY, appealing to the "green" hippie-minded and don't-have-to-work-anymore 20-years-to-gravers, both of whom want to eliminate traffic or handicap it to a crawl.

Idiotic proposals:

1.) Remove left-turn lanes and convert straight-only to left/straight? That's an asinine nightmare: One left-turn car will back up traffic, crippling pass-through (including, right over RR tracks!).

2.) Parking meters? There's a GREAT WAY to make a city a NUISANCE. Problem with city/court employees hogging free spaces? Make them register their license plates, and if any is found in a free spot during working hours, fine them heavily. Marietta is already RICH with SPLOST money. Millionaires are collecting on the $5 parking decks, on top of all the FEES that Marietta is already collecting for its courts, city services, etc.

Apparently, the mayor thinks this is NYC or SF. No, it's boring Marietta, and you will dissuade ALL from optional trips to the Square, when you start sticking it to people, via no-free-parking-whatsoever and CONSTRICTED TRAFFIC.

HERE IS THE TRUTH:

Marietta Square IS ALREADY A CHOKE POINT, but THAT IS THE LIMITATION OF ITS LAYOUT.

Either make it a closed-off, all-pedestrian zone for sucker tourists (and, then, ALL RESIDENTS WILL DRIVE AROUND IT), or leave it as-is (and stop pretending it is anything more than a sleepy footnote in Sherman's glorious march on Atlanta).

Mayor, stop sticking your unwanted dirty fingers in the roux. It's basic, and it is what it is. Just like you.

Now, when are you going to go up against the wealth-through-inheritance RICH by widening the hell that is Whitlock? Take away the excessive front yards of your monied contributors by adding a couple of lanes. The "historic," private houses will still be there, with the advantages of less lawn to mow and FLUID TRAFFIC.

traffic is the point
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July 23, 2014
THe whole point is to make navigation by car more difficult. That is the only solution that alleviates traffic. Finally somebody gets it. If you can't turn left in downtown Marietta, you will make your left turn outside downtown Marietta or even opt for another way such as the Macland Connector & Windy Hill or Barrett or, you know, moving somewhere that makes sense.

Now here's an idea: Most of the workers on the Square live out toward Paulding and Poke. Why not move the county offices out there to Paulding? Is there some law that they HAVE to be in Cobb? If Cobb Govt went to Paudling, the employees would save on gasoline, Cobb would save on property expenses, and Marietta would save time in traffic.
Mary Etta James
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July 20, 2014
The court and government buildings immediately on the square - especially the administrative ones, would do well to move into the old Kroger on Whitlock and refurbish that area. Then, turn the building into mixed used with retail on the bottom level and residential above. The residential would feed the businesses and restaurants around the square. Putting the tourism office in such a high profile spot as the empty lot versus a true revenue generating, tax paying business may need some additional thought and consideration.

To the city of Marietta people who are always complaining about West Cobbers. We pay a lot of taxes into Cobb County. You think only the City of Marietta tax payers fund projects like these? I think not. So, let's try to clean up all of Marietta together - the square, Fairground, Roswell St, and on and on - as a unified front. There is a lot of riff raff in Marietta before you go casting stones at West Cobb.
Les Tums
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July 22, 2014


Do you love nightmares? Moving additional governmental offices to the complex (or another building) adjacent to the average-10MPH-on-Whitlock Kroger would make the traffic crawl even worse.

Why not move into or adjacent to Cobb's large-parking-lot, sleepy location on Powder Springs? Those multiple lanes move faster than anything on Whitlock!

Certainly, Marietta has other choices, ones that are underutilized locations served by flowing traffic. Why not condemn that rat-infested, broken-windowed, decades-dead Wynhaven Apartments haunted house just after the Hilton? It must be lovely for tourists who have spent their wallets to stay at that overpriced motel, only to discover that they are golfing next to an abandoned apartment complex that Marietta has, in cahoots with developer$, left neglected. If you or I had left our houses is ruins, Marietta would have bulldozed them, by now.

What about, just down from there, the former Big Lots shopping center? That place is STARVING for long-stay occupants!

While "mixed use" has been all the rage, converting those freed-up offices into residences next to RAILROAD TRACKS shows little care for people. Even the deaf feel vibrations. On top of that, residents, deservedly, would suck up parking spaces made permanent for them and add to the come-and-go traffic torture, lining landlords' pockets with inflated rents but not providing ANY more commerce/tourist draw to the Square.

As someone else noted here, Marietta Square looks ratty, and if some majority-owner rotter has been biding his time in order to make a killing, the heck with enriching him. If he is sitting on dead-space buildings, pass an ordinance requiring active use benefitting the character of the Square, and fine him daily if he does not comply.

which old Kroger
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July 23, 2014
We have both the old abandoned Kroger and the old but occupied Kroger on Whitlock. They tore up the occupied Kroger but then apparently gave up on it. Did they run out of money or what?

I will never understand why people shop at a place that abandoned a building in their neighborhood. I just do not comprehend that thinking.
Rick Z
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July 20, 2014
I agree with Mr. Tumlin's overall vision and most of his suggestions for advancing it. However, as someone who frequently drives both "to" and "through" the center of Marietta, I think eliminating left-turn lanes would be a bad mistake and cause added congestion. Instead of the present number of vehicles moving through downtown, you'd just have more vehicles sitting gridlocked and idling. There's a reason why governments for the last 40 years or so have been finding ways to separate left-turning traffic from through traffic.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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July 20, 2014
"...discussions with Gold$tein." Mayor, are you kidding?
good ideas tumlin!
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July 20, 2014
It sounds like we may finally have a mayor who is getting the right idea about the direction Marietta needs to take (think Copenhagen) if it wants to survive! Thank goodness and praise the Lord for that!

I would advise keeping those parking meters running until 3:30 or 4pm, not 2pm, because the 1pm lunch crowd from the courts will return at 1:59, park on the street, not pay the meters, but keep the parking spaces full till 4 or 5 when they leave work for the day without buying anything from anybody on the Square since the Square is does not have the fast food value meal menu.

Removing car lanes from the square is a great idea! How about adding bicycle lanes, though? Not everybody wants to walk. Walking takes forever and is too hot, but using a bicycle to the square (from within a mile or two) normally goes a LOT faster than driving to the square and you generate your own breeze at 12 to 15mph which keeps you cooler than walking.

We do still have only half of the Marietta Parkway, though. To make downtown Marietta a destination, the west half of the loop needs to be built, so the plague of cars to and from West Cobb and Paulding go around our fair city rather than slap through the center, tossing their space shuttle McDonalds litter in our yards because they hate us for our freedom. They believed the car ad that told them their car would make them free, while we believed free time (not sitting in traffic to & from a house in the country) would make us free.

These West Cobb Paulding types need to go AROUND. They don't belong in the city of Marietta. They are a very poor fit.

Build the rest of the loop, AROUND Marietta!!!!!
MayRetta Dump
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July 20, 2014
The Square will perpetually look dumpy due to one guy owning most of the buildings. It truly looks like a dump, with ratty looking facades, worn out awnings, stucco and gawdy signage. It needs more upscale eateries with entertainment and less shops full of trinkets. Acworth has the perfect look, due to intense, landlord cooperation.
Which Way Ray
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July 20, 2014
I'd be all for bicycle lanes... if cycles followed the traffic laws. As it is now. They kinda do what they want. If you are only a mile or two from the Square walk..... Its too hot? What are you going to be doing on the square when you get there after parking the bike?
judiq
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July 20, 2014
If I am a west Cobb resident who comes to the square frequently to shop, visit restaurants, and go to the Farmer's market every Saturday to " buy local", but do not live in the city limits, am I not welcome? If so, I can find somewhere else to spend my money.
Hmmmm.....
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July 20, 2014
As one of the West Cobb types who seem to be a bother to you, I will take the money I spend in the restaurants around the Square, and the donations I make to such things as the Strand, or the Museum and spend it elsewhere. I wonder if enough of us non OM's do this, how long it will take for your lovely little village to fold.

Get real buddy, you want thru traffic to leave the Square, but you don't want to insult the people who do business there.
a rarity
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July 23, 2014
If you are a west Cobb resident who visits the square for any reason other than paying your traffic tickets in person, you are a rarity and are probably not that comfortable in the tract home development where you likely live under the iron thumb of the HOA.

Most people who choose to live in West Cobb head to Longhorn's or Taco Mac's or whatever on Barrett Pkwy and think those are great restaurants. Most in West Cobb buy frozen dinners at Publix and think those are great meals.

If you really do visit the square, move on in to town. You'll like your life here, especially having probably 90 more minutes of your life every single day, not sitting in your car.

More than likely, though, you are just full of it like most everybody in rural Cobb.

bicycles and the law
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July 23, 2014
If you want bicyclers to follow the law, and I sure do, have your local DOT provide road infrastructure for them. Bring them into the system rather than leaving them on the outside commuting in the shadows.

Bicyclers should absolutely follow the law, but given that the roads here, especially in City of Marietta, are built by design to exclude bicyclers, oftentimes the bicyclers are relegated to survival mode.

After an incident or two where the police fail to give the bicyclers the protection of the law after being hit by inattentive drivers, the bicyclers will think "The law does not protect me, so why bother following it?" "Why sit and wait at a red light that will NEVER change for me until a car comes along?" From there it's an extremely slippery slope to "Why even stop for a red light in the first place and play the waiting game since it doesn't even acknowledge my presence?"

Law breaking is not an appropriate reaction to being ignored by the system of law, but it is a very predictable reaction, and it is clearly not a concern for the City of Marietta.

Marietta keeps revamping the roads, excluding bicyclers every single time, always promising a stoller path some day but never making any progress. What a shame. We could have been Decatur but we chose to be De-car-tour instead
Hmmmm.....
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July 26, 2014
re: a rarity - I suspect you have been living under a rock for quite a while. In case you have not been over the mountain in some time you might want to get over here to "West Cobb." Some of the "tract" homes aren't too shabby, and according to the last census the income levels are higher than they are in Marietta proper. That translates into more disposable income to spend in your shabby little downtown area. FYI, a good many of us West Cobb hicks actually do come into Marietta and spend money and are active in things that have to do with the community at large.

If you'd like to generalize, let us discuss the attitudes of some of the crabs, such as yourself, who are holding back the area from getting any better. You only have to compare Roswell to Marietta and see that progress can be good for everyone, especially the tax base. Oh, and before you belittle anyone in West Cobb, you might want to take a hard, hard look at all the areas of your fair city.
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