In 2002, newly elected Mayor Bill Dunaway asked me to chair the Marietta Redevelopment Task Force. The purpose of this task force was to recommend to the mayor and city council actions that would improve the redevelopment process, attract investors, protect the quality of life in Marietta and stimulate the redevelopment of the city.
The task force was composed of 16 members from a cross-section of Marietta citizens. Over 60 prominent government officials, developers, bankers, educators, members of the Atlanta Regional Commission, city planning consultants, HUD officials, mayors from other cities and Marietta citizens presented their views of Marietta’s top issues to the task force.
Based on these interviews, the task force presented a number of findings to the Marietta mayor and council on May 30, 2002.
They found Marietta was being bypassed for development since green fields in neighboring areas were more attractive financially. Marietta’s housing stock had and was deteriorating. The city gateways were distressed. Strip malls had been abandoned. Eighty-seven percent of Marietta’s housing stock was valued at less than $200,000 and did not generate sufficient taxes to pay for city services. Marietta housing stock was 61 percent rental, which is twice the national norm.
Marietta city schools lacked stability because of a highly transient student population (70 to 80 percent). High crime rates existed in the Manget Street area, Franklin Road area and Wynnhaven Apartments area on Powder Springs Road.
Ten years later, Marietta has made strides in solving many of the problems associated with these findings.
New residential neighborhoods have been built. Marietta’s gateways are being made attractive. The Manget Street area is being redeveloped. The Wynnhaven apartments have been sold and plans are in process for their redevelopment. Lyman Homes, Johnnie Walker Homes and Clay Homes have been torn down and new developments are under way or planned. Some closed strip malls have been revitalized. The Strand Theater has been reborn. New restaurants have been opened on the Square. I could go on and on.
The one area identified a decade ago that remains in dire need of redevelopment is Franklin Road. Removing the 11 aging apartment complexes on Franklin Road using bond funds will lower crime in the area, enhancing the safety of our citizens and businesses. It will lower the rental units available in the city, providing more stability to our school system.
In 2002, the redevelopment of Franklin Road was the Marietta School System’s first priority. This area is an ideal location for commercial development, with entrances to I-75 on both ends of Franklin Road. Commercial development will greatly increase the tax revenue for the city. With the planned reduction in school tax, the net increase in property tax to fund the bonds is minimal.
From the 2002 task force study of Franklin Road, it was clear that the private sector would not take the risk of redevelopment on its own. There are too many unknown risks. The properties had to be razed and the land remediated before the private sector would take on redevelopment. This finding is still true today.
The bold vision of Mayor Tumlin and the council to place a redevelopment bond on the ballot Nov. 5 will allow the city to continue to accomplish the strategic goals that were put in place in 2002.
Having the public sector bring the Franklin Road properties back to green-field status removes the unknown risks and allows private developers to bear only the risks of the market. This is very similar to what the city did with the redevelopment of the Manget Street area.
I encourage you to vote “Yes” on Nov. 5 for the redevelopment bond so we can finally tackle the redevelopment of Franklin Road and turn a blighted and deteriorated area into a center piece of new development and economic growth for Marietta.