There’s no question that many of the 3,000 garden apartment units along Franklin are poorly maintained and contribute far more than they should to the city’s crime statistics. They also tend to attract transient residents, which in turn is reflected in the sky-high transience rates at nearby city schools.
Tumlin wants to spend $25 million of the $35 million to buy and demolish the worst of the apartment complexes, then convey the land for redevelopment. Its proximity to I-75 would no doubt make it extremely desirable. As for the other $10 million in bond proceeds, about $7.3 million would be used to help build new roads connecting Southern Polytechnic State University and Life University with Franklin Road and the new development there; $1.5 million would be used to add sidewalks along Whitlock Avenue on the city’s west side; and $1.2 million might be used to renovate the former Lemon Street School, which was the local school for black children during the segregation era.
MANY SEE Tumlin’s idea as the most positive suggestion in years for what to do about the Franklin corridor. The city purchase of the worst of the apartments would result in the other apartments becoming more selective in who they rent to, it is said, and the city’s lighting of the redevelopment “spark” would soon cause other developers to focus on nearby areas. Residents of the torn-down complexes would not be pushed out, but rather would be given Section 8 vouchers allowing them to find better housing elsewhere. And the city’s school system would benefit via the reduction of its transience rate, advocates say.
But as with just about any proposal, there are naysayers as well. The city’s purchase of the run-down apartments would use tax dollars to reward slumlords, and would be a repeat of the city’s less-than-stellar attempt to purchase and remake the rundown neighborhoods in the Hedges-Gramling street area, they say. Critics also complain the mayor’s proposal has turned into a “Christmas tree,” with something under it for everybody, i.e. the new roads for the two schools, the Whitlock sidewalks for west-siders and the Lemon Street remake as a bone thrown to the African-American community. Those projects might draw votes but would ultimately water down the impact of the dollars spent on Franklin, they say.
Moreover, the proposal has also drawn what could be called “positive criticism” from a supporter, Marietta Development Authority Chairman Ed Hammock, who said last week that the bond amount needs to be more, not less, in order to get the job done. Doubling the size of the bond issue would allow more of the apartment owners to be bought out and would reduce the likelihood the surviving landlords would be able to raise their rental rates in the short term and later sell their properties to the city or developers for top dollar, he argued. But it’s highly questionable whether city voters would approve a bond issue of that size.
The measure proposed by Tumlin, on the other hand, would be easier for taxpayers to digest. For property owners, it will be virtually revenue-neutral on tax bills after the school millage is reduced as a result of the E-SPLOST passage in March that will pay off bond debt of the Marietta School System.
THE FRANKLIN CORRIDOR is unlikely ever to “cure itself” on its own anytime soon. The city’s bond issue, on the other hand, could serve as the catalyst needed to finally reverse the decades-long decline there.
Mayor Tumlin has noted that city residents in the past have been willing to vote in favor of higher taxes to fund needed improvements, such as their approval of SPLOSTs and last year’s passage of a $7 million bond issue for construction of an auditorium at Marietta High School.
Tumlin and the council now are offering a potential solution to one of the city’s biggest problems — Franklin Road. It might not be a perfect solution and isn’t likely to be without its share of bumps, but it deserves every bit of consideration voters can give it. And we encourage you to attend tonight’s meeting and let your voice be heard.