CUMBERLAND — This pocket of Cobb County “took a long, long rest” between 2003 and 2006, “even when the rest of the world was booming,” said Jonathan Gelber of the Bleakly Advisory Group.
That rest continued through the Great Recession and into the subsequent recovery.
Then, in 2013 and 2014, something changed.
“Who could tell me what happens in 2014?” he asked the 30-some people in the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Building. They laughed. The year prior, the county had made public a deal that would bring the Atlanta Braves to Cumberland. That agreement resulted in a state-of-the-art stadium and an accompanying multi-million dollar mixed-use development — The Battery Atlanta — that makes SunTrust Park’s next-door neighbor a true live-work-play community.
On Dec. 12, Gelber presented the Board of Directors of the Cumberland Community Improvement District the results of a study his firm conducted of the district’s economic impact.
“It’s a very, very positive report from my standpoint,” the CID’s chair, John Shern, said after the meeting. “I didn’t expect it to be quite that robust.”
The executive summary of Bleakly’s report says the Cumberland area is in the midst of “what could be called the ‘third wave’ of its evolution,” with almost 5 million square feet of commercial real estate in the pipeline. The area currently has 41 million square feet of commercial space, according to the report, 5.5 of which came online since 2013.
Bleakly studied the area on behalf of the Cumberland CID in 2016, Gelber said. But “a lot of what we did was conjecture and forecasting” given the rapid change of pace. Now that the dust has settled, Bleakly was asked to come back and take stock of the district.
According to the report, the number of jobs in the district has grown by 27% in the past 10 years, to 68,840, representing one out of every five jobs in Cobb County. Retail is the district’s top employment sector with just over one-fifth of the CID’s jobs.
It is, the report notes, the Atlanta region’s fifth largest employment center.
The people who chose to live there skew young: two-thirds of its residents are millennials or belong to Generation X, compared to 55% for the rest of the county.
“Without any disrespect to retirees or boomers, those generally are the people who are doing the most productive earning without taxing the schools, without taxing senior services,” Gelber said. “Generally it is a net contributing population.”
The report also laid out the amount of county and state revenue the district generates.
According to Bleakly, local and state government collect a combined $443 million in taxes in the CID each year. $61 million goes to the county, $68 million goes to its school district and $296 million goes to the state.
Shern said the data in the report could be used to further the CID’s mission: leveraging the money it collects as a self-taxing district.
“We found that federal and state money often went to the people that were prepared to spend it,” he said, explaining the origins of the CID.
The report, he continued, “will be the basis of a lot of grant applications. Often they will look for verification of what we’re asking for, and that report will give them a lot of that. … You ask somebody for five million dollars. They say, well prove to me you need it. We can go back to this data to prove a whole lot of things.”