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Officials to move on TAD at mall
• Creating a tax-break district around Mount Berry Mall is expected to spur redevelopment in the area.

Plans are in the works to create a TAD around Mount Berry Mall, but the footprint of the area where developers would get a tax break is smaller than requested by Hull Property Group.

"It's a substantial reduction," Rome City Manager Sammy Rich told members of the city-county joint services committee.

The designation could spell new life for the mall and attract other businesses to the area. Hull, which owns the mall, has said it wants to tear down the Sears end to create outparcels and improve the remaining storefronts.

"They did say they were going to make the space left more upscale," County Commission Chair Rhonda Wallace said. "And that would be a perfect location for several nice restaurants."

In a Tax Allocation District, the taxes due on new construction are instead funneled back into improving the district for a set period of time. The incentive is aimed at spurring economic development in an under-utilized area.

"It's a tool," Rich noted when Rome and Floyd County officials asked for his recommendation. "Having that mall sit vacant is not good for the community."

The original proposal covered 14 parcels on both sides of U.S. 27, including undeveloped land between the mall and the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College.

The revised plan is down to nine parcels, all on the mall side of the highway, and it also excludes a tract zoned for an apartment complex. Not all of the property is owned by Hull.

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County commissioners were reluctant to forgo their share of the estimated $5.7 million in taxes that could be diverted from the general fund over a period of 10 years. The revised footprint shrinks that estimate to just over $1.5 million.

"I think there's a consensus," Wallace said following a discussion of pros and cons. "We want you to move forward with it."

The creation of TADs is a city function and the next step is to present the revised map to Rome's Redevelopment Committee. That committee also vets the applications developers must submit in order to take advantage of the tax break.

"Even if (Hull) doesn't apply, we'll have the TAD in place for someone else," County Commissioner Wright Bagby said, noting that the financing option would make the property more attractive to investors.

Mayor Jamie Doss and City Commissioner Evie McNiece both said they would expect the mall owners to offer some infrastructure improvements if they were to get TAD financing. The company has rejected an outright contribution to the cost of building a road between the shopping and tennis center.

"They have to have ... maybe not skin in the game, but road in the game," McNiece said. "They have to have something enticing for us."

RN-T.com

Read this story online to see a Google map of Mount Berry Mall.


Pepperell Elementary holds its 1st Native American Day
A look back to another time

The sound of flute music filled teacher Michelle Clay's classroom at Pepperell Elementary School on Wednesday as students trekked across the U.S. during the first Native American Day.

The interactive presentations — complete with corresponding dress, poster boards, village diagrams and other props — capped off the students' unit on Native Americans which started last month, said Clay. When she told the students about the project and its loose guidelines, she assumed there would be nothing but poster boards with pictures on them.

But, to her surprise, students took that a few steps further.

Besides dressing in faux tanned animal skins or furry jackets — in the case of the Inuit — students made model villages to accompany the information they gleaned from their studies — parents even got caught up in the creative process.

Popsicle sticks formed the longhouses of the Northwest, burlap ribbon covered a frame for the Inuit teepee, cardboard boxes wrapped in brown paper with a ladder sticking through a hole on top exhibited a Pueblo pithouse and a toilet paper roll was plastered with tiny marshmallows for an igloo.

Each presentation table was positioned as if there was a map of the country on the floor, with each Native American group studied positioned in the region they inhabited.

Other classes jumped from table to table, finding out about the region, weather, clothing, homes, food and other facts of the Native American groups represented.

Clay has seen students who are typically shy become invigorated by the project and not hesitating to share what they've learned. It definitely improves students' public speaking skills, she said.

In the past, third-grade standards didn't call for an introductory Native American unit, but that was recently changed, Clay said. She stressed the importance of her students understanding the heritage of the nation and how early Native Americans survived and lived.

By showing how the way of life in the country has changed, it gives students a concept of the differences between the past and present of their nation.


One Book author to speak tonight
• Matt de la Pena will discuss themes of his award-winning novel "I Will Save You" at the DeSoto Theatre.

Bestselling author Matt de la Pena will be speaking tonight on his Newberry Award-winning young adult novel "I Will Save You" — this year's One Book/Many Voices selection.

"This is an important writer, an award-winning writer coming to Georgia," organizer Tina Rush said. "It's a cultural event for the community."

The event at the historic DeSoto Theatre, 530 Broad St., starts at 6:30 p.m. with a performance by the Rome Middle School choir.

De la Pena is slated to speak at 7 p.m. and read excerpts from his novel, which chronicles the growth of Kidd, a teen trying desperately to escape his abusive past, and his friends Olivia and Devon, who have problems of their own.

"Everybody has a way they see the world," says Mr. Red, a former surfing star and the closest thing to a mentor Kidd has.

Rush said de la Pena also will answer questions from the audience and sign books after his lecture.

Admission to the event is $5 at the door and Dogwood Books will be onsite with de la Pena novels for sale.

One Book/Many Voices is an annual initiative that seeks to foster literacy, promote discussion and build community through reading. Every year the board selects an author and book to be the focus of the program.

"It's a community read," Rush said. "A lot of book clubs get involved, a lot of schools. Many read it as a class and have discussions about the themes, then the kids write about it."

Winners of the writing contest, open to all students in the county, will meet with de la Pena before the lecture at a reception sponsored by the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth and the Rome News- Tribune.

"Kidd has a book where he writes down his philosophies of life, so the essay question was 'What is your philosophy of life?' We even had an elementary school student who placed this year," Rush said.

The winning essays will be published in the Rome News- Tribune on Sunday.


HPC OKs addition to Hawthorn Suites
• Architect Robert Noble says work could start before Jan. 1.

Ira Levy, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham owner

Robert Noble

Rome businessman Ira Levy has been given the green light for a 35-room addition to his Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham hotel property. The Rome Historic Preservation Commission signed off on revised plans for the project without any dissent Wednesday.

Architect Robert Noble represented Levy at the HPC meeting Wednesday and explained the primary changes involve the addition of a second level parking area and a minimal increase in the square footage of the building.

Three floors of guest rooms will top the building. The new building will be constructed parallel to the Oostanaula River, between the existing hotel and the Third Avenue parking deck.

The footprint will be located closer to West First Street and be connected to the existing main entrance to the hotel by a covered breezeway.

Asked by HPC Chairman Harry Wise about a timeline for the project, Noble said, "He's ready to proceed as soon as we get all of the drawings done." The architect said Levy, who was out of town Wednesday afternoon, hoped to start construction before the end of the year and that it would take about nine to ten months to complete the addition. The 35-room addition would bring the total at the Hawthorn up to an even 100 rooms. The HPC also approved plans for a sunroom on the back of a home at 9 Pear St. in the Between the Rivers Historic District.

The request was submitted by Resch Construction of Rome.


TODAY'S YOUNG ARTIST

Today's artwork is by Rome Middle School student Joshua McCreless.