Duluth to buy property for revitalization

DULUTH - The Duluth City Council allocated funds in the 2009 budget Monday to purchase the Corley Insurance and Accessorize Again buildings on Main Street to make way for the planned revitalization of the old city hall block.

The purchase of the two buildings from McDaniel Enterprises was authorized by the council's adoption of a budget amendment. The two businesses will be asked to vacate the property, and the city will eventually sell the property to the potential developer of the downtown revitalization project.

The only parcel not owned by the city on the block is the former Economy Pharmacy building. According to City Administrator Phil McLemore, the owner of that building will deal directly with the developer on its sale.

The council advised Duluth resident Stacie Stamper to consult with McLemore about leasing Accessorize Again or other space in the city for her proposed Duluth Design Center rather than the old city hall, a former church building, on West Lawrenceville Street. Stamper appealed to the council to reconsider denial of her request to lease the church for the center.

Stamper said the church was more suitable for the center and assured the council that the cooperative would vacate it in a timely manner to accommodate the redevelopment.

Council members expressed concern about whether the church would provide adequate space for the center and questioned the safety of using the rear of the church if it were needed.

Councilwoman Marsha Anderson Bomar said it would be "fiscally irresponsible" for the city to invest funds in repairing the structure since it is scheduled to be razed soon for the redevelopment project.

A proposed cooperative with more than 50 potential members, the center would sell furniture, Oriental rugs, and other home and garden items and bring businesses and clientele into downtown Duluth, according to Stamper.

Interior design, landscaping and other consulting services would be offered at the center by appointment. Seminars on design topics and other activities also would be scheduled.

The Church Ladies, which has been operating a consignment shop for household items in the old city hall, plans to vacate the building at the end of February.

Upon the recommendation of Bradley Carroll, chairman of the Finance Committee, the council accepted the 2008 audit report conducted by the Atlanta firm of Mauldin and Jenkins. The city received a "clear" report on its financial statements indicating it was following acceptable accounting principles for municipalities, Carroll said.

After residents of Peachtree Walk complained about the lack of a buffer between a new Gwinnett County fire station that backs up to several homes in the subdivision, Duluth Planning Director Cliff Cross indicated he would consult with the county about obtaining landscaping and a safety fence.

The council also adopted an amendment to the '09 budget to accept $9,902 in funds as an insurance settlement for fire damage to the men's restroom in Bunten Road Park and authorized payment for the repairs to Full Circle Restoration.

The amount of $177,801 was carried over from the previous to the current budget to pay Motorola Communications for an upgrade to the police radio system.