Land swap aids four groups

Land swap aids four groups

May 18th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in Business Around the Region

DALTON, Ga. - In the property version of musical chairs, Dalton city officials and business owners are finalizing plans to allow Dalton State College to expand south, create a new park and rainwater retention area for the city and provide downtown office space for two organizations.

The Dalton-Whitfield County Chamber of Commerce plans to deed its College Drive property to the city for a park and rainwater retention pond. Meanwhile, the Carpet and Rug Institute will sell its College Drive business to the Dalton State Foundation.

The plans are the culmination of discussions that have been in progress for more than a year.

Both organizations will move downtown to South Hamilton Street and take up residence early next year in the city-owned building previously owned by Dalton public schools.

"We are excited about this win-win situation that will accomplish a lot of different things at the same time," Carpet and Rug Institute President Werner Braun said Tuesday.

The group's board approved a plan last week to sell a 17,000-square-foot building and 3 1/2 acres of property, where the institute has been housed for 40 years, to the Dalton State Foundation for $1 million.

The property will give Dalton State College much-needed space and will also link it to several properties farther south that may be available for purchase, Braun said.

At the same time, it will allow the Carpet and Rug Institute to downsize and help revitalize the downtown area, Braun said. The institute has 15 employees.

Dalton State Foundation has made a verbal agreement with the institute but has not yet inked the deal, according to Pam Partain, spokeswoman for Dalton State College. Once the purchase is completed, the nonprofit foundation will give the property to the state Board of Regents, Partain said.

No plans have been made for how the college will use the property, she said.

The Chamber of Commerce board voted Monday to approve the plans to give its land to the city, according to Chamber President Brian Anderson. The property is appraised at about $700,000.

The building will be razed and the property near the intersection of College Drive and Dug Gap Battle Road will be converted to a small city park and rainwater retention pond to help control flooding from McClellan Creek, Anderson said.

Studies by Dalton Utilities have shown that the Chamber property is the best location to build the pond and prevent flooding of several roads in the area, he said.

A move downtown will also be advantageous to the Chamber, which is on College Drive, Anderson said.

"Right now, we are over here by ourselves and everybody else is already located downtown," he said. "It will bring us closer to the center of the business community."

The city will rent the Hamilton Street building to the Downtown Dalton Development Authority, which will sublet it to the Chamber and the Chamber will sublease to the institute, City Manager Ty Ross said.

The downtown authority plans to vote on that lease today and then City Council members will need to approve the plans before the deal is finalized, Ross said.

The city has set aside $1.5 million to renovate the Hamilton Street building, with the first bids expected to go out in June, Ross said.

The three-story building first served as Dalton's post office before it became the school system's central office. In 2010, the school system swapped the building for the former jail property at the corner of Waugh and Jones streets, which it plans to develop.

Renovations will restore the exterior of the historic building as well as update the office space, changes that should be complete by early next year, Ross said.

"It's a beautiful old building with a lot of neat stories," Ross said. "We believe it will benefit the city to have the Chamber and the (Joint Development Authority) - the point people for economic development - front and center in the downtown area."