There’s so much to offer here.
We’ve got the bustle and business of Broad Street with its shops and popular restaurants and nightlife offering live music and a rich social scene.
We’re home to a thriving art community and a culture center well beyond a city our size.
We’ve got the beauty of Berry College and Vann’s Valley with lush woodlands and scenic trails. Even just south of Cave Spring, the Pinhoti Trail beckons hikers and mountain bikers in a nearly untapped vein of opportunity.
Our resumé not only lists but delivers impressive medical facilities, a charming historic district and the warmth and down-home charm of our residents.
But it seems, as you approach our most marketable and valuable commodities, you’ve got to wade through the thorn bushes of blight.
To visitors driving into town from various directions, what first meets the eye may not be what we’re most proud of. We ought to change that.
Both the city and the county approved the first stages of a plan for industrial recruitment. While the overall plan, and who is going to lead that plan to fruition, is still up in the air ... we should be thinking about the metaphorical suit we’re going to wear to the party.
In many cases first appearances matter. They certainly matter when trying to get businesses to set up shop here.
For example, think of someone coming from the north into Rome through Calhoun after exiting off I-75. They make their way through the developed sprawl that greets you in Calhoun into pastoral scenery. In this imaginary voyage they’re saying this might just work as they drive past the Lowe’s Distribution Center and finally make their way into Rome.
But once they pass the Loop into the city proper, conditions begin to decline dramatically. The dead shopping centers, empty storefronts and blight overshadow the large well-kept church facilities and open businesses alongside them.
Investing in where we want to go
We’ve seen several tax allocation districts approved for new development — recently the Kmart site on Hicks Drive as well as Mount Berry Mall. The Courtyard by Marriott on West Third Street was also a TAD project.
We’ll see how the Kmart site and the mall pan out, but by all indications the Marriott seems to be doing well after an admittedly delayed start.
When our local governments approve a TAD they’re agreeing to allow increased property taxes from the improvements to be funneled back into the project for a set number of years to offset the cost of those improvements.
We’ve used TADs to bring retail businesses to our area as well as to assist in the building of hotels and upscale apartments. It’s time to use our powers to bring the rest of our city up to snuff.
Hopefully we would see, by using this same method, our blighted areas turn into marketable and attractive real estate. We could even use this to build some affordable housing while we’re at it.
We’ve seen plans floated on West Third Street as well as Avenue A with apartments located over storefronts. Maybe that would work in parts of North Rome or West Rome.
It’d be better than the urban decay that’s there now.
Take a look at South Rome coming up East Main and South Broad Street and remember the same place a little over 10 years ago before the new buildings, the streetscape work and the new Anna K. Davie Elementary School.
There’s still work to be done, of course, but the improvements are making a difference.
Can we as a community make people be proud of where they live? No. We can give them that chance though. The Joe Wright Village on MLK is one example. The Housing Authority is investing in those homes and it shows.
Hopefully, the people who are given a chance to live there will then take that chance to heart. Because when people take pride in their communities we all benefit.