It wasn’t that long ago that Rome’s Downtown Development Authority was hearing about the need for residential to help balance the continued evolution and revitalization of Broad Street. That “live-work-play” mantra stuck and we’ve since seen a surge in lofts along Broad Street and connecting streets — some with monthly rents of $1,300 a month or higher.
That, in turn, is creating a spread for additional housing just off downtown’s main corridor.
So Richard Franklin, who assembled properties just off Broad near the Clocktower, cited that “desire and need” for additional downtown residential as he petitioned to rezone the contiguous properties on East First, East Second and Fifth Avenue in order to allow onetime residential structures to be used for that purpose again.
By a 6-2 majority with Wendy Davis and Bill Irmscher voting no, the commission voted to switch zoning from neighborhood office commercial and office institutional to urban mixed use. The change was blessed by an earlier 5-1 vote by the planning commission as well as a yes recommendation from the planning department.
The properties in play are to 412 E. Second St.; 411, 409 and 412 E. First St; and 102, 104, 106 and 108 E. Fifth Ave.
Franklin said he’s owned most of the properties since 2015 and completed the assemblage a few months ago. He’s revitalized five of seven of the properties — “some were in pretty dire straits” — in that time. There is existing parking, enough for 40 spots, Franklin adds. The homes were used for residential until the 1980s and ’90s, and then were targeted for office use. But now, residential is needed again, Franklin says.
He added that the area is included in the downtown Business Improvement District and pays additional taxes to support BID objectives.
Attorney Jeffrey B. Kelly spoke in opposition to the project. Kelly and his family — six in all — appeared in bright orange T-shirts with “vote no” on the front. Kelly says his concern is mostly future use of the property if rezoned as Franklin requested. Kelly said he was opposed to a potential of restaurants, retail and perhaps an eventual high-rise residential development.
Several commissioners — including Davis and Bill Collins — questioned what impact the zoning would have. Planning Director Artagus Newell answered questions about future uses as well as how urban mixed use zoning indeed would allow some retail.
So what’s next: Franklin has the green light to continue his plans for Clocktower Corners — and it might not be the only downtown neighborhood to see residential use.
The city currently is reviewing Wayne Robinson’s bid to put condos, apartments and retail on property adjoining the Courtyard by Marriott development across the Oostanaula on West Third Street. And don’t forget plans to put residential adjacent to the law enforcement parking deck near the library and riverfront (the Hoyt property).
Richard Franklin and Clocktower Corners LLC have assembled buildings off the busier paths of downtown Rome with the idea of converting the one-time homes turned offices back into residential use. To do so, they’ll need a favorable vote from the City Commission at Monday’s meeting (6:30 p.m.) The switch has been blessed by the Planning Commission.
Technically, it would switch zoning from neighborhood office commercial and office institutional to urban mixed use. The properties in play are to 412 E. Second St.; 411, 409 and 412 E. First St; and 102, 104, 106 and 108 E. Fifth Ave. A more defined outline of what Franklin wants to do appears below (from the commission agenda package; click here for a specific link to the Franklin proposal).
What’s key: It takes into account what we’ve been hearing from local Realtors — that the overall appeal of downtown Rome has spread beyond Broad Street and eventually could incorporate other neighborhoods to the south of east.