The MRC was formed in 2003 by the Marietta City Council as part of an overdue effort to revitalize the many areas of the city that were run down and neglected. The results of both the MRC’s and the Council’s efforts were mixed.
The Council threw much of its energy into Tax Allocation District subsidies as its option of choice to fuel development in “blighted” areas. But unfortunately, its definition of what qualified as “blight” was so liberal as to be almost laughable in some cases. And allegations recipients of the TAD subsidies were City Hall insiders further undermined the effort.
The MRC, meanwhile, was given $2.1 million by the Council in 2006 as seed money and eventually used it to secure a $6 million line of credit (secured by the Council) from a local bank. The nonprofit MRC had planned to assemble a 98-acre swath of the rundown Hedges-Gramling neighborhood off Powder Springs Road across from what’s now the city-owned Marietta Hilton Conference Center, then sell it for a profit to a developer who would transform the area.
But the scheme hit a wall with the onset of the Great Recession in 2008. With developers tanking left and right, the MRC was left holding the bag, or more accurately, was left as the landlord of a string of slum-like properties. And most of those eight acres-worth of properties are believed to now be worth less than the MRC paid for them. Meanwhile, the MRC currently owes the Bank of North Georgia $3.9 million.
The MRC also was saddled with a well-compensated but ineffective executive director during that period, who has since moved on.
So now the MRC, at the direction of the Council, is in the process of splitting off from the city. The MRC is revising its bylaws and will present them for approval at the Council’s June meeting.
“(The mayor and City Council) will presumably maintain a close interest in the MRC, but I think they think that can be achieved without the mayor and council having a direct role,” said MRC Board member Ray Buday, the newly retired executive director of The Marietta Housing Authority. “After the separation is completed, I’m sure the mayor and City Council will be discussing the future role of MRC in the community as an advisory group or a group to deliberate over whatever the city would want.”
The MRC board’s consensus is that it will continue to fulfill whatever the mayor and council ask, Buday added.
With the economy slowly on the upswing and the adjacent Conference Center now on sounder financial footing than it was a decade ago, let’s hope the more independent version of the MRC will find itself with a brighter horizon than it has had to date.