Yet more positive coverage on the city – way to go everyone!!! Thanks to the AJC for a great story!
It’s a year of milestones for Marietta.
In June, Marietta was one of 10 cities that won the “All-America City Award” from the National Civic League, a bragging rights designation.
Marietta Mayor Bill Dunaway is pleased with the changes in his city, but still hopes to increase homeownership to 50 percent of residences.
In May, Marietta celebrated the 20th anniversary of the renovation of its town Square ? officially known as Glover Park ? a key ingredient in the city’s renaissance.
And on Sept. 9, the city of Marietta will herald the 25th anniversary of its prestigious Theatre in the Square, which currently is playing “Turned Funny,” a play based on the memoir of the late Celestine Sibley, a columnist with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
One would think Marietta Mayor Bill Dunaway would be satisfied with the city’s progress.
But the mayor has his own scorecard. And in his mind, he has much more work to do.
One of his main measuring sticks is the high percentage of apartments in the city. When he first took office in 2002, 64 percent of the residences were renter-occupied.
“We now have that percentage down to 59 percent,” says Dunaway, who was elected to his second term last year. “Our goal is to be 50/50 by 2010, but it’s going to be very difficult to get there.”
Yet riding around Marietta with the mayor, it’s clear developers are busy bringing in more
homeowners to the city.
Street after street, modest World War II houses, primarily rental homes, are being torn down and replaced with more upscale housing.
Several top regional developers are transforming large blocks of land into higher density townhomes, condos or single-family homes ? all close to Marietta’s town center. Some of the developments are being built on what used to be public housing communities that have been torn down.
Winter Properties, Hedgewood Properties, the Myrick Co. and Roger Deboy all are busy building developments, with several selling out before construction is complete.
“Four or five years ago, you had to go out and try to find developers to come to Marietta, but now they’re knocking on our doors,” Dunaway says. “We’ve got so much upscale housing going on it’s hard to keep up.”
Although Dunaway may not reach his goal of 50 percent owner-occupied homes by 2010, it’s only a matter of time before Marietta completes its conversion from the rental community of working families, primarily from Lockheed and Dobbins Air Force base, to a more upscale town that appeals to homeowners and professionals.
Earl Smith, a Cobb County leader who has served as chairman of the County Commission and the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, has seen the ups and downs of Marietta.
When he moved his heating and air conditioning business to the Square in the 1960s, downtown Marietta was full of lively shops. But then shopping malls were built nearby. “In the ’70s and ’80s, Marietta dried up,” Smith says. “It was bad.”
At one point, Dunaway said there was a proposal to turn the downtrodden Square into a parking deck.
Then in 1985, developer John Williams came forward and donated $250,000 to renovate the park and offered to maintain its landscaping for 10 years. Another $500,000 from the city and other private donors turned Glover Park into Marietta’s gathering spot ? complete with concerts, art shows, a farmers’ market and other festivals.
As Dunaway sees it, the Square has helped spark the economic rejuvenation of Marietta.
“The magic phrase is: ‘walking distance from the Square,’” Dunaway says of how developers market their new projects.
Smith has been tallying up all the recent announcements and projects.
“I counted a half billion dollars of new investment and 1,000 new residences,” Smith says. “People are ready to move back in town.”
That’s one of the reasons Smith is chairing Friends of the Strand, which is raising money to restore the historic, but now vacant, Strand Theatre ? a prime attraction on the Square for decades.
Dunaway remembers taking a “date” to the Strand to see a movie when he was in third grade. The ticket price was 14 cents, a nickel more than the other theater in town.
Back then, Dunaway’s mother referred to Marietta as a “city of the dead.” She was convinced there were more people buried in Marietta’s cemeteries at the time than the 10,000 residents. (Today, Dunaway says Marietta has about 61,000 residents with more moving in every day).
And the renovation of the Strand will continue Marietta’s rebirth. “It will become another focal point for Glover Park,” Dunaway says. “It will look really good.”
So far, Smith says the Friends group has raised $1.6 million (including a $300,000 gift from developer John Williams) for the project. Smith expects to raise $2.2 million by the end of September, at which time construction can begin.
That will be another milestone for Marietta ? a community that is showing how parks, public spaces, theaters, artists, restaurants and museums play an important role in revitalizing a historic town center into a thriving, modern-day town center.