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Flowery Branch plant fades to history as city plans its future
Mooney Manufacturing site will become new city municipal complex, greenfield
The city of Flowery Branch has closed on a property for their future city hall. The old Mooney Manufacturing Company sits on the purchased property. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Mooney Manufacturing thrived for decades on the corner of Gainesville and Main streets, on a hill overlooking the downtown area.

The plant made solid wood furniture, and during World War II it made wooden boxes for the military, said Karen Collins, whose father started the plant in 1936.

"I want to say they were ammunition boxes, but I'm not sure," she said.

The business, employing as many as 28 during its heyday, closed about 10 years ago.

Last week, the piece of Flowery Branch history passed into city hands, along with surrounding property.

The city bought about 7 acres around and including the site for $262,500, with plans to eventually build a municipal complex. The Mooney plant eventually will be torn down and turned into a greenfield.

"They got a great deal on it," said Collins, who worked for three years in payroll at the plant. "Before the recession started, we were offered $700,000 and our accountant told us we could get more, so we held onto it."

City Manager Bill Andrew has acknowledged as much concerning the sale.

"We feel that looking at that property at this time, with the way the market is, we would be just taking advantage of the low market," Andrew said.

City Council voted earlier this month on the purchase, which will be funded by special purpose local option sales tax revenue, water and sewer money owed to the general fund and general fund reserves.

The city's plans for the new City Hall have been fixed since the city's 2005 comprehensive plan.

Flowery Branch has talked to a landscape architect to sketch a possible design on the properties.

"What we want to have is ... a building that's large enough to house some people in a decent-size meeting room. We would like to have a drive-through (window) for bill pay," Andrew has said. "And we'd like to have something connecting to a park."

A financing plan for a new city hall hasn't been laid out.

However, "part of financing (the construction project) would be us being able to sell off all we own on Main Street," Andrew said.

The city owns property on both sides of Main Street between Church Street and Railroad Avenue, including City Hall, the police department and two storefronts recently put under lease.

The new 7-acre site features two water towers — a newer, larger and higher one that will be kept in operation and an older one that will be razed.

An open-air, covered structure area across the street from the plant that Mooney once used to house heavy equipment and lumber also will eventually be torn down, Andrew said.

"But we are currently assessing these buildings for public works to use as an equipment and materials yard," he said.

As for demolition efforts at the plant, "we do not have a budget at this point," Andrew said. "We are thinking we may start to take the buildings down piecemeal this winter, as we have time.

"We will sell for scrap what we can with the wood and metal in the buildings. It may take a couple of years to have the site cleaned up and in its greenfield state."

Another long-term plan would be to possibly extend Pine Street, which bounds the Mooney plant on one side, or Main Street through the city property to Lights Ferry Road, which leads to McEver Road, a main West Hall thoroughfare.

Asked whether it was tough to see the property go, Collins said, "Oh, it is, very much. ... Our family is in the phase of ‘we're not going to have this anymore.'

"But it cost a lot in taxes and wasn't being used for anything, and then ... there was a zoning change that really limited us to what we could do with (the property)."