Powder Springs announced last month it had finalized the sale of 6.3 acres of land owned by its downtown development authority to mixed-use developer Novare Group.
Next week, Cobb commissioners will weigh whether to grant Novare’s estimated $42.5 million project a 10-year tax break as part of the county’s “enterprise zone” initiative.
Novare purchased the parcel, which included the land on which city hall sits, from the downtown development authority for $3.5 million. The developer plans to build about 220 multi-family apartments and 5,000 square feet of retail space on the site.
The tax break, if approved, would exempt Novare from paying a penny in property taxes for the first five years of the development. In years six and seven, Novare would be exempt from 80% of its taxes, 60% in year eight, 40% in year nine, and 20% in the 10th year, after which the abatement would end.
Cobb Community Development Director Jessica Guinn said because the land Novare will build on was previously publicly owned and not on the tax rolls, her office did not have any estimates of the tax break’s total amount.
The enterprise zone designation was created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1997 to incentivize economic investment in areas with high rates of unemployment or poverty, economic distress or blight. Because the Cobb Board of Commissioners is vested with the power to designate such zones in Cobb County, the approval will come through the county government even though the area is in incorporated Powder Springs.
The project is part of Powder Springs’ long-term plans to redevelop the heart of the city.
Powder Springs Mayor Al Thurman said the project will bring about a key part of that plan — getting enough residents to live downtown to support its local businesses.
“Honestly, the businesses that have tried to survive downtown haven’t, because there’s not enough density … (we’re) trying to create that walkability and the park was the centerpiece,” Thurman said, referring to Thurman Springs Park, the recently-completed public square in the city center which bears his name.
In recent years, the downtown development authority has been buying up properties in the city center, and possessed 17 parcels with an appraised value of over $4 million as of January 2021. Thurman said the city received 15 to 20 bids for the site, but that the scale of Novare’s design best suited the city.
“Some developers want to come in and they want four stories, something that’s not compatible with our downtown,” Thurman said. “They want to put in a lot of units. They want to sell you something that you really don’t want.”
The South Cobb Redevelopment Authority and the Development Authority of Cobb County, meanwhile, have not been involved in the project, Guinn said. The agenda item prepared by Guinn notes that among the benefits of Novare’s investment is the creation of 16 full-time jobs in the area. Novare is to “make a ‘good-faith’ effort to hire low-income and moderate-income individuals,” per the draft agreement.
“On this particular project, we’re talking about property that is not on the tax rolls currently,” Guinn said of the eventual increase in county tax revenue. “This project is going to bring those properties onto the tax rolls, (although) it’ll take time, obviously, with the abatement.”
The Board of Commissioners will vote on the enterprise zone designation at their meeting on July 27. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta.