Proposed parks and trails within Perimeter Center are expected to be a hot topic during budget discussions this summer and into the fall.
Economic Development Director Michael Starling said city officials are slated to talk about how to fund the projects in the next few months as part of the 2019 budget discussions. The City Council budget committee should take up some of the proposed projects in September with the mayor and council considering them in October as part of determining next year’s city budget.
The city raised its hotel-motel tax last year from 5 percent to 8 percent with the intention of funding green space and trails for visitors staying in the hotels in the city’s urban center. Hotel owners agreed to raise their taxes because they said there was a need for such amenities for their customers. Of course, residents will be able to enjoy the new facilities as well.
The city began collecting the new tax revenue in January and over six months collected $407,000, Starling said.
Next year, the revenue is expected to be even higher. That’s because two major hotels in Perimeter Center — Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia and the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center hotel — are currently undergoing major renovations, which includes closing off several floors of rooms at a time. When the renovations are completed and the hotels are back to full capacity, more money will come into the city’s coffers, Starling said.
The $407,000 collected in the first six months is on track for the $850,000 city officials estimated the new revenue to bring in annually. Another approximate $850,000 from the tax increase is going to the Dunwoody Convention and Visitors Bureau to fund marketing and placemaking materials.
“That money is in a separate account and will stay there” until the mayor and City Council decide where to spend the money, Starling said.
“The idea was to get some revenue in and then have a conversation on future expenditures during the summer’s budget discussion,” he said.
Designs and plans that have been sitting dormant for several years, such as the Perimeter Center East park and a walking trail and cycle track on Ashford-Dunwoody Road in front of Perimeter Mall, are expected to be funded with the tax increase.
Potential green spaces that could be funded by revenues from the tax increase include one adjacent to the Perimeter Center Parkway flyover bridge and another off Perimeter Center East at the Perimeter Center East exit off I-285.
The Parks Department is seeking to fund the Perimeter Center East Park and trail connection designs in 2019 and, if approved, potentially break ground in 2019.
Starling told the City Council last year that hotel owners wanted to see some trail and parks projects completed quickly in Perimeter Center as part of their agreement to support the hotel-motel tax increase. Finding a way to quickly fund these projects will be part of the budget debate.
“We have to discuss how we are going to do this, are we going to pay as we go or do some type of bond much like what they are doing in Brookhaven,” Starling said in a recent interview.
The Brookhaven City Council recently approved a $15 million revenue bond backed by its own hotel-motel tax increase to pay for construction of the first mile of its 3-mile stretch of the Peachtree Creek Greenway, a linear park city leaders say will bring an economic boon and tourism to the city.
Brookhaven also voted last month to put a $40 million parks bond backed by property taxes on the November ballot. That money, if approved, will pay for parks master plan designs that were approved two years ago. City officials say a parks bond would allow the city to complete many parks projects in three to five years rather than over many decades.
The Park at Perimeter Center East or a new, wide sidewalk and cycle track on Ashford-Dunwoody Road in front of Perimeter Mall are just a few of the projects designed over the years intended to create a more pedestrian-friendly urban center.
Starling said paying for parks and trails at $800,000 to $900,000 a year won’t complete much and taking a hard look at revenue bonds is in order.
The need to offer something for visitors to do when they stay at a hotel in Perimeter Center is crucial in ensuring Dunwoody attracts tourism and economic development, according to members of the CVB. Parks and trails do those things, especially for weekend travelers.
The city also voted last year to dedicate 15 percent of the new hotel-motel tax money to a Tourism Facility Fund after representatives from the Dunwoody Preservation Trust and Dunwoody Nature Center argued their facilities already bring in tourist dollars and they should be eligible for some of the new revenue.