The first tangible benefit from Rome having federal opportunity zone designations has come in the form of a $600,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The funds will be earmarked for water and sewer improvements in the River District on the west side of the Oostanaula River.
Once the city was notified by Delmos Stone, a planner at the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission about the grant availability, they moved quickly Assistant City Manager Patrick Eidson said. They recently learned that grant has been funded.
The federal Opportunity Zone designation was created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to boost economic growth in low-income communities. The goal is to allow investors to defer federal taxes while taking capital gains from other investments and investing in these designated areas.
The entire River District and all of the Between the Rivers district are included in the designation for Rome. The River District is essentially the area encapsulated between the Oostanaula and Coosa Rivers on two sides and Turner McCall Boulevard on the third.
“What we’re going to do is some system upgrades over there to support reinvestment,” Eidson said.
Plans for improvements to the River District, basically the West Third Street and North Fifth Avenue corridors, have been discussed for several years. The 2017 SPLOST program also includes $2 million for improvements to the district.
The city is expected to use the grant funds to do the water and sewer work first before looking at upgrades to the sidewalks and possible relocation of utilities underground.
City Engineer Aaron Carroll is in the process of designing the infrastructure improvements at this time and Eidson said he was not certain just how far the $600,000 would go.
New water lines will be run along West Third from Second Avenue to Fifth Avenue and out Fifth Avenue from the Oostanaula River bridge to Turner McCall Boulevard. The bulk of the sewer work will take place along Fifth Avenue from West Third Street back to the river.
River City Bank, at the corner of Second Avenue and West Third Street was the first major project in the River District. The Courtyard by Marriott was next and a new restaurant, Aventine, is expected to come on line at the corner of North Fourth Avenue and West Third Street in a matter of weeks.
Wayne Robinson has proposed a new mixed use residential and retail project adjacent to the hotel and would also potentially benefit from the water and sewer improvements. At this point city officials said they were unsure when the work will begin.