SO HOW DO WE END 2021?
With a month and change to go, the year 2021 has been mixed with good news and sadness. We’ll always remember 2020 as the year the pandemic began and how much of our lives changed — short-term and long-term. And while this year has supposedly been a year of recovery, our COVID numbers are far worse.
We’ve seen millions of dollars worth of new projects completed and more proposed or started. We’ve said farewell to a stunning number of community leaders. We’ve welcomed news businesses and said watched old friends close. As that song goes, “How do you measure? Measure a year?”
As we enter the 12th month, here’s some of what we’ve “measured” since Jan. 1:
While we mostly think of 2020 as the height of the pandemic, this year was brutal. Through Dec. 31, 2020, there were 379 COVID deaths combined in Floyd, Bartow, Gordon, Polk and Chattooga counties as well as 20,642 diagnosed cases. Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 24, we’ve recorded another 659 deaths and that’s not counting “probable deaths” (148 so far this calendar year). We’ve added another 30,000 cases as well.
We’ve welcomed new retail and restaurants, including East Bend on the former Kmart site off Turner McCall in Rome. The Sears and J.C. Penney’s and others lost in previous years — even Kmart — have been replaced by Kohl’s, Old Navy and a few others. At the same time, take a spin along Broad Street and start counting the vacancies. Or parts of Shorter Avenue. Some closings gave way to new ownership while we’ve also seen some infill of existing spots (Ulta Beauty at Pier 1).
We’ve made progress on the shortage of housing, especially with clever ideas of transforming existing hotels into affordable one-room apartments. There’s also a $1 million incentive for builders on the table while companies such as Smith Douglas flooded the market with homes off Old Dalton Road and now off Ga. 53 and the Bypass. Plus there are proposals out for perhaps 2,600 more residences — single-family, multifamily and mixes — just in Floyd County alone. (Please see a related update below)
We’ve seen major investment projects completed, from Berry’s new animal science building (nearly $16 million) to the about-to-open Fairfield Inn & Suites at the tennis center ($12 million) and the filling of East Bend (some storefronts remain available). We’ve likewise seen creative redevelopment such as Blossom Hill BBQ & Burgers. Our favorite, though, was Berry College transforming an old hotel into senior student housing adjacent to Oak Hill.
We’ll remember 2021 as the year of mergers and sales with all the medical changes: Floyd became Atrium Health Floyd; Redmond Regional is now Advent Health Redmond and Cartersville Medical Center now has Piedmont in front of its name. In the financial sector, Heritage First Bank blended with First National Community Bank to create a regional brand stretching from Paulding County to Chattanooga while maintaining hometown roots.
We’ve watched a parade of restaurant openings, mostly at East Bend, but likewise said farewell to a few friends including Crawdaddy, Martha’s Skillet in Coosa, O’Charley’s, Timbo’s in Rockmart and Rome City Brewing/333 on Broad and a few more.
We’ve lost too many community icons, from Harold Storey to Bobby Lee Cook to the Rev. Warren Jones to Senior Judge Larry Salmon to Gordon Leiter. We remember Rockmart City Manager Jeff Ellis, Parnick Jennings Sr., Darlington’s John Zazzaro, Ish Jones, the chamber’s Scotty Clark and many others — including too many young people lost to accidents or other causes.
So what’s ahead: Business updates, bruising politics and more are on the way. We’ll look at what’s ahead in one of our next few editions.
4,000 NEW HOMES IN NW GEORGIA?
On paper, at least, Northwest Georgia is booming with new residential projects. More than half of those units are planned in Floyd County while Bartow is second and Gordon County not far behind. Here’s what we’re tracking:
- More than 2,600 residences have been announced in Rome/Floyd County (1,018 single-family homes in Pleasant Valley Preserve; 1,241 multifamily units at the Bypass and 411; 200-plus apartments above new North Fifth/Martha Berry project, River District at 200-plus units).
- Add to that more than 600 single-family and multifamily homes east of Calhoun on Ga. 53.
- Cartersville’s west side is looking at Ladds River Landing with plans for 511 single-family homes, 177 townhomes and commercial development, too.
- Now comes Green Ridge Trail in Emerson. The Cartersville Daily Tribune News reports city council members had a first reading on the $80 million multifamily project last week. We’ll get expanded details later this week on that one.
- We expect to see more, especially with the city of Rome pooling $1 million in COVID relief funds for builder incentives (affordable housing whatever the current definition of that is).
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING THIS WEEK
Elections board implosion: The latest stunting from the Northwest Georgia legislative delegation, which basically implodes the current three-member election board and restocking it with five members appointed along political lines, is supposed to be effective by Wednesday, Dec. 1. If this is it for Dr. Melanie Conrad, John Scott Husser and Corey Townsend, they deserve medals, especially after the past 12 months. You couldn’t pay us enough to do that job given today’s atmosphere and attitude.
Return of the King: A story we haven’t heard much about this season has been the job Joey King — former head coach of the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes during the Trevor Lawrence years — has done at Carrollton. The Trojans are 12-1 in King’s first year as head coach and play Buford Friday night in the 6A semifinal. King led Cartersville to back-to-back state titles and previously was an assistant in Carrollton when the team won two state championships. King left Cartersville to coach wide receivers at Coastal Carolina and then was tight ends coach at the University of South Florida before returning to Carrollton. King, Georgia’s first head coach to win 50 games so quickly, is a Cedartown native.
PEAKS & VALLEYS: The highs and lows of Northwest Georgia.
Valley to Norfolk Southern: Exactly how hard would it have been to shift those box cars further on down the line to beyond any of the “cuts” across the tracks from First to Sixth avenues? Never mind the public safety concerns created by blocking some entry and exit to the Between the Rivers neighborhoods. Yes, we found additional box cars starting under the Turner McCall bridge so maybe the other direction?. And now we have 20,000 fans due at Tuesday night’s downtown Rome Christmas parade, which adds to traffic and emergency vehicle access concerns. We understand the railroad has staffing issues — which could be a factor here — but isn’t there a better solution? No wonder a lot of those rail cars are filled with lumps of coal.
Valley to any summer athletics event that leaves five students with heat-related illnesses. One potential injury is too many — and that Pepperell area student had to spend a night in an Atlanta hospital. But then to hear four others also were ill? We praise athletics trainer Hope Horne for her lifesaving steps but also have concerns why the injuries occurred in the first place. A coach’s first responsibility is to the safety of his or her student athletes. There is no excuse for this with today’s science and resources.
Peak to the Georgia Department of Public Health: We were surprised to get an email late on Thanksgiving “Friday” regarding the state’s already-in-place vigil for the latest COVID variant called “omicron.” After the lethal spread of the delta variant across the state and the first pandemic wave, Public Health is being proactive is raising the alert on what could be next. Wise move as some in our community are delaying the next steps to “normalcy” until we know more about omicron.