County staff saw 38 commercial sites across the county needing revitalization in 2011. Thirteen of those were on Canton Road, a 4.5-mile corridor extending from Marietta to Cherokee County.
Businesses migrated toward the Town Center Mall area, anchored by Macy’s, Sears and Belk after its opening in the 1980s and the area saw an increase in empty, derelict buildings.
But the list of properties needing attention is beginning to shrink, Birrell said.
“We were down to 10 on there from 13 originally,” she said. “Now four more are being moved from Canton Road.”
Areas that have become occupied or otherwise improved include Home Interiors Defined, Castrol, Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, a rock-climbing facility and an antique store.
Canton Road drawing interest
It was a spot that made sense for the Wash Barn, a car wash at 3028 Canton Road, Marietta, south of New Chastain Road.
“That was a location that was a car wash location, but had been shut down for a number of years,” said Gary Dennis, co-owner. “Although there was some degradation in the area of some of the businesses, and that’s why there’s a redevelopment project, we still saw it as a busy corridor.”
Though the company opened during an unusually rainy summer, Dennis says he’s heard positive feedback from customers excited the building that stood empty for years has now been improved.
He hopes that, as more businesses choose to locate or expand on Canton Road, people will change their idea of the street as strictly a commuter road.
“I think as new businesses come into the area, they’re going to look at it as not only how can I get work or get to the interstate, but how can I meet some of the shopping needs that I have,” Dennis said.
Foundation serves as a matchmaker
Frank Wigington, chairman of the Canton Road Redevelopment Foundation, says the group acts as the middleman connecting business owners with county staff who can answer questions about ordinances and finding properties that meet the needs to companies looking to move into the area.
Birrell attributes the spark in interest to a recovering economy and the effort of the Canton Road Redevelopment Foundation. Formed as a committee spearheaded by Birrell, the foundation is now seeking nonprofit status. Once that status is approved by the Internal Revenue Service, the group will be able to offer grants to businesses.
“Even without a full set of teeth in our animal, we still have taken a few pieces of property off of the list, and we’ll be adding a few more back,” Wigington said.
It’s a resource that made the difference for the carwash.
Dennis said he’s worked with some local governments “that (don’t) seem to care if you open your business or not,” but the foundation helped him overcome regulatory battles.
Keeping in touch with local homeowners associations and civic groups, Wigington said, helps the foundation know the desires of the community.
“We’re looking to enhance the community,” he said. “That sounds corny, but it’s the honest-to-God truth.”