Revitalizing a blighted- but promising suburban community, one site at a time
Marietta pursues an ambitious revitalization program in a blighted community by acquiring and repositioning properties to attract developers and end-users.
The City of Marietta is pursuing an ambitious econmic revitalization program
$64 million bod referendum to fund property acquisitions
Franklin Road Corridor of Marietta, Georgia
A major, close-in suburb of Atlanta, Marietta is considered to be one of Georgia’s best-managed cities. Nestled against the dramatic backdrops of the Chattahoochee River and the Appalachian Mountains, the vibrant city has garnered national recognition for its Southern charm and modern, world-class amenities.
Yet, the city has greater ambitions. With easy access to I-75 and a higher education ecosystem that includes a Kennesaw University campus, Marietta saw unrealized opportunity to create economic value in its neglected Franklin Road corridor. Recognizing that city government would need to serve as a catalyst to attract private capital, Marietta’s leadership embarked on a journey to kick-start revitalization of the neighborhood. Through strategic redevelopment, the city aimed to improve safety and the quality of life in the community.
Its plan was to acquire neglected multifamily properties in the district, demolish the buildings and reposition the sites as promising development opportunities to private developers and end-users. By working with leading developers, the city ultimately could attract high-quality corporate employers that would create jobs and generate tax revenues.
Following a successful $68 million bond referendum to fund the revitalization effort (with $64 million specifically for this corridor), the city planners faced a dilemma: which properties should they acquire? Which would be most thoughtful and strategic? And how could they avoid overpaying for sites when property owners knew that the city was looking to buy following the public referendum?
Through a competitive proposal process, JLL was selected to help bring Marietta’s vision to life. Rather than recommending a quick, knee-jerk reaction, we proposed a thoughtful and methodical approach to identifying and acquiring the most promising sites that would have the greatest impact on community redevelopment. At the outset, we presented options to the city council and facilitated consensus on funding allocations for acquisitions, infrastructure and other improvements.
We recommended that the city focus on gateway parcels and the dilapidated multifamily complexes at the heart of the corridor to fundamentally improve the character of the community. As development activity became more visible, our thinking went, even neighborhood property owners who weren’t willing to sell would be motivated to upgrade their properties. As a result, the corridor as whole would organically evolve into a more vibrant community.
To proactively manage price negotiations, we clearly communicated to property owners that the city was in no hurry to acquire and would limit what it would pay. Meanwhile, we used the power of the JLL brand and network to generate interest among leading developers and users for acquiring the sites from the city. In our outreach, we emphasized the opportunity to advance the city’s larger vision and underscored the fact that the city had already assumed much of the upfront risk.
Over several years, we’ve helped Marietta identify acquire two strategic sites, reposition and dispose of two—with another under contract—in addition to other sites that the city is acquiring and repositioning. Seeing visible progress in the Franklin Road corridor has given private-sector developers and end-users the confidence to follow the city’s lead.
For example, JLL and the City leveraged our collective local relationships to land the $60 million corporate headquarters and training facility for the Atlanta United soccer team and developmental program. And, through our access to national retailers, we helped attract Ikea, which is developing a 338,000-square-foot store in the neighborhood, along with a national golf-themed retailer, Drive Shack.
Next up? Capitalizing on the success of the big-space projects secured to date, we’re helping Marietta attract private investors for high-density, mixed-use projects. Meanwhile, the city is already seeing the benefits of its visionary program in the form of more tax revenues, fewer dedicated police resources, improving school dropout rates, less urban blight—and better neighborhoods for all.