By Rebecca Gaunt
The old Collier building in downtown Kennesaw, which has been vacant since 1996, will be repurposed as part of the Common Grounds Plaza Project, and due to the cost of redeveloping historic properties, the Kennesaw City Council will consider incentives for the developer.
Local businessman Dale Hughes is set to close on the property at 2881 N. Main St. and the adjacent property at 2243 Lewis St. this month. He already owns the properties at 2861 and 2871 N. Main St. In March, Kennesaw City Council approved his plans to restore the former Whistle Stop Cafe to be the Apotheos Coffeehouse/Cafe and construct a Dry County Brewing restaurant and tap room.
“That will allow us to acquire the entirety of the block, other than a small sliver in the middle,” Hughes told Council Monday.
The portion Hughes will not own includes the controversial Wildman’s Civil War Surplus store, operated by Dent Myers since 1971, and Kennesaw Chiropractic Center. Myers is the owner of both properties.
The Collier building will either be the site of Dry County Brewing or several office prospects. If the brewery goes into Collier, the office prospects will go to 2861. The open plaza on Main Street will be used for musical performances, art displays and other public gathering events.
The corner at N. Main Street and J.O. Stephenson Avenue is part of the Central Business District. The city has identified it as an ideal redevelopment opportunity.
The repurposing of the Collier building is expected to be a challenge.
“This is going to be a difficult project. Historic preservation is notoriously hard. It’s hard to do as a developer. It’s hard to incentivize,” Luke Howe, director of economic development said.
Howe proposed incentives for what is estimated to be an $8 million investment in the three Main Street properties. Due to the historic preservation aspect and storm water issues, the project merits assistance from the Kennesaw Downtown Development Authority, he wrote in a letter to mayor and Council.
The proposed bonds-for-title deal would issue industrial development revenue bonds to acquire the project. The project is then leased back to the developer, and “the lease serves as the mechanism for the ‘abatement.’ These are cashless bonds, so they do not require backing by an authority’s parent government. In most cases, the incentives recipient uses the tax savings to collateralize a loan from a private financial institution,” according to the letter.
The bond model is appraised for a new value of $7.5 million. Under the proposal, KDDA would abate 90 percent of the taxes for 15 years. Tax savings would be approximately $1.6 million.
The incentive proposal was on the agenda for discussion only. If given the go-ahead by Council, it will go to the KDDA for discussion and the bonds will be issued later this summer.
The Hughes family has lived in Kennesaw since 1989 and owns several local businesses, including The Nest, Apotheos Roastery, Gabriel’s Restaurant and Bakery, the 1808, and Jeremiah Consulting.