Tonight the City Council will hear recommendations from its staff on how to spend a proposed $35 million bond that voters may take up Nov. 5.
Mayor Steve Tumlin has spoken in general terms about how he would like to see the bond spent, directing staff to attach dollar signs to his vision.
Beth Sessoms, the city’s economic development director, has broken the $35 million sum into $25 million for buying certain aging apartment complexes along Franklin Road, helping to relocate the renters, and razing the buildings to sell to commercial developers.
Sessoms allocated another $7.3 million for two new roads that would run east of Southern Polytechnic State and Life universities, connecting those schools with Franklin Road and whatever future redevelopment occurs there.
Another $1.5 million is earmarked for Whitlock Avenue sidewalks, landscaping and the kind of street lamps the city has installed along Roswell Street. As one of the city’s most prominent corridors, Whitlock is not fully paved with sidewalks from the Marietta Square to Marietta High School. The $1.5 million earmark would fill in the sidewalk gaps, particularly from Oakmont Drive to Polk Street Extension, while adding lighting and landscaping.
A remaining $1.2 million would be spent on renovating the former Lemon Street School, home to the city’s and county’s black students prior to desegregation. Sessoms envisions turning that building, which is owned and used as a storage facility by Marietta City Schools, into a cultural center, highlighting the artifacts of the city’s black history.
The council must still make a formal vote to place the $35 million bond on the Nov. 5 ballot, the same ballot where voters will decide whether to return the council and mayor to office. They have until August to make that decision.
Franklin Road plans
The area the city would spend the bulk of the bond money on is a mile-and-a-half strip of Franklin Road between Delk Road and South Marietta Parkway that has about 3,100 aging apartment units. Sessoms said there are 10 apartment complexes along that stretch, one townhome development and one condominium development. An additional apartment complex on Franklin lies just south of Delk Road with 128 units.
“Based on current market conditions, the city may be able to purchase three to four apartment complexes and tear them down,” she said. “It just depends on which ones they choose because they vary in size. They might be able to do five.”
Purchasing the townhomes or condo development would likely prove too difficult due to the multiple owners, she said.
Sessoms said private developers have shared with her their interest in developing Franklin Road if the city passes the bond.
“The developers that I’ve been talking to, they’re hesitant to go in and invest their money, their resources, in Franklin Road, if the city is not willing to do anything too because then they’re the lone ranger out there and there’s just too much risk,” she said. “There are too many apartments for them to feel comfortable that they can build a building and get tenants to go in there and lease it.”
The area has already lost several businesses, such as Graphic Packaging, she said.
“They’re just worried about the security of their employees,” Sessoms said. “Even though crime, I think, is down a little bit over there, the perception is still there.”
Two university roads
The two new roads being proposed could be funded in part with federal dollars if bond money were brought to match, Sessoms said.
A proposed “University North Parkway Connector,” at an estimated length of 2,500 feet, would stretch from Cobb Parkway between Polytechnic Drive and Life’s Way to Franklin Road at Parkway Place. Sessoms said the $5.7 million cost of that road could be broken down into $3 million from the bond and $2.7 million from potential federal dollars or future special purpose local option sales tax dollars.
The second proposed road, called the “University South Parkway Connector,” at an estimated length of 4,905 feet, would stretch from Cobb Parkway at Barclay Circle to Franklin Road near Franklin Forest Industrial Park. That $11 million cost, Sessoms said, could be broken down into $4.3 million from the bond proceeds and $6.7 million from federal or SPLOST dollars.
The purpose for the two new roads is to revitalize that part of Cobb Parkway, attracting more retail business to support the universities while at the same time enhancing the presence of SPSU and Life, she said.
Tonight’s series of council committee meetings begins at 5:15 p.m. in the council chamber of city hall, at 205 Lawrence St. in Marietta.