City Responds to Common Criticisms About Downtown Development

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In the September issue of the Decatur Focus, the city has compiled many of the commonly heard criticisms of commercial and mixed-use development downtown and provides replies…

Downtown multiple dwellings caused the increase in our current school population.

More multi-family developments will do the same. In the six downtown multi-family developments completed since 1999, there is a total of 45 students registered for the current school year. Seventeen attend elementary school, two attend FAVE, 11 attend Renfroe and seven attend Decatur High School. That is 45 students out of 641 units. This accounts for only 2 percent of the student population growth. The school system’s current student growth projections include estimates, developed by consultants, for the number of students likely to enroll from the projects currently under construction.

Downtown multiple dwellings have a negative impact on our school system.

Decatur School Board members have stated that it takes at least a $700,000 single-family home to generate enough local school tax revenue ($7,000) to cover the local cost of one student. For each additional school-aged child living in that house, the education costs have to be covered by other tax payers. The estimated combined value of the six multifamily buildings already occupied in downtown Decatur is $167 million, generating a total of $1.6 million in local school tax revenue each year. The total estimated cost to the school system from local funds for these 45 students is $315,000. That provides the school system with more than $1.2 million per year to be used to educate other children

The Callaway property would be more beneficial to the school system for school expansion.

The Callaway property is a 4.7-acre site that was owned by DeKalb County. As a tax-exempt property, it does not pay property taxes. The City of Decatur worked for 10 years to acquire this property for redevelopment to create new tax revenues to benefit City Schools of Decatur and the City of Decatur. A conservative estimate of the local property taxes of the redeveloped site is more than $400,000 per year, or enough to cover the local tax share for more than 55 students. We continue to work with the developer to increase the amount of office space proposed for the site because there is a growing need for new office space downtown.

Apartment developments will ruin downtown and our community.

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Does Anyone Actually Live at Atlantic Station?

I’ve been asking myself this question ever since the over-hyped, mixed-use, mega-city first opened to the public in 2005. At first I chalked it all up to on-going construction. “Once this place is finished, kids will play in the fountains, elderly couples will walk hand-in-hand along the wide sidewalks, and 20 somethings will sunbathe in the parks.”, I thought. But that hasn’t been the case. In the two plus years since its opened, Atlantic Station has continued to look as dead as its ever been. Which has led me to speculate that either no one lives here or the homes and apartments are inhabited by some sort of mole people straight out of the 1956 sci-fi movie.

Tell me you don’t have the same experience? Whenever I drive across the 17th street bridge into former brownfill country for an embarassingly frequent Banana Republic fix, all the residential areas are a wasteland. Sidewalks? Empty. Porches? Empty. Apartment balconies? Empty. Parks? Empty.

Maybe I just don’t know where to look. Maybe all the families hangout away from where all the chainstore junkies congregate. I wouldn’t blame them if they did. But I have a sneaking suspicion that’s not the case.

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