In July, the Marietta City Council, with a push by Mayor Steve Tumlin, approved placing the bond on the Nov. 5 ballot for residents to vote if the city should redevelop the depressed area that is home to a dozen aging apartment complexes.
When asked if the project should get the support of voters, Tumlin said, “Capital Y-E-S, YES.”
Tumlin said Franklin Road, which lies between Cobb Parkway and Interstate 75, has amazing potential as a major corridor, like Town Center north of Marietta and Cobb Galleria Centre in Cumberland.
The city’s goal is to lower the residential density on Franklin Road by buying and razing run-down apartments and then packaging the land in 25-acre lots for the development of commercial buildings offering 50,000 to 100,000 square feet of space.
“We need tracts of land near (Interstate) 75 on that magical corridor,” Tumlin said.
Tumlin said he already knows of one apartment building in foreclosure, Flagstone Village at 849 Franklin Road.
The mayor said the project is being started by the city because “sometimes you have to help yourself and bring in jobs,” and the end result will have a positive impact on the whole county.
Even though “the city hasn’t always hit a home run” with development ventures, Tumlin said he has “talked to more developers in the last eight weeks than ever before.”
Tumlin’s opponent, Charley Levinson, said the Franklin Road portion of the bond needs to be scrapped entirely.
“It is fundamentally wrongheaded to push thousands of working families out of their homes, and have city taxpayers undertake a huge financial risk, all so land developers can enjoy guaranteed profits,” Levinson said.
Levinson does support putting sidewalks along Whitlock Avenue. The bond allocates $4 million for improvements in that area.
If voters do not pass the $68 million redevelopment bond, then “property owners may get their tax cut after all. There are worse scenarios by far,” Levinson said.
Unopposed officials give support
Councilman Grif Chalfant said Franklin Road is “totally infested with crime” and something must be done to lessen the negative affect on Marietta.
“Almost every day we see drug and prostitution crime in that area,” Chalfant said.
If the $68 million bond is approved by voters, Chalfant said his priority would be to make Franklin Road a green-tech corridor to attract green energy and technology businesses.
“The businesses would be able to use the brain power coming from the universities,” Chalfant said about Franklin Road’s proximity to Southern Polytechnic State University and Georgia Tech.
Chalfant said Whitlock Avenue is another blighted area that has gotten worse over time because of the lack of attention by the City Council that was given to other roads like Roswell Street.
“I feel like we have neglected Whitlock Avenue over the years with our SPLOST money,” Chalfant said.
Johnny Walker, a real estate agent who is running unopposed for Councilman Johnny Sinclair’s seat, said the redevelopment bond is the “best thing for the city.”
“I can envision a new little town there,” with retail places, office complexes, a park and housing, Walker said. “A really nice mixed use to attract people to live in Marietta.”
Walker said the high crime rate on Franklin Road puts a strain on the police and fire departments.
Transient families in the area do not have a safe, consistent home, and “hear gunshots every night,” according to Walker.
To help the Marietta City School System, Walker said it is important for the city to find somewhere else for people on Franklin Road to live and help them relocate.
Stuart Fleming, a Marietta Board of Education member who is running against Councilwoman Annette Lewis for Ward 1, said he supports the “spirit of the bond.”
But Fleming cautioned that money alone will not solve the “social and economic challenges on Franklin Road.”
Fleming said a defined master plan for the $68 million redevelopment project needs to be worked out quickly.
“I believe the taxpayer has every right and expectation to know what their dollars will be spent on,” Fleming said.
Fleming said he is not biased about what type of company should move into Franklin Road, but “Marietta has a history of not being as business friendly as other cities, and now is the time to change that.”
Lewis, who has served on the council since 2006, refused to reveal how she will vote, although she did say she was glad residents would determine whether the bond passes or fails.
Marshall Dye, who served on the Marietta Board of Zoning Appeals for seven years and is running in Ward 4 against Councilman Andy Morris, is backing the redevelopment bond without reservations.
Dye lives on tree-lined Church Street, a historic district that he says is negatively affected by the blighted area.
“It is hard to have a great city when you have a street like Franklin Road that is the most dangerous street in Cobb County,” Dye said. “It is not going to fix itself.”
Once the apartments are razed, Dye said they will be replaced by better apartments to allow young professionals to move into the city.
“I believe (the current residents of Franklin Road) will be given a better opportunity to live in a safer and more flourishing environment, in other areas of the community,” Dye said.
Michelle Cooper Kelly, a member of the Marietta Housing Authority who is running for retiring Councilman Jim King’s Ward 6 seat, said she is still learning about the redevelopment bond and was not involved in the conversations that first began with the City Council.
“I think it would be irresponsible to make a judgment when I am still learning how this bond would be implemented,” Kelly said.
Kelly said the project needs to be a private-public partnership to create a safe place for businesses to operate and invest in Marietta.
“I know for sure that if we want to move the city forward, (Franklin Road) is an area that has to be addressed,” Kelly said.
Councilman Anthony Coleman, who voted against the redevelopment bond being doubled in size from $35 million to $68 million July 10, said he is also undecided.
Coleman said he has not given the plan for improvements on Franklin Road “much thought yet,” but said “the private sector needs to kick in.”
“It should not be all on the backs of the taxpayers,” Coleman said.
Coleman is being challenged by Doug Martin. Martin said he not only supports the bond, but is telling all residents to push it forward.
“We all need to support (the redevelopment bond) and get behind the mayor,” Martin said.
Martin said the $68 million bond is forward thinking and will bring economic opportunity to Marietta.
“I want to prepare the 5th Ward as much as I can to take advantage of whatever comes down the chute,” Martin said.
Morris and Councilman Philip Goldstein did not return calls or emails by press time.