Marietta Daily Journal - August 8, 2016

LANDSCAPE I INTERSTATE 75, SOUTH MARIETTA PARKWAY

Marietta CID project designed to improve looks of interchange

By Emily Selby

eselby@mdjonline.com

The exit ramps at Interstate 75 and South Marietta Parkway recently got a facelift with the Gateway Marietta Community Improvement District’s landscaping project, which is now complete.

The project cost about $220,000 and is the first step in a larger landscaping plan, according to Joe Knight, a co-founder of Strategic City Partners, a consulting firm hired by the CID to run the day-to-day operations of the CID.

Knight said the CID chose those exits to landscape because they act as “the gateway of the city.”

“We want to make it look as nice as we possibly can,” he said. “When you look at the (Interstate) 75 corridor, you’ve got the Cumberland area which has really nice landscaped exits and then when you go north, to the Town Center area, they also have really nice landscaped exits. If you’re a visitor or someone thinking about moving to the area, you might drive right by Delk or South Marietta Parkway just because the exits don’t look very nice. So, we’re trying to make the area look attractive and get more people coming to Marietta.”

Winter Designs, a landscape architecture and land planning design firm, designed the Cumberland and Town Center exits, and Principal and Owner Josh Winter said he was happy to work with the Gateway Marietta CID.

Designs for the project took several months as the firm had to adhere to GDOT guidelines and get the designs permitted.

“You’re kind of limited, so you have to be creative with how you (design) it on the shapes and forms. That’s where we really stand apart,” said Winter. “For example, the big circular off-ramp — we’re just accentuating the circle on that one. We’re not trying to press our design on the land as opposed to just trying to marry the two.”

The types of plants are also regulated for various reasons, including not blocking nearby billboards, and Winter said hardy, non-invasive plant species were planted for the landscaping project to withstand intense sun, rain and drought.

 

Maintenance on the landscaping should be minimal, according to Winter, who added that despite little upkeep, the landscaping will still be aesthetically pleasing.

“There’s always going to be a certain level of maintenance on anything in the landscape realm, but we do it in such a way that we allow the natural tendencies of the tree, shrub or grass to do what it’s supposed to without hindering it too much with maintenance.”

Construction on the project started in June and was finished just a few weeks ago.

The completion of this project is just phase one of a larger plan to landscape other quadrants of the exits that will span over the next few years, according to Knight.

“We’ll start another phase hopefully this winter or spring, and then we can’t complete the rest until probably 2017 because of the construction on the northwest corridor with all of those reversible lanes,” he said.

Knight estimated the cost of the entire landscaping project to be about $1.2 million, but that number varies based on the price of plants from year to year.

“Because we’re a small CID, and we have the money to do it all at once, we didn’t want a big grant from GDOT to help with the cost, so we’re still going to have to break it up over a couple of years.”

Winter said his company has already designed, detailed and permitted the plans for the other interchanges in the project.

 

The Gateway Marietta Community Improvement District recently completed a project to improve the landscaping at the South Marietta Parkway exit on Interstate 75. Picture above are, from left, Joe Knight, co-founder of consulting firm Strategic City Partners, which has been hired to run the day-to-day operations of the CID; board members Milton Dortch, Bob Morgan, Roger Davis, board chair Jeff Shaw, and landscape architect Josh Winter, who designed the landscaping at the interchange. / Staff-Kelly J. Huff

 

Public Private Progress: How Cobb County’s CIDs are supporting, strengthening and revitalizing their communities.

Georgia Trend

November, 2015

Anna Bentley

“What happens when you invest with vision?” ask banners slung across chain-link fences beside Cobb Parkway in northwest Atlanta. While the banners mask the construction along the busy roadway, the question serves to highlight an estimated half-billion dollars’ worth of improvements leveraged by the area’s community improvement district (CID), the Cumberland CID, since 1988.

The CID, which stretches 6.5 square miles from Vinings to the Galleria and north, was the state’s first CID. Now, there are 20 in Metro Atlanta alone, including three in Cobb County that address and fund infrastructure and quality-of-life projects.

“Post-recession, we’re in a different place from a funding perspective, where it takes more partners in order to complete a project,” says Tracy Rathbone, executive director of the Town Center CID. “CIDs are a creative way to get projects done, sometimes in a much quicker fashion than they can be done on their own without that type of district in place.”

CIDs are public-private partnerships that allow commercial property owners to impose additional taxes on themselves, which are then leveraged by the CID to gain access to local, state and federal dollars to accomplish roadway, quality-of-life and beautification projects.

CIDs allow commercial property owners to focus their self-taxed dollars on improving their immediate area. And for the three CIDs in Cobb County – Cumberland CID to the south, Town Center CID to the north and Gateway Marietta CID in between – they’re a smart way to support, strengthen and revitalize their communities.

Redefining Franklin Road

Cobb County’s youngest CID, founded in mid-2014, finds itself in a unique spot in the market, both economically and physically. The Gateway Marietta CID’s boundaries circle the transforming Franklin Road corridor in Marietta and position it directly between the established markets of the Cumberland and Town Center CIDs.

“The metaphor I like to use is that it’s kind of like a barbell, with the heavyweights on each end with kind of nothing in between,” says Joe Knight, Gateway Marietta CID’s administrator. “We’re going to take it upon ourselves to make our area as attractive as Town Center and Cumberland.”

Created soon after the 2013 passing of the city of Marietta’s $68-million Marietta Redevelopment Bond, which focuses $64 million solely on Franklin Road, the Gateway Marietta CID aims to form a single voice for the community and help maximize redevelopment efforts along the blighted corridor.

Franklin Road’s largest problem – a collection of rundown apartment complexes – was once its biggest draw. But as buildings aged and residents moved on, crime and drug use crept in. By the mid-1990s, Franklin Road had become a notorious crime hotspot.

But more troublesome, it seemed to have garnered a reputation that was even worse, hampering any significant investment or growth in the area. In fact, overcoming the bad reputation remains the biggest challenge today, according to Knight.

“I don’t know that Franklin Road has ever been as bad as people thought it was,” says Bob Morgan, managing partner at accounting firm Cerqueda, Morgan and Collins. He hasn’t had any crime issues at his Franklin Road location in the 25 years he’s been there.

In a short amount of time, though, the city and CID have begun to see significant improvements. Four apartment complexes have been demolished. Crime is down 51 percent, according to the Marietta Police Department. And investors and business leaders alike are starting to notice.

The Home Depot announced in early 2015 that it would be bringing 1,200 jobs to the Newmarket Parkway office complex just off Franklin Road, and China Shipping Container Line opened its new communications hub in Parkway Place last year.

The area’s easy interstate access, proven commitment from the city and CID, and opportunity zone designation – which awards companies a five-year, $3,500 tax credit per employee for net new jobs to the state – were all powerful motivators for investing in the area, says Jeff Shaw, CEO/principal at Fairlead Commercial Real Estate (FairleadCRE).

“You have great opportunities from a real estate perspective – incentives to do new development and redevelopment of existing buildings – so as an investor, there are really good opportunities,” Shaw says. FairleadCRE’s investment in the 459,000-square-foot, Class A office space at Parkway Center is already paying off, with 80,000 square feet of new leases signed in the last 11 months, he says.

To build on its growing momentum, the Gateway Marietta CID recently took on its first big project: redesigning and relandscaping the Delk Road and Highway 120/South Marietta Parkway exits on I-75. The Gateway Marietta CID contracted Josh Winter, owner of Winter Design, for the overhaul, which aims to create a sense of entry to the area. Work on the project began this fall and should be complete by 2017.

The city is also in the process of clearing 70 acres of land, which, when cleared, will represent a massive opportunity for the CID – and the region overall.

“We’re going to have within our CID probably the two most attractive pieces of real estate on the northern arc of Atlanta,” says Knight. New uses for the 50- and 20-acre parcels are unknown at this point, but they could include high-end retail, multifamily housing/condominiums, high-end office buildings or even training facilities for professional sports teams.

For an area still redefining itself, the possibilities seem to be nearly endless. One thing is clear though, says Shaw: “It’s a different place now.”

Responding to Growth

One of the biggest advantages of a CID is it allows communities to fund solutions to problems in the community, such as traffic flow issues, pedestrian safety concerns or confusing wayfinding signage – whatever is needed the most in the area.

“Each of us has a different community and different needs, so our investments are either proactive or reactive to address what those community needs are,” says Malaika Rivers, executive director of the Cumberland CID. “Cumberland has always been proactive about investing in transportation infrastructure.”

Over its 27 years, that proactive focus has translated into more than 30 road improvement projects, including restriping and road widening projects as well as major infrastructure overhauls. Recognizing a need for a connection across its boundaries, the Cumberland CID helped build the $300-million Cumberland Boulevard loop, giving area employees and residents a southwest to northeast route through the area.

More improvements are on the way. Construction has already begun on a $48-million roadway widening/diverging diamond interchange at I-75 and Windy Hill Road. This section of Windy Hill Road experiences three times more crashes than statewide averages with double the injury rates, according to the Cumberland CID. The project is aimed at relieving congestion as well as improving both vehicular and pedestrian safety.

And along Cobb Parkway, a two-part, $53-million roadway improvement project is slated for completion by 2017. The first part, reconstructing a six-lane bridge over the Chattahoochee River, is mostly complete. Other improvements include widening Cobb Parkway from Paces Mill to Akers Mill Road, adding medians and turn lanes, and bridging regional trail connections through a new, 12-foot-wide multiuse trail.

These projects are each approximately one mile from SunTrust Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves beginning in April 2017. And while many transportation, mobility and beautification plans were already in the works before the Braves announced their move to the area, the announcement has certainly accelerated timelines, says Rivers.

“We already have an excellent road network here, and we’ve already got tremendous access points to where the stadium is going to be located,” she says. “When you’re talking about tens of thousands of people coming in about 30 days a year for evening games, we need to make sure that we can handle that type of growth as well as all of the residential that that’s spurred as well.

“I think one of the largest priorities is making sure that we’ve got the improvements in place for April of 2017 when the Braves have their first pitch. Not all of the improvements can be put in place … but getting done what we can do ahead of April of 2017 is important to us, and that includes making sure that the projects that were already under construction continue to meet their schedules.”

Mike Plant, Atlanta Braves executive vice president of business operations, serves on the board of the Cumberland CID and also coordinates with the Town Center CID on multi-modal projects related to the stadium and mixed-use development, including a possible linkage to Town Center CID’s bike-friendly multiuse trail network for an alternative mode of transportation to and from the Braves development.

And while traffic flow improvements have an immediate impact on trip times and congestion levels, they also have a cumulative effect that can be underestimated or overlooked, says John Loud, owner of Kennesaw-based LOUD Security Systems – especially as the area continues to grow.

Loud bought his first business property inside the Town Center CID in 2002. Since then, the CID has completed dozens of road improvement projects, including the Big Shanty Connector, which connects the eastern and western ends of Big Shanty Road after they were truncated for more than 30 years by the construction of I-75.

Completed for a total cost of just over $27 million, the Big Shanty Connector officially opened in July 2012 and provides an alternate route to the heavily traveled corridors of Barrett Parkway and Chastain Road. And there are more projects on the way to relieve congestion along these major roadways.

The Skip Spann Connector, scheduled for completion in March 2016, will add a multimodal, lighted bridge across I-75, connecting Frey Road at Kennesaw State University (KSU) to Busbee Drive. The project is expected to reduce traffic on Chastain Road by 19 percent, says Rathbone.

The Town Center CID has also entered Phase 2 of the South Barrett Reliever project. It’s one of four phases that will eventually connect Cobb Parkway to George Busbee Parkway and bypass Barrett Parkway. “When it’s complete, it will be a tremendous traffic reliever for Barrett Parkway,” says Rathbone.

Expanding Mobility Options

As Cobb County’s communities continue to grow and evolve, its CIDs are also evolving their focus and solutions. And, increasingly, this means offering more quality of life and mobility options.

“Cumberland is developing from what used to be an exclusively office market to now one that’s being a more complete community, so there’s a lot of residential that’s being delivered in this area,” says Rivers. “Even though we don’t collect taxes or assessments off of any residential property, making sure that this is a community that can attract that type of growth, which in turn attracts more commercial investment, is important to us.”

One way to attract residential growth is to develop recreation- and mobility-focused greenspace. Cumberland CID’s 17-mile trail network (with eight more miles in development) connects to regional trail systems and abuts the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, spotlighting the area’s pristine natural amenities.

And in Kennesaw, the Town Center CID realized a 17-year dream last year with the completion of its Noonday Creek Trail, running seven miles from Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park to just past Town Center Mall. The multiuse trail was a founding vision of the CID’s first board of directors and is now a valuable amenity for the area, according to Loud. His employees often take advantage of the trail system, a perk Loud says he couldn’t have offered them without the Town Center CID’s efforts.

The Noonday Creek Trail is also getting a multimodal boost with the launch of the Town Center CID’s bike share program – the first for any CID in the state, says Rathbone – scheduled for implementation in September. The program will add 20 bikes at three docking stations in key spots of the trail, as well as in locations throughout the KSU campus.

“We’re trying to be as forward-thinking as possible in ways to get people out of their cars and enjoying the community,” says Rathbone.

With increased residential growth, offering multiple modes of transportation has become a necessity, says Rivers. “Real estate demands a variety of different transportation options and services for communities. It’s not simply okay to just build roads and widen roads. You have to offer transportation choices to people, and transit is a big need that will only continue to grow in importance.

“Demographics change. People’s method of getting to work changes,” she says. “Cumberland right now, its Achilles heel is not being on the regional transit connection beyond having local bus service, so having a connection to regional transit services is very important to us and hopefully one that our policy makers will be able to expand.”

Transit will be one of the issues the Cumberland CID will work to solve throughout the coming years. Its members recently voted to approve a sixth term for the CID, extending its operation through 2024.

Rivers sees this accomplishment as a testament to the value that the Cumberland CID provides its members and the community as a whole. And, judging from the proliferation of CIDs throughout the region – and the sustained, demonstrated growth in-side those CIDs – it would be hard to disagree.

Redevelopment Efforts within Gateway Marietta CID spur Crime Drop on Franklin Road

Redevelopment efforts along Franklin Road led by the City of Marietta, Marietta Police Department and the Gateway Marietta Community Improvement District (CID) have resulted in a significant decrease in crime, according to statistics from the Marietta Police Department. 

Passage of the $68 million Franklin Road redevelopment bond in 2013 provided funds to The City of Marietta to purchase and demolish old apartment complexes that had become notorious for crime and drug abuse.

And last year, the Marietta City Council approved the creation of the CID, which includes 39 property owners in an area of about .92 square miles along Franklin Road.

The city has purchased and demolished four old apartment complexes that had become notorious for illegal drug sales and other crimes.

After the properties are purchased by the city, The Marietta Housing Authority works with residents to ensure they have opportunities to relocate in safer communities.

Like other CIDs in Cobb and the metro Atlanta area, the Gateway Marietta CID is funded by property owners who have agreed to increase their property taxes to collectively make investments in infrastructure, beautification and public safety improvements. 

Over time, these investments pay off by making the area more attractive, safer, and accessible, for people who live and work in the CID.  These improvements also make property within the CID more marketable as residential and commercial property, and ultimately increase property values. 

“The Cumberland and Town Center Area CIDs in Cobb are good examples of how consistent investment in infrastructure, beautification and public safety can transform an area into a highly attractive location for business and high density residential development,” notes Joe Knight, principal of Strategic City Partners, which manages the CID under the direction of its board of directors.

The investments are also decreasing crime along the corridor. 

Year-to-date, incidents of robbery are down 60 percent, aggravated assaults are down 54 percent, burglaries are down 47 percent, larcenies are down 43 percent, and motor vehicle theft is down 83 percent.

Home Depot aims to bring 1,200 jobs to Franklin Road

Marietta Daily Journal
by Hilary Butschek
January 21, 2015

MARIETTA — Home Depot representatives said the company is looking to move its IT center to a vacant building off Franklin Road, bringing 1,200 jobs to the site.

The announcement came at a meeting of the Development Authority of Cobb County on Tuesday, where Home Depot asked to borrow $200 million to help renovate a Marietta building, at 2161 Newmarket Parkway, as well as two buildings the company owns in Cumberland where it’s headquartered. 

Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said he’s “excited with a capital ‘E’” Home Depot is considering the spot near Franklin Road after the city passed a $68 million bond to help revitalize the area in 2013.

The company has not signed a lease, and Tumlin said it won’t unless it can get the tax abatement from the development authority.

The authority will vote at its Feb. 17 meeting whether to issue the bonds, resulting in a tax break for the company. 

“A positive vote at the (development authority’s) meeting next month is an integral part of them doing it,” Tumlin said. “The signs are good, but it’s not a done deal.”

Jim McCarthy, Home Depot’s senior real estate director, said the company is set to lease about 250,000 square feet of office space in the Newmarket Parkway building. 

Tumlin said Home Depot’s move would be good for the corridor.

“They’re an excellent company with a lot of Cobb County ties. For them to choose that particular location is exciting news for Marietta,” Tumlin said. “Home Depot too is a leader. It’s probably one of the best known corporations nationwide and in the state of Georgia. When people see that Franklin Road attracts a business like Home Depot, it’s an impressive thing.”

The company’s move would bring 525 new jobs to the Newmarket location and move 675 existing employees there, McCarthy said. That increase in traffic in the area will spur other industries to grow, Tumlin said. 

“One thing it does, it will beget things like restaurants and service industries,” Tumlin said.

Although the bond money would not be used to pay for the lease on the new location, about $20 million of it could be used to furnish and buy equipment for the space on Newmarket Parkway, McCarthy said. 

Another portion of the money will be used to buy equipment and furnishings for the company’s 1.7 million-square-foot Paces Ferry Road building and 191,000 square feet of space it owns on Cumberland Parkway, according to the application.

The authority voted 7-0 to allow Home Depot to come back at the meeting next month with a detailed site plan, a cost-benefit analysis and a study from the Georgia Tech showing how the proposed development would affect the area, said Clark Hungerford, chair of the development authority.

“This is the preliminary inducement. It encompasses the broad outline of the project. … This just gets the clock ticking. Then, they’ll fill in the blanks in the next 30 days,” Hungerford said. “It says there’s nothing in here that says we wouldn’t give the bonds.”

The next step is to gather more details about the proposal and then let the Marietta Board of Education know about the development, Hungerford said.

“As we get information we will let them know,” Hungerford said.

Proposed office building

At the same meeting, Atlanta-based TPA Group, an office building developer, asked the development authority to borrow $60 million.

Using the $60 million, TPA Group is proposing to build a seven-story office tower on a 7.8-acre property on the corner of Akers Mill Road and Cumberland Boulevard. 

The office tower would provide 154,000 square feet of office space and include a 1,500-car parking lot, said Rick Bradshaw, president at TPA Group.

“The site’s unusual in its configuration,” Bradshaw said. “It’s been being used as a dumping area for highway construction near there.”

Bradshaw said engineers discovered concrete dumped on the spot, which will require extra money to remove to start building.

Bradshaw said he doesn’t have a committed tenant for the building, but he has a “serious potential commitment” that has yet to be finalized.

The potential tenant would bring 150 new jobs to Cobb and retain 150 jobs in the county with an average wage of $70,000, according to the application.

Hungerford said the authority will notify the Cobb Board of Education about the application when it gets more details.

Board member Donna Rowe described the proposed high-rise building as “beautiful” and an improvement to what the vacant lot looks like now.

“That site is awful. It’s a mess. It’s an eyesore,” Rowe said. 

Bradshaw said the company plans on building a high-rise hotel on the same site later.

Read more:  The Marietta Daily Journal - Home Depot aims to bring 1 200 jobs to Franklin Road

Marietta CID wants security cameras to monitor Franklin Road

Marietta Daily Journal
by Hilary Butschek
January 21, 2015

MARIETTA — The Gateway Marietta Community Improvement District, which covers close to 1 square mile along Franklin Road, could soon be covered with security cameras. 

The CID board wants to install cameras as a security measure in the CID’s boundaries because the crime rate there is high, said Trey Barry, board chairman. 

“I think it’s just as much about security as it is the image of security. It’s a resource for the area,” Barry said. 

The idea to install cameras stems from steps the Fulton Industrial Boulevard CID took to increase safety there, Barry said.

“I think we’re in a lot of ways similar to that CID,” Barry said.

While the Fulton CID hired a full-time security manager to patrol the CID and watch the cameras, Barry said the Marietta CID isn’t there yet and won’t be for a long time. The first step is installing cameras, which he thinks will reduce crime even if no one is watching the footage.

“I think that it’s more the appearance. It’s not necessarily monitoring the cameras and using them as much as it is knowing that there are cameras out there,” Barry said.

Barry said the specifics of where the cameras will be placed, how much it will cost and who might monitor them are yet to be determined. The CID will hear back about a grant it applied for in conjunction with Marietta and Cobb County that will give it $180,000 to study the area of Franklin and Delk roads.

The Livable City Initiatives study will determine what the area needs, such as pedestrian access, road improvements or security measures, Barry said.

CID administrator Joe Knight said he will look for grant money to install the cameras.

“We’ll need to see if there are grants for security cameras. I think the (Department of Justice) offers some,” Knight said. 

But first, before the CID can install the cameras, it has to get permission from the state Legislature, said Lynn Rainey, the CID’s attorney.

Rainey said CIDs in Cobb are only allowed to spend the tax revenue they get from properties inside the district on infrastructure improvements, but the Marietta CID board will ask for a change in the county’s CID law to allow the money to be spent for security measures. Rainey said the legislation has a good chance of passing. 

“Even though the entire General Assembly votes on a local act, if the local delegation supports it, typically the rest of the General Assembly votes in favor as a courtesy,” Rainey said. 

Knight said he will talk to Cobb legislators in the next month to get their support for changing the law.

EXPANDING THE CID

Members of the CID board also expressed interest at their Tuesday meeting in expanding the CID’s boundaries.

The Gateway Marietta CID, which was formed last June, includes 53 commercial properties in a 0.84 square mile area along Franklin Road.

The CID board approved setting its millage rate at 5 mills, the maximum a CID can levy in Cobb, and will bring in about $200,000 in revenue each year, Rainey said. 

Knight said he wants to see the CID expand west to include Life University and Kennesaw State University’s Marietta campus, the former Southern Polytechnic State University. 

That expansion could bring in about $50,000 more in tax revenue each year, Knight said. 

Knight also plans to try to extend the CID’s boundaries south toward Delk Road, which could bring in as much as $100,000 more in tax revenue each year.

Barry said he has heard interest from people who own properties near the CID in joining the tax district. 

“I think there’s genuine interest in other property owners joining the CID,” he said. 

The Marietta CID is small, Barry said, because it was created quickly, so now it needs to work on expanding.

“A lot of the reason why we are so small is that we put this thing together in a few months. So, we didn’t have the right amount of time to really launch. Generally CIDs take about a year or two to launch, and the time frame really forced us to have a small CID,” Barry said. 

The board also elected a new member at its Tuesday meeting to fill a vacant seat. Jeff Shaw, president of Fairlead Commercial Real Estate, LLC, which is the company that owns Parkway Place, where the CID holds its meetings, said he was excited to be a member of the board. Shaw said his company recently bought the high-rise office building in the summer of 2014, and he is looking forward to seeing the Franklin Road area grow.

“We’d like other people to see the same vision that we did for the area,” Shaw said. 

Read more:  The Marietta Daily Journal - Marietta CID wants security cameras to monitor Franklin Road