Marietta’s City Council took a big step toward taking control of the historic train depot building that serves as the home of the Marietta Welcome Center.
Council members voted unanimously Tuesday evening to approve a resolution to buy the property off Marietta Square from the state for $81,112.
The Downtown Marietta Development Authority is also planning to buy the Mill Street parking lot adjacent to the depot and Starbucks from the state for $167,713. The DMDA is scheduled to vote on a resolution to purchase the lot Dec. 3. The DMDA currently rents the lot from the state for a nominal fee.
Councilman Johnny Walker said the state is being accommodating with its offer price.
“I don’t know why it’s so low, but I’m very pleased with the amount,” he said.
The State Properties Commission will need to give final approval to the sales, and the deals are scheduled for a vote during the commission’s Dec. 12 meeting, at the state Capitol.
City Manager Bill Bruton said the council can fund the purchase in one of two ways, and the council will need to decide before the property changes hands.
“We’ve got two options, we could do it out of the capital fund and we could do it out of the tourism reserve that we are holding right now,” he said. “We’ve got enough money in that to do it to, so whichever way council wants to do it.”
Acquiring the property has long been a goal for Tumlin.
Former Gov. Nathan Deal shot down previous requests to sell in the hopes that the site could be useful for future passenger rail between Atlanta and Chattanooga, but Gov. Brian Kemp, who chairs the State Properties Commission, was willing to let the land go.
The mayor has touted the parking lot as the perfect spot for a multi-story parking deck to serve visitors to Marietta Square, though Tumlin has cooled on that idea some in recent months after a study showed over a quarter of parking spaces around the Square are open even during peak hours.
Speaking to the MDJ after the vote, Tumlin said the city has no plans for the lot right now other than to keep using it for parking. But he said owning it rather than renting it will mean the city has the option to put a deck there in the future.
“The thing that we’re doing right now is looking at the sustainability so we can pursue all options,” he said. “A new governor could come in and build a state building there as far as we know, so first, we’ve got to get control of it. … The DMDA, even if they never build the deck, they don’t have to ask the state whether or not they can use it for parking.”
The old train depot, across the railroad tracks from the parking lot next to Kennesaw House, was built in 1864 but burned down in the Civil War and was rebuilt in 1898.
Tumlin called the depot a “treasure” and “a big part of our history.” He said no changes are planned for the old depot at the moment and pledged it will not be used for a parking deck.