This is hardly saying the happier pre-2008 “crash” days have returned, or that either President Obama or Gov. Nathan Deal deserve any credit whatsoever for a mild upswing with their various tinkerings. Rather, it probably has more to do with Americans overall, after being stunned and nearly paralyzed by what happened to their 401k accounts, home values and jobs, doing what they have always done: Pushing on beyond the darkest times. It’s how we’ve won wars, too (the Confederacy excepted).
How deep the “hole” was — let’s say that was due to the whole dang country “overextending” itself — can easily be seen by Georgia’s recent bragging on a double-digit 11 percent increase in year-to-year monthly tax collections. Sounds great ... until one runs the math and discovers that now puts the state a mere 13 double-digits below the pre-collapse peak.
Nonetheless, the cumulative signs in Greater Rome are upbeat even if the volume on the speakers isn’t turned up. One doesn’t put a mall on the market at all unless there’s some hope of actually finding a buyer, after all. Two years ago, in a mall chain bankruptcy, it was put up for sale on the courthouse steps and there were no bidders.
SIMILARLY, the National Association of Home Builders’ “improving markets” index listing Rome as one of its 100 upticking metropolitan housing areas is heartening so long as keeping it in perspective — “good” today was “anemic as all-get-out in 2007” but Floyd County, compared to much of the rest of the nation, is at least breathing.
Along the same lines, the other day we counted 22 job openings listed in our classified section. That sure doesn’t seem like a lot, particularly against the background of Greater Rome colleges and high schools just now pouring out a couple of thousand new graduates many of whom hope to find work. Still, that is stupendously better than the days a couple of years ago when a similar count of jobs in our classifieds actually found no employment opportunities — zero — listed.
Nor should it be overlooked that a lot of new enterprises have been popping up around town — not all restaurants either. Many appearing, even chains, have been the sort catering to bargain-basement and penny-pinching consumer inclinations ... and they’re crowded. That’s the way most existing/established stores are marketing as well.
For the moment (see the resurgence of coupon clipping as well) making a dollar that isn’t growing go further is a national mood in which Greater Romans appear to have enthusiastically joined. Of course, this being considered a “low income” region against the U.S. picture (but the highest in Northwest Georgia) even before the Wall Street setbacks, that adjustment is not entirely a novelty for many residents.
AS FOR the mall, long viewed as “troubled” locally, that’s true mostly in regard to the hyped expectations for its sales, tax revenues and job creation when debuting some 20 years ago.
Still, based on business/development it has spurred on outparcels and nearby, it has overall had a positive effect/impact even though on some days more cars can be seen parked along Broad Street. Malls tend to believe just their mere presence is “marketing” because of their magnetism whereas the downtown interests knew better.
The current “asking price” does seems a bit of a stunner — $11.8 million for 472,494 leasable square feet — at least for those aware that it was built back in 1991/92 for the equivalent, in 2012 dollars, of $80 million. The last time it sold was as part of a package of five malls with a total price of $114 million.
Yet Mount Berry could be a real bargain for a savvy operator, particularly if the proposed Tennis Center of Georgia should go in next door on the soon-to-open new Armuchee Connector.
It’s also interesting to note that not long ago an even larger Floyd County space — the former Mohawk facility on Burlington Road in Shannon — was sold to an investment firm for $5.6 million for its 565,793 square feet and soon thereafter 300,000 square feet of empty space were leased to Ball Corp.’s local aluminum-can manufacturing operation for warehousing.
OFFER SOME big-name retailer (Target? Best Buy? Kohl’s?) a really bargain price on the mall’s empty fourth anchor space — heck, give it to them free for a five-year “trial run” in the Rome market — and what might happen?
Clearly there’s some awakening interest along those lines already. The retailing strip at the old Hight Homes site opposite Floyd Medical Center, anchored by Publix is reported 87 percent leased ... compared to Mount Berry’s stated (in the for-sale ad) 70 percent occupancy.
Additionally, the proposed City Center by local builder R.H. Ledbetter Properties on Riverside Parkway must obviously be worth the company already having spent more than a million dollars on it. It would have zero value without there being some prospects expressing specific interest. That site plan shows 14 buildings with five “anchors” and at least 10 “outparcel” spaces, including a hotel. Some of the buildings are listed as being for “shops” ... plural.
Work might well be ready to begin shortly on City Center were it not for continuing opposition from those few who prefer to keep the old landfill/wetland as a mosquito-breeding refuge.
LOOKING AT all these “signs,” and similar, it is plain there is much reason — way more than can be found in some places around the nation — for optimism locally.
The saying “You can’t keep a good man down” is described as an American idiom of unknown origin. It helps explain this editorial’s introductory phrase about Americans “doing what they have always done: Pushing on beyond the darkest times.”
One can’t keep a good town down either.