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County pushing TADs to pump new economic life into Clayton

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

In recent years, northwest Clayton County and the Tara Boulevard commercial corridor have been the victims of urban decay. While the reasons vary, both areas have experienced significant decline in the last decade.

On Tuesday, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) will seek public opinion on two proposed Tax Allocation Districts (TADs) aimed at generating redevelopment in those areas.

If adopted by the county, the Northwest Clayton TAD and the Central Clayton Commercial Corridors TAD would invest a portion of existing property and sales tax revenues into the communities in which they are levied. The taxes would, in turn, fund new development, such as mixed-use facilities, new businesses, road and infrastructure improvements, new parks and recreation facilities; along with pedestrian safety and connectivity improvements.

Eldrin Bell, BOC chairman, said neighborhoods in the northwest part of the county, particularly the Cherry Hill subdivision, were severely impacted by the construction of Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport's fifth runway. When the airport expanded further into the northwest part of Clayton County, many of its residents fled to escape the noise of passing jets, Bell said.

"Cherry Hill has been all but devastated by the expansion of the runways at Hartsfield," said Bell. "The feeling of the people is that they have kind of been abandoned. We felt putting a TAD there could give us a chance for redevelopment that we have never had before.

"The people of Cherry Hill certainly deserve some attention and this is the first serious step we have made to make sure that can happen," Bell added. "It will help the people who stuck it out feel whole."

The proposed boundary of the Northwest Clayton TAD heads south from the county's northern boarder following Interstate 285, continuing south on Interstate 75, and cutting west through unincorporated Clayton County to the county's western boarder. The county predicts the TAD will create $985 million in new development, spawn 10,600 new jobs, and add an additional $4.2 billion to the county's tax base.

Another area of concern is the Tara Boulevard corridor. Once a thriving commercial area, Tara Boulevard has, in recent years, become dotted with aging or vacant strip malls.

Richard Padgett, a senior partner at Huntley Partners, an Atlanta consulting firm responsible for defining the boundaries of the TADs, believes the Central Clayton Commercial Corridors TAD may breath new life into Tara Boulevard and the surrounding area.

"There are number of strip malls that have seen better days," said Padgett. "It is not so much that it is failing, but is underachieving."

The proposed boundaries of the Central Clayton Commercial Corridors TAD encompass: The frontage on Interstate 75 between Tara Boulevard and Southlake Mall; parts of Mt. Zion Road; sections of State Highway 54; all of Tara Boulevard north of Valley Hill Road; and much of Riverdale surrounding Southern Regional Medical Center. The county predicts the project would spur $550 million in new development, generate 5,000 jobs, and add $3.8 billion to the county's tax base.

Bell said the Central Clayton Commercial Corridors TAD would allow for vertical development, additional office space, and new high end hotels and restaurants.

"It is the centerpiece in my view," said Bell. "[Tara Boulevard] is the face of Clayton County. It's really creating an opportunity for high-end businesses to come to the county, particularly near the hospital. It's extremely important to the future of Clayton County from an economic development standpoint."

The public hearing for the TAD projects will take place at the Clayton County Administration Building in Jonesboro on Tuesday.