Around Town: With city holding line on apartments, there are changes afoot for Clay Site
by Lee B. Garrett, Joe Kirby and Otis Brumby III
July 26, 2013 11:09 PM | 4852 views | 2 2 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BARRY TEAGUE’S Marietta-based Walton Communities, which owns the now mostly vacant 12-acre property near Marietta Square that formerly was the site of the Clay Homes public housing project at Waddell and Waterman streets, has reportedly given up trying to convince the Marietta City Council to let it build new apartments there.

So Teague, a member of the Cumberland Community Improvement District’s board, is said to be planning to sell the property to Smyrna-based John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods.

“(Wieland) will take the same approach that Brock Homes is doing in the old Hedgewood property” along Manget Street, a very high-ranking elected Marietta official told Around Town this week. “They’ll go from town houses to less density, and as they describe, ‘in-town, Inman Park-type homes.’”

The Manget property, which was cleared of ramshackle duplexes in the mid-2000s, saw redevelopment stall during the recession. But new owner The Pacific Group got the green light from the City Council this month for a revamped plan calling for 78 new single-family houses and 10 townhomes.

If all goes as planned, Wieland could ask the council to change the site plan for the old Clay Homes property in September or October.

“Wieland is very optimistic. They feel good. Seems like they said $280 to $420 (thousand) for the homes,” the source said.

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WALTON PURCHASED the property for an undisclosed sum from Regions Bank in December of 2010.

The site previously housed the 132-unit Clay Homes complex, which along with also-now-demolished Techwood Homes in Atlanta were the first two public housing complexes in the country when they were dedicated in 1940 as part of FDR’s New Deal.

The Marietta Housing Authority razed the outmoded complex in 2006 and sold the land to Bob Silverman’s Atlanta-based Winter Properties for $8.4 million.

Winter’s “Meeting Park” development was to be the cornerstone of the city’s downtown redevelopment efforts. Silverman had planned Meeting Park to be a mixture of 300 homes, townhouses and condos, seven restaurants, 10,000 square feet of trendy shops and office buildings for professional firms.

Silverman built 15 townhomes before the Great Recession struck and the bank foreclosed on the property, running foreclosure notices in the MDJ for a listed $23.5 million debt.

WALTON TRIED to convince Mayor Steve Tumlin and the City Council members to change Silverman’s site plan and build apartments there, rather than any detached housing, but Tumlin and the council stood firm, saying the city’s renter-to-homeowner ratio is too far out of balance.

Marietta’s count for the 2010 Census was 42.3 percent ownership and 57.7 percent rental. The national average was approximately 60 ownership and 40 percent rental, said City Manager Bill Bruton.

The City Council has a goal of achieving a greater than 50 percent homeownership ratio, said Brian Binzer, the city’s development services director.

Binzer said since those census numbers were taken, the city has seen an increase in single-family building activity.

“And there have been a few apartment structures that have been vacated such as Wynnhaven and the MHA property at Fort Hill. So our current ownership ratio would show an increase,” Binzer said.

Wieland’s homes, Around Town was told, “will probably be empty nesters, some retired, some young. It will help the downtown area tremendously and give us a better mix of residential versus rental.”

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WIELAND — the Southeast’s leading homebuilder, according to its website — reportedly is not interested in developing the commercial part of the property, just the homes.

“Their desire will be to sell off the commercial, in my opinion,” the top official said.

Officials have long wanted to see a downtown grocery store on the tract, but developers have been hesitant to build one up until now.

“People that have looked and that have interest in that land have tried to recruit a good urban grocery store, and it just doesn’t have the (customer) mix yet,” the source told Around Town. “So maybe the old chicken or the egg, once they build then maybe that will give them the numbers and the demographics or whatever they need to attract a grocery store in the commercial part.”

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WHAT A DIFFERENCE a year makes.

This time last summer, Tony Morris of Marietta was locked in a futile battle to persuade Cobb government and business leaders to build a maglev train line with revenues from a proposed TSPLOST, rather than spending them on a far more expensive traditional-style light rail line.

Neither train ever left the station, so to speak, as officials rejected Morris and voters rejected the TSPLOST.

Now, however, Morris appears to be on the verge of hitting a home run for his company, American Maglev Technologies Inc. Atlanta Business Chronicle columnist Maria Saporta reported Friday the Atlanta Braves will partner with Morris and AMC to build a maglev train from the MARTA Georgia State Station to Turner Field.

“The maglev train, or some kind of mass transit connection to MARTA, is considered essential to the Braves, which attract about 2.5 million fans to the ballpark each year,” she wrote.

Maglev trains are faster and far less expensive than light rail, Morris told Around Town last year, and can be built for about $20 million a mile, far less than the Federal Transit Administration’s light-rail estimate of $100 million per mile.

AMC built a quarter-mile-long test track in the woods next to the Thornton Road Connector outside Powder Springs back in 2006 and has shown it off to numerous political and media types through the years, including Around Town. But decision-makers have been hesitant to be the first to buy and try maglev. Until now, that is.

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REGGIE TAYLOR, who spent four underwhelming years as executive director of the Marietta Redevelopment Corp. before getting hired last fall as city manager by the city of East Point, is back in the news.

Taylor was fired by the East Point City Council on Wednesday after just eight months on the job. His departure came a month after an audit ordered by the council found a series of questionable financial decisions, most of which predated Taylor.

Marietta hired Taylor in 2008 from the Illinois Department of Commerce to oversee the MRC, but he arrived the same week the the Georgia Supreme Court ruled school-tax dollars could not be used to help underwrite Tax Allocation District subsidies. That decision kicked the stool out from under the city’s TAD program, which was Marietta’s redevelopment option of choice during the Bill Dunaway mayoral administration.

Taylor was described as affable but “over his head” by those who kept a close watch on the city’s then-stalled redevelopment efforts. But he’s still remembered at City Hall for the vanity plates on his silver Cadillac, which read, “Reg Tay 1.”

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THE WEATHER failed to cooperate for last Saturday’s “Justice for Trayvon” march, so organizers are hoping for better luck today at 1:30 p.m. at the Lockheed Credit Union across from the Cobb Civic Center. The event is designed to focus on “the issue of racial disparities and injustices which are rampant in Cobb and beyond,” according to spokesman Rich Pellegrino.

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THIS AND THAT: Strand Theatre managing director Cassi Costoulas is recovering from successful but unexpectedly complicated surgery Thursday to remove her gall bladder. ... The Marietta Blue Devil Youth Football Program kicks off another season today under the leadership of Marietta High Coach Scott Burton. Walk-up registration is this morning from 9 till noon at the MHS practice field or online at myfflfootball.com.

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TODAY’S Dick Yarbrough column to your left is his 200th such offering. That’s 200 weeks’ worth of prodding and lampooning local officials and 200 weeks’ worth of “interviews” with the likes of such former Cobb luminaries as Jack and Jill, the two mules purchased for a small fortune to plow the county-owned Hyde Farm in east Cobb who have now been exiled to Canada. And Yarbrough’s Saturday column count does not include the commentaries he writes that run on Wednesdays in the MDJ and appear statewide. He’s penned 703 of those the past 15 years. That’s a lot of insights, and a lot of laughs. And we hope there are plenty more where those came from!

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Comments
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maglev sounds fun
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July 29, 2013
you want young pretty professionals with money to move here? commute-via-maglev could be something that would attract them. if we could wrangle gigabit ethernet back into the plan and had maglev, young pretty professionals would be clamoring for the spots in our PVC farms. instead we will add more lanes for more cars filled with more old people who are stuck in the past which is where Cobb County's heydey most definitely already is, and that ain't because of the bus
Guido Sarducci
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July 27, 2013
Allow me to correct an error. Tony Morris did not, to the best of my knowledge, ever ask that TSPLOST funds be used to build his Mag-Lev line.

One of the main incentives he offered was that it would be done with private money. The only thing he asked of the county was a gauranteed ridership of so many riders daily. As I recollect, that number was fewer riders than what the TSPLOST backers claimed would use the their light rail every day.
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