TADs give local areas the power to revitalize

Lost in the announcement of a possible millage rate increase on Tuesday was one of the most significant votes in Gwinnett's recent history. The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners made a bold, visionary statement that puts in motion a funding mechanism that will breathe new life into the older, blighted areas of the county.

The unanimous vote by the Commission created five tax allocation districts in the county, all within the existing community improvement districts. The newly created TADs stretch along such corridors as Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Indian Trail-Lilburn Road, Pleasant Hill Road and U.S. Highway 78.

TADs allow the future incremental allocation of tax funds collected within the boundaries to be used on items such as infrastructure improvements, environmental cleanup or demolition of aging, vacant buildings. This encourages redevelopment of properties such as old shopping centers and industrial buildings versus development on green, undeveloped sites in the northern part of the county.

Forty-eight states use this funding mechanism to incentivize redevelopment, and there are 27 TADs throughout the metro Atlanta area. The most notable example is Atlantic Station, where TAD funds were used to clean up environmental site issues as well as construct infrastructure improvements such as the new 17th Street bridge over the downtown connector. Redevelopment of this site would not have occurred otherwise without the creation of a TAD at the challenging Atlantic Steel site.

The vote by the Board of Commissioners followed two positive referendums on tax allocation districts: the countywide referendum in 2007 and a statewide referendum in 2008. Each referendum was passed by the voters of Gwinnett, as well as the state, signaling positive public support for investment into the older parts of the county. The TAD plans follow the county's future 2030 Unified Plan - passed in February - which outlines a renewed focus on the southern portion of the Interstate 85 corridor for new urban mixed-use development and class A office space employment centers.

The new developments would be supported by infrastructure improvements such as bridge replacements, rail transit and pedestrian connectivity providing a true live, work and play environment. The TADs work hand in hand with Partnership Gwinnett's mission for large employment centers for high wage jobs such as the ones created with NCR's recent move of its headquarters to Gwinnett.

Perhaps the most positive aspect of Gwinnett's TADs is the impact they will ultimately have on the economic climate in Gwinnett over time. As we begin to transition out of a challenging economic climate, the five TADs are projected to attract $4 billion in private capital investment, create 36,100 jobs, and generate $1.6 billion in annual payroll over 15 years. Although history will bear this out, this will be the largest economic development initiative in Gwinnett history, maybe even metro Atlanta.

As one of the many who have invested several years into bringing positive change to the older parts of Gwinnett County, I am excited about the strides that have been made on focusing on the areas of the county that have become economically challenged. TADs will provide the needed boost to these areas and I commend the elected leadership of the county for the thoughtful and strategic passage of TADs.

Chuck Warbington is executive director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District.