For those that don’t remember, Franklin Road was once a happening place with many businesses to serve the people that moved into the new apartments that were sprouting up.
Unfortunately, too many apartments were built at one time and now they have all aged at a similar rate with little reinvestment in the units, so the area has fallen on tough times. With dropping rental rates at the apartments the amount of disposable income tenants have has decreased, so now the retail businesses have been replaced with weekly stay motels, pawn shops and laundromats, and even most of these businesses don’t thrive there.
I am in the real estate business and work in both the commercial and residential sectors and I have twice in the past year tried to place a business on Franklin Road. One company was on the south side of Franklin, which is south of Delk Road. Luckily that side of Franklin has large office parks that have kept that area free of apartments.
After looking at the vacancies on Franklin that business decided to leave. Luckily it did stay in the city. The other business I worked with could not get past the security issues of the street even though it was the most convenient geographical location for them. Unfortunately, that business left the city of Marietta and is now in unincorporated Cobb. They took their employees and their business taxes out of Marietta and put them in Cobb.
These are just two small examples but if compounded it makes a difference in the tax base of the city as it shifts more of the tax burden to run the city to the residential property owners.
For years, one of my major frustrations has been the underutilization of our freeway exits. Freeway businesses generate a large portion of sales taxes from people outside the city to support local infrastructure without increasing residential property taxes. The hotel/motel tax alone is a source of money that the city of Marietta misses out on with our poorly developed freeway exits. At the core of this underutilization is the South Loop and Franklin exits.
In comparison, in Smyrna there is the Galleria and Cumberland Mall. To the north in Kennesaw there is Town Center, hotels, office parks and dozens of restaurants and stores for locals and travelers alike to patronize.
Lastly, many of the objections I hear about the bond concern the current residents of the area and where they go. There is an oversupply of apartments on Franklin Road and they suffer from a large percentage of vacancies. A common game on Franklin is to offer a tenant some free rent to come in and sign a lease. By offering a lower rent and free rent upfront a complex can fill many vacancies. However, when a neighboring apartment complex offers a better deal the tenant breaks the lease they are in and moves down the street. That is the basis of the transient nature of the complexes on Franklin Road.
The city’s idea is to buy and tear down some of the complexes on Franklin Road, not all of them. When some of the complexes are torn down then the previously half-full complex becomes full with tenants. When apartment complexes are full the owners make money. When owners make money they may reinvest in the property to ultimately increase rents and improve the owner’s return on investment in the property.
The city’s initiative is a bold one and it needs to be because no developer is going to tackle the whole issue. There is too much to be done by a single business and that’s where government comes in. The mission of the government, as I see it, is to provide services to the collective whole that would be hard to accomplish individually. The collective good is what the Franklin Road bond is all about.
For the future of the city and the collective good of all its citizens, I strongly urge you to vote yes for the passage of the bond initiative on Tuesday.
Chris Norris is a Realtor in Marietta. He graduated from McEachern and Vanderbilt. He is married to Anna King and they have 2 children in the Marietta city school system.