The CIDs are self-taxing districts that use the revenues for infrastructure improvements within their boundaries, resulting in raised property values.
Tumlin said if voters approve the bond, which will allow the city to buy aging apartment complexes along Franklin Road and raze them, preparing the way for redevelopment, Franklin Road could be Cobb County’s third CID. The mayor sat down with the MDJ on Friday to discuss his vision if the bond passes.
Tumlin, who is facing opposition from Charley Levinson in the Nov. 5 election, said he realizes he has become the face of the bond referendum that will also be on the ballot on Election Day. And that’s a calculated risk he’s willing to take because he believes the redevelopment projects funded by the bond would solidify Marietta’s future for years to come.
Here are his responses to our questions.
MDJ: How will the bond be allocated?
Tumlin: We’re authorized to borrow up to $68 million, of which $4 million would be for Whitlock Avenue and $7 to $9 are in there for roads. Take off the roads and Whitlock and we’re down to about $55 million.
Q: $55 million would target Franklin Road apartment complexes?
A: If we bought four at $7.9 million knowing we’re going to spend $9 million on it, four times nine is $36 million, so there’s just so many we can buy.
Q: How many apartment complexes are there?
A: We’re down to 10.
Q: The council recently put one of those 10, a 386-unit complex, under contract for $7.9 million?
A: The $7.9 million will probably turn into $10 million. You go on the market, and we’re marketing just dirt and good zoning which will probably be at $6 or $7 million, so we’ll lose more than the initial $7.9. The phasing down, the transition to get those folks time to get suitable housing thereafter will probably eat up more of the bulk.
Q: If you spend $10 million on a complex and sell it to a developer for $6 million, you’d use that $6 million to acquire other properties?
A: We can redo it again. And that would be the hope if we might not ever take down the whole $68 million. If this worked and worked quickly, we would take the residual and buy something else.
Q: We’re in year four of the $25 million parks bond. Is the redevelopment bond going to be a five or 10 year project?
A: I think it could be a five year project. You have the infrastructure in place and from the day that the Marietta Housing Authority takes it to when it’s turned into dirt is probably a year, getting permits, dealing with asbestos. These are 1970s buildings that would have asbestos, that would have lead-based paint. All these would have been on the market or torn down sooner or later. If somebody did major repairs, they’d have to do a lot of stuff to what the 1970 building code has versus 2013. That’s why this window from where we’ve got interest rates to we got eight percent unemployment, 12 percent poverty, all those things come into play. And who knows, interest rates could be four, five percent. I think that’s why we’re seeing a surge in residential building is there is some concern over what’s going to happen when we go back to old rates.
Q: What controls are in place to make sure this bond money is spent wisely?
A: Obviously No. 1 it is the openness. There’s no process that is going on behind closed doors. It’s like we’re doing an industrial complex outside of Camilla or Albany except we’re going to divest ownership very quickly. We’re not going to own this project except from Day 1 and hopefully engage the development community to come in. We will do the infrastructure, look at the roads, where the new roads could go. We’re going to market this project to get ourselves out of it. (Cumberland CID Chairman) Tad Leithead will call me back now. Pope & Land will call me back. They weren’t even looking at Marietta. They said if they were showing a client a Class A building, they’d get off at the Galleria, drive down 75 and say, ‘let’s go north, let’s look at Town Center,’ but now they are looking and they’re going to be invaluable.
Q: On a homeowner’s 2014 tax bill it would be a two mill increase?
A: Or if we drew down, say $33 million, it would be a one mill.
Q: Once you purchase property it immediately comes off the tax rolls, which would be a hit to the general fund.
A: Yes, and we lose Marietta Power revenue. We’re going to be motivated not to be long term investors. And that’s why I don’t think you’ll see another (Marietta Redevelopment Corporation). We’re not going to accumulate land for the long run. We’re going to accumulate land for the short run.
Q: The Marietta Housing Authority will manage the city-bought apartments, helping to relocate the renters?
A: Literally we give them the keys and they manage it as if they own it. Different than other cities around here that have torn them down, have somebody come in and put eviction notices, ours will probably take four to six months to run them down. About 20 percent of Franklin Road, if you don’t mind my logical guess, are probably on Section 8 or less. So 80 percent of them are not dependent on the government. I think the school system, they will have more stable students. I think most of the students will go from a transient type world to a more solid. So I think the city is going to win, win, win in every direction.
Q: You say Leithead and other developers have not looked at Marietta in the past?
A: (During a recent business lunch the mayor hosted) they will tell you that the perception is so bad that their tenants will tell you they lose clients. The CPA firm on that street, Chuck Clay’s client, the perception is so bad they lose clients so therein following they lose tenants. Tenants lose and they lose.
Q: Do you see this being developed as low density or high density?
A: Initially, low density. I can’t remember who did Cumberland. Galleria wasn’t even on the table. None of those high stories were there. That came later. And now you have John Williams wanting to build a $100 million project. The initial anchor will be a lower density. The halo I think will bring a higher density.
Q: Franklin Road could be a third CID in Cobb County?
A: In fact, we’re even closer to Lockheed and Dobbins. We’ve got three colleges close by. There’s just so much in that area that could actually happen. It was just Cumberland and then the Galleria Centre comes in. The Energy Centre. All those things came from that seed, and I think the same thing can happen here. And you already have housing incorporated in this plan, it’s already there. (The Cumberland and Town Center CIDs) see the advantage where they’re going to work with us. They’d rather have a strong partner. That way you’ve got it from the Bartow County line all the way to the river in that 75-41 corridor of people working together. This fits in so many different ways.
Q: When will the sidewalks for Whitlock Avenue be built?
A: The design will probably be through by this Spring. It will be more lights, the low lights, you’re going to be able to walk to Carriage Oaks. On both sides you’re going to be able to walk to the Square.
Q: Does the city own enough land to build the sidewalks on?
A: That’s why this was so doable because so little eminent domain will be needed. Eminent domain will slow something up. You don’t need it.