Jul. 5—The Kennesaw Development Authority is working with businessman Dale Hughes to try and revive a blighted block in downtown Kennesaw.
Hughes is in the process of acquiring the historic Collier building on Main Street, built in 1903. With plans to finalize the purchase around the end of August, Hughes hopes to renovate the building and knock down a smaller building at 2243 Lewis Street — which he is also in the process of purchasing — to add parking.
Should he finalize both purchases, Hughes would own the entire block bordered to the east by Main Street, to the west and south by J.O. Stephenson Avenue and to the north by Lewis Street, with the exception of one sliver of property. That sliver is owned by Dent Myers, proprietor of the controversial Wildman's store, which sells Confederate memorabilia. Myers also owns Kennesaw Chiropractic Center next door.
Hughes already has plans to build an Apotheos Coffeehouse and a Dry County Brewing Company taproom on the southern half of the block at 2861 and 2871 North Main Street. Those properties are already owned by Hughes, who plans to call these two spaces "Common Grounds Plaza." Hughes said he may end up calling the entire block by that name.
"Common Grounds Plaza is about how do we come together," Hughes said. "The stuff we have in common, I like to say it's over a cup of good coffee."
Kennesaw City Council has already approved exterior designs for the coffee shop and taproom. After he finishes conducting due diligence on the Collier building and closes the deal, Hughes estimates it would take 60-90 days for construction to start.
Development Authority director Luke Howe expects the redevelopment of the long-vacant Collier building, which may be used for office space, to be expensive and difficult.
Hughes' redevelopment of the block is expected to total $8 million.
Howe would like the development authority to approve a tax abatement that he expects would save Hughes $1.5 million over a period of 15 years. The development authority would issue bonds to acquire the properties and lease them back to Hughes.
Hughes would still have to pay PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) to the local governments. But instead of paying higher taxes as the property's value increases, Hughes would only pay the assessed property tax before redevelopment. The PILOT payments would be about $9,000-$10,000 per year, Howe said.
The tax abatement would be used as collateral to secure a private loan for the redevelopment.
"You're essentially freezing his taxes," Howe said. "And the taxes he would pay goes toward debt service on his loan."
If approved, the incentives would "help fund a really tough renovation, next to a guy who is selling Confederate flags, and other racist propaganda," Howe said. "So, you know, everything we're going to do is in an effort to get people to locate there, because it's really hard."