On Monday, September 16th, the Council for Quality Growth co-hosted – in partnership with Cobb Competitive EDGE and Revitalize Marietta – a Cobb Redevelopment Forum breakfast at the Marietta Conference Center. The event featured keynote speeches from both Georgia United States Senator Johnny Isakson, and the U.S. Senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker. In addition, the event included three panels discussing both the opportunities and reasons to invest in development projects in Cobb County today.
After opening remarks by Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee, Senator Isakson spoke about the importance of investing in Cobb County, and the tremendous development opportunities that can help Cobb County to continue to prosper in the future. In particular, he discussed the importance of initiatives such as the $68 million general obligation bond on the November 5th ballot for citizens of Marietta, which would allocate $64 million to redevelop the Franklin Road Corridor and to invest in needed infrastructure improvements. As he explained, “When you invest in yourselves – when you have a vision for the future – good things happen.”
Following Senator Isakson’s speech, the Redevelopment Forum shifted towards panels that included both public sector officials and private developers to discuss the development prospects in Cobb County. In the first panel titled, “Why Cobb? Why Now?”, moderated by KSU President Dr. Dan Papp, Cobb County Community Development Director Rob Hosack underscored the importance of local government officials serving as intermediaries and liaisons for developers seeking to implement their visions. He further highlighted that, in many cases, this required the government to be flexible and to be willing to “get out of the way”.
Mason Zimmerman, Council Chairman and Senior Vice President at Pope and Land Enterprises, affirmed that point, while also highlighting that Cobb County is in a prime position for development. As he explained, from a private developer’s perspective, there is a spectrum of development incentives that encourage investment: market-driven arguments on one side, and incentive-driven reasons on the other side of the spectrum. At this point in time, “Cobb is fortunate to play on all sides of that spectrum, and everywhere in between.”
The Forum then continued with a panel discussing finance and incentives for development in Cobb County, particularly highlighting the $68 million bond vote to redevelop Franklin Road. Marietta Mayor Thunder Tumlin; Dan McRae, attorney at Seyfarth Shaw; and Charles Whatley, Managing Director of UrbanIS highlighted the importance of initiatives such as this redevelopment bond, in order to improve the lives of residents on Franklin Road, the performance of the school system, and the standard of living in Cobb County overall.
Charles Whatley further highlighted the importance of investing – not only in redevelopment – but also in retention of what Cobb County already boasts. In his words, “We’ve got a lot of tools for redevelopment and traction; we need more tools for retention and polishing what we already have.”
Bob Corker, the United States Senator from Tennessee, then spoke candidly about the redevelopment miracle that occurred in Chattanooga while he was Mayor, and the ways in which the city was able to transform itself into a glowing redevelopment success story. He highlighted that it was important to act on plans quickly after they gain traction, as it provides momentum and community support that is vital to redevelopment success. As he explained, too many local governments make plans that excite the citizenry, but then place those plans on a shelf, causing any support that could have fueled the project to dissipate. One of the reasons that Chattanooga was able to complete a $120 million development project in only 35 months – raising $60 million of those funds from private donations – was because they capitalized on the enthusiasm of citizens, immediately moving forward with plans and incorporating citizen input into those plans.
Finally, the Forum’s final panel focused Redevelopment Efforts in South Cobb, particularly in the area surrounding Six Flags Road. Cobb County Commissioner Lisa Cupid discussed development progress in the region, while Dale Kaetzel, Park President of Six Flags over Georgia, revealed details on the expansion of Six Flags that was breaking ground that day, marking the largest acreage expansion of the park in its history.
Mason Zimmerman, the current Chairman of the Council for Quality Growth, underscored the need for this event and the necessary role that the Council plays in fostering development, saying:
“The Cobb Redevelopment Forum was a unique event because it allowed private sector developers and public sector officials to come together to highlight the ways in which the two can work better together to achieve common goals particularly related to redevelopment.
The Council for Quality Growth works on a daily basis to bring all parties in the development field together to advance the common cause of promoting and supporting sustainable growth in the metro Atlanta area.”
Following the Forum, Commissioner Lisa Cupid and Cobb County Planning Division Manager Dana Johnson led a redevelopment tour of South Cobb, including the sights at Veterans Memorial Highway, Discovery Boulevard and Mableton area. The tour ended with a visit by former Ga. Governor Roy Barnes discussing the history of Mableton and the available redevelopment opportunities for the community.