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Flowery Branch inches ahead with downtown changes
Board OKs 3 proposals for redevelopment project
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Redevelopment of the Flowery Branch historic city center is a step closer after a group of government officials last week approved threeproject-related proposals.

The first provides funding for the demolition of the old Mooney Manufacturing building at 5702 E. Main St. The second is the acquisition of 2.27 acres adjacent to Main Street, fronting Railroad Avenue. The third allows for a presentation before City Council to consider the creation of a downtown master plan and market analysis.

The Tax Allocation District Advisory Council approved each of the items Nov. 13. The council is made up of three City Council members, City Manager Bill Andrew, City Planner James Riker and two Hall County representatives.

The moves could clear a path for private investment and subsequent enhanced tax revenue for the city.

The Mooney building has been slated for demolition, and upon asbestos abatement, the structure will be removed and the site returned to a green field.

Once the project is started, the process is expected to take about four weeks, including air-quality testing and monitoring, Riker said. Original bids for the work ranged between $95,000 and $4 million due to the presence of asbestos, according to Riker. Of 22 bids, the city accepted the lowest. That proposal will next move to City Council for final approval.

The land proposal refers to acreage formerly known as “Old Town Flowery Branch,” which was the site of another outmoded manufacturing facility and is currently in green-field state after having been prepped for earlier proposed private redevelopment.

Developer Hortman & Dobbs was unable to pursue the project due to declining market conditions, and the land was acquired and has remained held by the bank.

In May 2012, a portion of the available land was sold to a speculator, according to Riker.

“And that’s when the city started to get an interest,” he said, fearing the remaining parcels would be shed in piecemeal fashion, making a cohesive development plan difficult to pursue. “Additionally, the purchase of the 2.72 acres ... means the city will have the ability to work with developers to present an open and clear opportunity for development.”

Andrew said the larger the property, the more value for redevelopment.

“The city sees this purchase as being able to acquire this property ... and, perhaps in time, do some transportation improvements, and get this property back into private hands for redevelopment,” Riker said.

The master plan effort, which will be presented to the City Council, should help the city determine the best way to move forward with development, Mayor Mike Miller said.

According to the mayor, city staff and City Council have been attending redevelopment workshops and speaking with developers who concentrate on in-town development.

“... We believe we have an important opportunity here to move the city forward with the creation of a small-town market atmosphere,” Miller said. “The City Council and I are excited about working to move the community forward.”

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