With help from local government, a Georgia politician will bring a hotel to downtown Dalton for the first time in 45 years.
The Dalton Public Schools Board of Education and the Whitfield County Commission approved an agreement to provide up to $476,000 to state Rep. Kasey Carpenter, joining the Dalton City Council and the city's Downtown Development Authority. The agreement among the four governments will help him build the Carpentry, a 31-room boutique hotel that Carpenter hopes to open at the end of next year.
Located at the corner of Cuyler and Pentz streets, the business will be the first of its kind in downtown Dalton since the Dalton Hotel closed in 1973, Whitfield-Murray Historical Society Executive Director Reed Fincher said.
"It will be a real trendy hotel," Carpenter said. "We've got some good designers working on it. It will be the nicest hotel in at least Whitfield County — maybe North Georgia."
The government funding for the project is part of the Tax Allocation District plans that city officials started in December 2015. At the time, to incentivize business development, they formed two districts: one downtown and another along the Walnut Avenue corridor.
With approval from elected officials, developers can receive some public money for their projects. The hotel will be the second project awarded funds, following a $3.2 million package offered to Hull Property Group earlier this year to redevelop Walnut Square Mall.
Carl Campbell, executive director of the Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority and vice president of economic development for the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, said he and other community members evaluate proposals for public money. On a scale of 0-110, Carpenter's proposal scored a 77.
The evaluations are based on how many jobs a project would create, how trustworthy the business owner is and whether the business needs the extra money to become a reality. Carpenter said the hotel will cost about $2.4 million, and he originally asked for $625,000. Campbell and the rest of the committee agreed to provide $476,000, about one fifth of the hotel's projected cost.
"It was a good project," Campbell said. "A local developer like Kasey could see the potential for a project like this that an outside developer would never [see]. It warranted consideration."
The money is not guaranteed. First, Carpenter has to honor his end of a development contract with the local governments. Among other things, he promises to hire at least seven full-time employees by 2023.
Payments will come to Carpenter faster as property values around him rise. The downtown Tax Allocation District consists of 521 land parcels. For the purposes of payments on projects like these, the values of those 521 properties are "frozen" at December 2015 levels.
The city collects taxes on all of those properties, based on their appraised values. But if any of the properties have increased in value since December 2015, city officials promise to put that extra earning into a Tax Allocation District Fund. They will then pay that money to Carpenter and any developers on future projects that receive this kind of backing.
Projections show that the city and development authority each will contribute $71,400 to this project. The county will contribute $104,700. The board of education, which assesses the highest taxes, will contribute about $228,500.
"We as a board see our role as being team players with our community, particularly in community development," said Palmer Griffin, a school board member and a representative on the city's Tax Allocation District committee. "Part of our role is educating the community, but it's also in cooperating with others."
About a month ago, the city council also tweaked its zoning ordinances, which previously did not allow for a hotel on property zoned commercial-three. The code now allows for a "boutique hotel," which prevents the construction of an extended-stay motel by limiting the number of rooms on a property to 35, banning rooms from opening outside and banning laundry rooms for guests.
Carpenter, R-Dalton, who was elected in 2017, said his hotel will consist of 31 rooms, and he cited as inspiration the Hotel Indigo in Atlanta, The Ellis Hotel in Atlanta and The Press Hotel in Portland, Maine. Carpenter, who owns the Oakwood Cafe and Cherokee Brewing + Pizza Company across the street, got the idea for the project from a friend in Albany, Georgia. His friend also owns a hotel and restaurant across the street from each other.
"It's kind of a nice synergy," he said.
His architect, Gregg Sims, is finishing the drawings for the hotel, and Carpenter hopes to begin construction at the beginning of next year. He said designers Barbara Adamson and Harper Carnes, who helped with his other businesses, are working on the look for the place.
Without the public funding, he said, the project would not have gotten off the ground.
"For banks to get comfortable lending money on a project like this, you need to freeze property taxes," he said. "Between sales tax and hotel-motel taxes, the [government] entities will do better than if the project didn't happen. We'll make them whole. And it will continue to help downtown."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.