Redevelopment of Callaway Building could begin this fall

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt June 21, 2016
A rendering of the Callaway Building mixed use project, provided by the City of Decatur

A rendering of the Callaway Building mixed use project, provided by the City of Decatur

During its June 20 meeting the City Commission, acting in its dual role as the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, voted to begin the process of closing the sale of the Callaway Building to a developer.

Cousins Properties will turn the 5.25 acre site at West Trinity Place into a mixed-use development. Assistant City Manager Lyn Menne told Decaturish that the closing is tentatively scheduled for July and the demolition of the building would commence within 90 days after the closing. It won’t be the fun kind of demolition where someone pushes a button and blows up the building, Menne said. The building still requires asbestos removal, she said. Construction should begin in the late fall.

The city purchased the property from DeKalb County using $5.12 million borrowed by issuing bonds. Plans for the building go back to at least 2011. Last August, commissioners balked at approving variances for the project, citing too much residential and not enough commercial spaces in the plans. Cousins revised plans for the project and won the commission’s approval at its March 21 meeting.

Menne said Cousins will pay the city at least what the city paid for the building, plus some other expenses. At its June 6 meeting, the City Commission voted to deed ownership of two tracts of building to the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Decaturish asked City Manager Peggy Merriss why the city didn’t sell the Callaway Property directly to Cousins.

“To dispose of real estate, the city has some very narrow ways they can do it. They can advertise and take sealed bids. They can auction it, or they can sell it to another governmental redevelopment agency,” Menne said.

The URA is not legally obligated to accept bids for the purchase of the property or auction it, Merriss said.

Merriss said this isn’t first time the city has sold property this way. She said when Woodlands Garden wanted to expand, the city’s Downtown Development Authority made the purchase and sold the property back to Woodlands. If the city had sold the property, it would’ve gone to the highest bidder, she said.

So what’s the benefit of not selling the property to the highest bidder?

“The Callaway project in this case has got a master plan [for] development. We worked with the developer to get what we wanted. So if we went out and bid or took sealed bids and someone came in and overrode them, we wouldn’t necessarily have any control,” Merriss said.

Editor’s note: Due to a prior conflict, Decaturish was unable to personally attend the June 20 City Commission meeting. This report was partially compiled by watching the live video feed of the meeting. 

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