City officials are ready to aggressively seek new commercial activity along Redmond Circle on a 12-acre strip in front of the long-abandoned General Electric plant.
City Commissioner Wendy Davis also suggested during a city retreat Thursday that city leadership contact General Electric officials to see if there isn’t some way to improve the look of the old medium transformer facility.
General Electric donated 123 acres of property surrounding the northwest, eastern and most of the southern property around the plant to the city in 2015. Much of that property comes with restrictive covenants governing what can and cannot be developed on the site because of PCB toxins possibly in the soil.
GE Site Manager Cody Platt said the company performed an extensive environmental clean-up years ago of a ditch that leaves the property and ultimately feeds into Little Dry Creek.
“There are still some monitoring wells in the property that was donated to the city,” Platt said. “They are called sentinel wells. We don’t see anything in them but we continue to monitor them.”
A narrow strip in front of the plant could be developed for commercial purposes and Mayor Bill Collins suggested the city go ahead and put signs up indicating the property was available.
“I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen a developer knock on the door,” said City Manager Sammy Rich.
“I don’t know that people actually know it’s available,” said Commissioner Craig McDaniel.
There are several curb cuts into the acreage off Redmond Circle closer to Walmart which would make access to any kind of development somewhat easier. The only access in front of the old GE plant, the northern frontage, are the main entrance drives to the plant and massive parking lot.
Members of the commission still seemed to like the idea of redeveloping of the back section of the property that GE donated to the city for recreational purposes.
A section of the land between the plant and Lavender Drive has been developed for walking and biking trails with the help of non-profit Trails for Recreation and Economic Development volunteers.
The trails which meander through much of that property have won wide acceptance from both the biking and walking community over the past three years. Rome’s dog owners have gotten a lot of use out of the park because the trail are natural surface, not paved, and good on the dog’s feet.
The portion of the greenspace closest to Redmond Circle is known as the GE Trails at Garrard Park, named for Dr. John L. Garrard, the original owner of the land who sold the acreage to General Electric more than half a century ago.
Dr. Garrard used a significant portion of that property as a runway for his love of flight.
The recreation plan for the back section of the property shows both ball fields and soccer fields however the commission did not indicate any particular hurry to build out the recreational opportunities.