MARIETTA — Plans for a $70 million dual-branded hotel to be constructed on less than an acre in Cumberland, near the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, received high praise from the Cobb school board Thursday.
Cobb school board Chairman David Chastain said the development is “the sort of stuff that Cobb County needs.” Board member Jaha Howard called it “a fantastic project” and Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said it was a “good use of land.”
School leadership were supportive of the project’s economic development potential, job creation and tax revenues.
The project is expected to bring $1.8 million in net school district tax revenue by 2032, according to Nelson Geter, executive director of the Development Authority of Cobb County.
The school district’s 10-year net revenue factors in its per-student cost and loss of revenue from tax abatements that the hotel would receive starting upon its planned opening in 2022 and ending in 2032, Geter said.
The development authority’s board has been working with Atlanta-based Noble Investment Group to move forward in developing the hotel on land being used as a parking lot for the Performing Arts Centre.
The property on which the hotel is planned is owned by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority, which also owns and operates the Performing Arts Centre and the Cobb Galleria. As a governmental entity, the Exhibit Hall Authority does not pay property taxes on the 1-acre tract where the hotel is planned.
Geter said the hotel would create 70 full-time jobs in the county, with salaries around $45,000 to $50,000. Those jobs, he said, could benefit graduates of Cobb high schools who are not prepared or equipped to go to college.
The hotel would be dual-branded under two Hilton hotel brands: Hilton Garden Inn and Home2 Suites, according to Ben Brunt, who represented Noble Investment Group at the board meeting.
Brunt said the “genesis of the project” came through the Development Authority of Cobb County, which expressed its desire to have a “host hotel” for the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. He said the hotel will hold 261 rooms, as well as 5,600 square feet of meeting space; a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; and a rooftop bar available to hotel guests and the general public.
Brunt added that a parking deck with about 450 parking spaces will replace the 200 parking spaces lost in construction.
Work crews would break ground on the hotel in August or September of 2020, and the hotel would open around June of 2022, Brunt said.
The development of the hotel could potentially bring 18 households to the school district by 2032. That would add approximately 12 more students to Cobb schools, according to Geter.
Chastain said the hotel plans are a creative way to place a development on a tricky tract and to bring revenue and visitors to the county.
“As far as how it impacts the school district, I’d say it’s low-impact,” Chastain said, adding that the 12 students to be added to Cobb schools are not of concern.
“The development authority is doing its job,” he said.
Board member Howard said the creation of 70 full-time jobs and 800 short-term construction jobs are an added benefit of a project that seems to be a win-win for the county and school district.
“This is land that was not being used to the taxpayers’ benefit or a benefit to the digest of the county, and now I think the whole county can benefit, let alone just having another high-quality hotel and employment opportunities,” he said.
Howard echoed Chastain, saying the 12 students projected to be added to the school district’s attendance zones are not of concern, as the students will be spread across schools in the county.
Ragsdale said it is likely, had the hotel not been proposed, that no other development would have occupied the space.
“It’s benefiting the economic development of the county. It’s ultimately providing us tax revenue where there was never going to be any. That’s the big difference on this project for us — that there would never have been any tax revenue from that lot,” he said.
Noble Investment Group has received consistent backing from multiple government agencies in Cobb County.
In September, the Exhibit Hall Authority’s board unanimously approved — with the exception of Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin who was not present — a contract with Noble Investment Group to develop the hotel on land next to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
In May, the development authority approved an inducement resolution, indicating its willingness to issue $70 million in bonds and tax abatements for the project.
After a fiscal impact study that analyzes the economic benefits and drawbacks of the project is completed, the development authority’s board will vote on giving final approval to the request.
Noble has also applied for incentives from the county, which include a cap on building permit fees, Michael Hughes, economic development manager for Cobb County, previously told the MDJ.
The Cobb Board of Commissioners would need to vote on approving the county incentives.