Forum aims to address needs, solutions for revitalization
by Sheri Kell
September 09, 2013 12:00 AM | 700 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA - Three Cobb organizations, two U.S. Senators and a bevy of local leaders expect to draw about 300 attendees at the Marietta Conference Center on Sept. 16 for a redevelopment forum that organizers hope will inform the community on the need for revitalization and highlight redevelopment opportunities in Cobb.

The event is put on by the Council for Quality Growth, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and Revitalize Marietta - a 501(c)(4) organization promoting redevelopment ideas and solutions for blighted, foreclosed and underutilized properties in the City of Marietta and in Cobb County.

The forum will include keynote addresses from U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and former Mayor of Chattanooga and current U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who orchestrated the successful redevelopment of the city of Chattanooga during the early 2000s.

Isakson said Cobb County can learn from Chattanooga's renaissance. "There is a term called 'blight' and that is the way deterioration begins to spread," he said. "Chattanooga had that happen and we had that happen."

Isakson does say Cobb's situation is different in that Chattanooga was not as prosperous in terms of economic development for business as Cobb County is, but because of the redevelopment Chattanooga did, it is now an equal to Cobb County in terms of economic development and business development.

"Every community is different but obviously some areas in our community are declining ... need attention, need redevelopment. If we let them continue to decline, then that decline will spread."

Isakson continued, "'Renewal' is the most important word. As you renew the spirit of a community through redeveloping it, you open opportunities for further capital investment from the private sector."

According to Sen. Corker, in the mid-1980s, Chattanooga had reached an extreme low. "We had cleaned up the air by then, but nothing was happening downtown. Young people went away to be educated and left our community," he recalls. "They just didn't feel like their future was in Chattanooga."

"In a mid-size city like Chattanooga, each individual can have a tremendous impact, and I was inspired to join others in making a difference."

Similar to the Cobb Chamber's Competitive EDGE program, Chattanooga leaders developed the "Venture and Vision 2000" program.

"When Chattanooga Venture began the Vision 2000 process in 1984, several important elements came together, said Sen. Corker. "The private sector took the lead in creating a vision for the community, which was complemented by strong elected leadership at both the city and county level."

According to Brooks Mathis, ?vice president of Economic Development for the Cobb Chamber and executive director of Cobb's Competitive EDGE, the event is the direct result of the work of the "Seed 6 action team"- the redevelopment initiative of the EDGE program.

"The event will showcase the county's areas in need of redevelopment; discuss ways to attract business and middle income families and quality development projects for these areas."

Mathis says he hopes the event will build an awareness of how the county can look in the near future.

"We want attendees to walk away with the knowledge of how the right type of development for some of the more blighted areas can bring a sense of place and a thriving community," he said. "We also want to showcase the opportunities to potential developers so that they will see the benefits to investing in our areas in need of redevelopment."

As for the timing of the event, Brooks says, "It's important to start the dialogue now."

Brooks also says that as a partner of the event, Revitalize Marietta will have the opportunity to educate attendees about the upcoming $68 million bond referendum on the November general election ballot in the city of Marietta that designates $64 million to redevelop the Franklin Road corridor and $4 million for the improvement and beautification of Whitlock Avenue.

The event is open and admission is $25. Reservations are required and can be made at www.cobbchamber.org.

One-On-One With Sen. Isakson

Q. Have you witnessed past redevelopment efforts in Cobb?

A. First of all, everyone needs to understand there are two steps to communities: the first phase is development and the second phase is redevelopment.

It is always inevitable as a community grows and becomes larger, as it matures it needs to remake, renew and restore itself.

Q. What can Cobb learn from past efforts?

A. There is not a better example in the world than Smyrna, Ga. I remember when I came to Smyrna in 1967 and opened my business, it was a sleepy little town that had begun to deteriorate - it became more of a rental town than a homeowner town. Then the mayor came in and did a rejuvenation project with the plaza and the community service center, the police station and the park.

It is a shining example of what can happen when you commit yourself to redevelop your community. Everybody ages, everybody depreciates, everything deteriorates, and, if you don't renew then you deteriorate.

Q. What can Cobb learn from Sen. Corker's experiences in revitalizing Chattanooga

A.Every community is different but obviously some areas in our community are declining ... need attention, need redevelopment. If we let them continue to decline, then that decline will spread.

Information

When: Sept. 16, 2013, 7:30 a.m. — 11:30 a.m.

Where: Marietta Conference Center, 500 Powder Springs St.

Hosted by: Council for Quality Growth, Cobb’s Competitive EDGE, Revitalize Marietta

Theme: Rebuilding Cobb’s Future: An Energetic Focus on Redevelopment

Cost: $25

Register at cobbchamber.org or contact Ablanton@cobbchamber.org or

(770)-859-2336. Registration closes Sept. 12 and is free to elected officials.

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