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Duluth approves creating Buford Highway TAD

DULUTH -- The Duluth City Council on Monday unanimously approved creating a tax allocation district to transform aging commercial areas on Buford Highway into vibrant mixed-use "live, work and shop" activity centers.

The proposed TAD stretches along Buford Highway, running parallel to the railroad for about three miles from North Berkeley Lake Road to Old Peachtree Road, and passes alongside the Duluth Town Center.

The council's vote followed two public hearings at a called meeting on Nov. 30 and during the regular meeting Monday that featured presentations by Ken Bleakly, president of Sandy Springs-based Bleakly Advisory Group, a consulting firm hired by the city to assist in establishing its first TAD.

If approved by the Gwinnett County Board of Education and the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, the Buford Highway Corridor TAD is expected to be established by April.

The city, county and school system would continue to receive tax revenue based on "frozen" 2009 assessed property values in the TAD for a designated time period. Tax revenue generated by increases in property values would be used to fund infrastructure improvements to encourage redevelopment in the TAD.

Water and sewer improvements, traffic control, structured parking, and parks/ greenspace have been identified as needs along the Buford Highway Corridor.

Duluth voters approved a referendum in November 2007 authorizing the city to form TADs.

"Approving this TAD brings us a step closer to being able to begin the process of revitalizing the Buford Highway Corridor with real dollars," according to Duluth Economic Development Manager Chris McGahee. "The projected property value increases could yield up to $18 million in funds for infrastructure improvements."

A Buford Highway Corridor Redevelopment Plan being done for the city by the engineering consulting firm of Kimley-Horn & Associates suggests several projects for development over the next 15 years in the TAD.

These include retail/residential projects on Buford Highway at Pittard Road and also at Thompson Street, a retail/services center at North Berkeley Lake Road, and a mixed-use residential, commercial, hospitality (hotel), and civic development at Davenport Road near the Duluth Public Safety Building.

The plan also recommends redevelopment of Duluth Station at Buford Highway and Old Peachtree Road into a higher-density more pedestrian-friendly shopping center.