The corridor is lined with garden apartments built in the 1970s and ’80s that were appealing in their long-ago heyday but now are nearing the end of their lifecycle. About 1,489 students live along that 1.1-mile stretch of road, who, thanks to their parents, contribute disproportionately to the Marietta School System’s sky-high transience rate.
The corridor for years also has kept the city’s police busy, pockmarked as it is by illegal drug use and trafficking, prostitution, break-ins and gangs.
Mayor Steve Tumlin has proposed using the bond proceeds to acquire the worst of the apartment complexes, bulldoze them and then convey the land to the private sector for redevelopment. He argues that market forces would then pressure owners of the remaining complexes to upgrade their properties and also allow them to be more selective in who they rent to.
There’s little doubt that the land in question would be highly desirable for redevelopment, as it sits between Interstate 75 to the east and Cobb Parkway to the west and is accessed to the north by South Marietta Parkway and to the south by Delk Road. Don’t forget that the area also will soon benefit from the state’s $1 billion reversible-lane project along I-75. Plus, low interest rates and depressed property values make this an ideal time for the city to act.
THE “EASY” PART of this process is the passage of the bond. The bigger challenges will come during the process of finding and selecting a developer or developers for the land. Transparency and accountability will be key. Tumlin is to be commended for having already persuaded the council to issue a Request for Qualifications for firms interested in managing the project on behalf of the city and for enlisting the help of “experts” in coming up with a master plan for the land, thereby doing much to take the politics of City Hall (“where good ideas go to die”) out of the equation.
As for those who now live in those apartments, they stand only to gain from the remake. No one wants to live in a slum, no matter how “affordable” it might be. But the Marietta Housing Authority has more than proven its skill and dedication at helping relocate those on the low end of the economic scale into better living arrangements.
LOCAL RESIDENTS — and area business people and developers — are well aware of what the Cumberland/Galleria and Town Center areas have to offer just one or two exits north and south of the city on I-75. They’re also all too aware that Marietta has been left behind as other parts of Cobb have grown. Those who exit I-75 on Marietta Parkway and Delk Road headed toward the Square are greeted by a parade of shabby storefronts, rundown strip malls and an empty, burned-out hotel — and the view only gets worse if one goes down Franklin Road, where streetwalkers and pimps are not an unusual sight.
The “gateways” into Marietta should show the city at its best — not its worst.
The proposed bond represents the best chance Marietta has had — or is likely to have — to reverse the current situation.
THIS NEWSPAPER has never been a fan of government solutions to problems. We far prefer that government get out of the way and let the private sector do its thing. That approach has been tried along Franklin, and failed. City Hall turned a blind eye to Franklin’s deterioration for decades, apparently hoping the problems would cure themselves. It didn’t happen. Franklin’s challenges are too complicated and too entrenched for a developer to risk the necessary energy and capital. Those developers went elsewhere while City Hall napped and Franklin’s problems worsened.
So at this point, reluctantly, it appears that nothing positive is likely to happen along Franklin unless local government takes the lead. Yet it’s too big of a challenge for government to do by itself. Tumlin’s plan to buy and bulldoze the worst of the apartments while creating a workable assemblage of cleared land is the best plan that has come along for Franklin in decades. It should result in a stunning revitalization of a now-depressed corridor, a chance for the city to reverse the short-sighted decision of long-ago to green-light construction of 11 apartment complexes so close together. Moreover, the redevelopment should be the seed that helps create a healthy “halo” effect on nearby areas and invigorates the city and its school system.
Marietta is at a crossroad, and “doing nothing” is no longer a viable option for the city.
Vote “yes” on the redevelopment bond on Tuesday.