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Local News Archives for 2022-04

City of Canton Announces Sale of Historic Jones Building to Developers of The Mill on Etowah

The City of Canton announces that its Downtown Development Authority, DDA, has agreed to and signed a contract for the sale of the Historic Jones Building to developers Penn Hodge and Grant Schmeelk for $2.2M. Hodge and Schmeelk are business partners in an Atlanta-based commercial real estate development and brokerage firm concentrating in leasing, management, joint ventures, and sales. The firm is responsible for the redevelopment of what is now known as The Mill on Etowah [Mill District] in Downtown Canton.


“Tasked with developing downtown for the public good, this DDA, together with all of Team Canton including our Mayor and City Council, has worked tirelessly to bring the best buyer in for our beloved Jones Building,” said Brooke Schmidt, City of Canton Councilor, Economic Development Chair, and DDA Board Member. “We are confident that Penn, Grant, and their collaborators will create an exciting development that maintains our healthy and vibrant downtown." 


“The Downtown Development Authority is excited to assist our City in moving this property back into the hands of a private owner,” said Cindy Brooks, DDA President and Vice President - Retail Market Manager, Synovus. “The Jones Building will once again be the centerpiece of commerce and entrepreneurship in Canton.”


“The development of the Jones Building is the next opportunity to showcase the City of Canton,” said Hodge. “The private/public partnership of this historical landmark will define the future of Downtown. We see the Jones Building project as the next adaptive reuse challenge, which will continue our theme of ‘Honoring History’ for the City.”


Proposed Redevelopment of the Jones Building


Hodge and Schmeelk added that their intent is the proposed partnership will align the aspirations of the City with the skills of their development team to create a destination landmark for office, retail, and restaurants in the historic Downtown area, and help unite the two districts [Downtown and The Mill on Etowah] in the City of Canton. The development team proposes to invest into the existing building and take the lead on the all the renovations, marketing, and leasing.


Hodge and Schmeelk plan to enlist local design duo Kandace and Rob Walker-Bunda of Bunker Design to bring thoughtful vision of the re-design of this historic building to life.


“We want this project to show and celebrate all the layers that have accumulated over time to give this great building it’s character and personality,” said K. Walker-Bunda. “Staying true to the historic nature of the building is crucial to the vision of showing the time span this building have lived through.”


The exterior architectural and historic character of the Jones Building will remain with modifications to bring the building into current code compliance while also working with the City of Canton to ensure that any new exterior work is in line with the City’s vision and commitment to historic preservation standards. New interior work will celebrate open site lines and allow for light to pass through the interior spaces naturally, with new all-glass storefront and modern touches to show users and visitors the journey through time that this building has endured and will honor.


Proposed uses for the redeveloped building will take a mixed use – adaptive reuse – and commercial strength approach, and will potentially include retail, restaurants, and office space.


History of the Jones Building


Very few commercial buildings in Cherokee County can boast the age of the historic Jones Building in Downtown Canton. The massive building that would stand as a city block in many communities anchors the eastern side of Cannon Park. The building has served as the focal point of the central business district since 1879, when it originally opened as the Jones Mercantile. Serving the residents of Cherokee County with everything from hardware to haberdasheries, food to furniture, and children's toys to caskets, the store was a one-stop shop and the original Cherokee County department retailer. The Jones Mercantile accepted mill currency and store credit, being on the cutting edge of retailing.


It originally stood as only half the building mass that is currently visible until a two-story addition was built adjacent to the first structure on the east side along Main Street. By 1921, the expansion had a third story added on that new space and the building's storefront along Main Street was seamlessly designed. The building would undergo a remodel in the 1950s. Finally, in 1973, as was the retail trend, an aluminum and stucco facade was installed covering up the facility.


Purchased by Cherokee County in the late 1980s for additional administrative office space, the building was subdivided from large open floor space to office suites for varied County operations. In January of 2017, the City of Canton took ownership of the facility from Cherokee County as part of an asset swap through the consolidation of fire services.


City Council immediately hired Lord Aeck Sargent's (LAS) Atlanta Office and the duo of Jack Pyburn and Esther Davis to assist in putting together plans for the renovation of the exterior of the facility. Throughout early 2017, LAS had the building scanned, employed environmental engineers to scan and test building materials, examined contributing elements of the historic building (woodwork, windows, masonry, structure and mechanicals), all to create architectural designs for bidding for construction.


In May 2017, City leaders approved the use of a Construction Manager at Risk platform for the work at the facility. The CM at Risk will oversee the project, subcontracting labor to varying groups through an open book system while bidding out all work. This philosophy assists the City with establishing a not-to-exceed budget for the project. The project was two phased: a building envelope renovation and an operational renovation.


The first phase includes replacement of the roof structure and renovation of the facade of the facility. This phase included repair and replacement of masonry, windows, and the addition of historically accurate commercial storefront designs. Additionally, during this first phase, the CM at Risk was responsible for the selective demolition of the interior non-attributing elements. During this process, interior walls were removed as well as some of the non-original floor systems used to subdivide the building.


In October 2017, Garbutt Construction was hired as the CM at Risk and selective interior demolition, the new roofing system and exterior renovation work began. Construction and renovation lasted for approximately two years.  

CCSD Team Wins at State Robotics Championships

A Cherokee County School District team won at a statewide robotics championship!


Sequoyah High School’s team earned runner-up at the Georgia FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, the highest finish for any CCSD team since the competition began. 


The team is coached by Brent Hollers, who teaches career classes at Sequoyah HS and i-Grad Virtual Academy, and parent Lisa Lougheed.  Team members are: Levi Auman, Brandon Buckley, Jordan Buckley, Lily Carras, Bryson Cobb, Gavin Dayton, Xavier Feldman, Micah Gray, Eric Hu, Colin Kennel, Brett Lougheed, Julian Noaker, Bryson Partin, Joseph Thomas, Lucas Thoroughman, Shane Webb and Fernando Zapata.


“Congratulations to these skilled and dedicated students and their outstanding coaches for representing their school and our community with excellence,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “Clubs and teams that offer students additional ways, beyond the classroom, to hone and demonstrate career skills are important opportunities that we’re proud to offer in all of our high schools.  We’re very thankful to the teachers, parents, business partners and volunteers who support these programs.”


The national FIRST Robotics Competition program gives teams of high school students the opportunity to demonstrate their skills in building and programming industrial-size robots to complete specific tasks.  For this year’s competition scenario, teams were tasked with using “innovative engineering, creative thinking, and teamwork to reimagine the future of safe, high-speed travel, and lightning-fast deliveries to propel the next evolution of transportation forward – in this world and beyond.”  Judges assess the robot’s design and effectiveness and the team’s collaboration and determination.

New Public Art Project Installation on Historic Doss Building in Downtown Canton

This spring will see bright blooms take over the 62-foot-long white wall at North and Lee streets in Downtown Canton as professional artist Madison Beaulieu begins a new public art project. 


A finalist in the City’s search for the Railroad Street muralist in 2020, Beaulieu grew up in Cherokee County and has worked as a creative in graphic design and printmaking for the last 8 years. Her studio is located in Woodstock’s Made Mercantile. She has previously created murals in Duluth and Woodstock among others.


Beaulieu’s wildflower mural concept is bold and whimsical. A perfect backdrop for visitor photos, the public art piece will not only create community but highlight the City of Canton’s focus on sustainability. Georgia’s popular purple coneflowers are a native perennial while the state’s smooth coneflower variety is listed as endangered. Native wildflowers in local gardens and yards are encouraged to help bolster pollinator populations.


“I chose cheery wildflowers as the subject for this mural because they are so important to our local ecosystem,” explains Beaulieu. “Our native wildflowers help make Georgia a beautiful place to live and play! I’m so excited to create this mural with the City of Canton. They are so supportive of public arts and the arts community; I’m honored to work alongside them.” 


Members of Canton’s new Cultural Art Commission (CCAC) are thrilled to see their first public art project brought to life. "Whether we are painting a landscape, telling a story, or simply appreciating the artistic experience,” says Jamie Foreman, member of CCAC and owner of Menagerie on Main, “we are all connected. Art is a partner of progress."


Volunteers appointed by the City Council and Mayor to the CCAC are Foreman, Elaine Frederico, Amy Kesler, Theresa Shampine, Rob Walker-Bunda, Bryan White, and Haley Whyte. Staff liaison is Canton Theatre Director Kristin Norton. 


City Councilor Brooke Schmidt, who works closely with the CCAC, says, “By advancing arts and culture as an essential element of life in Canton, we build community and connectivity while increasing economic development and tourism opportunities. As City leaders and volunteers team up to help residents and visitors want to linger longer in a vibrant Canton, the excitement is palpable.” 


Funding for the mural project will be provided through the Canton Cultural Arts Commission (CCAC) and sponsor Thrive Coworking. The City of Canton will unveil the mural with a ribbon cutting. More details to follow in the coming weeks. 

Home sales, Inflation to Affect Property Values Locally

- Trends in real estate are driving home prices up and increasing values across Cherokee County. According to the fourth quarter 2021 U.S. Home Equity & Under Water Report released by ATTOM, 41.9 percent of mortgaged residential properties were considered equity rich. Almost one out of every two homes surveyed in the fourth quarter were equity rich, an increase from 39.5 percent since the third quarter of 2021.


That’s good news for homeowners looking to sell. Those sales along with other contributing factors impact assessments conducted annually by the Cherokee County Tax Assessor’s Office. As the assessment process is nearing completion for upcoming assessment notices, the Tax Assessor’s Office reports that 91 percent of tax parcels in Cherokee County have increased in value (99,935 of 109,018). The Office also reports that 2,140 parcels decreased in value, and 6,942 parcels had no change from the previous year.


For 2022, the Real Property Growth/Inflation Rate is coming in at about 17 percent, as of March 30. In the past, annual averages have ranged between 4-6 percent.

“These are preliminary numbers and are subject to change as we continue the process,” said Chief Appraiser Steve Swindell.


Georgia state law dictates how assessments must be completed, including evaluations and deadlines for exemptions and assessment notifications.


“The Cherokee County Board of Tax Assessors follows the appraisal guidelines provided by the Georgia Code and Appraisal Procedures Manual. The goal is to achieve ‘Fair Market Value’ as defined in the code section 48-5-2 (3),” Swindell said. “The appraisal staff uses three approaches to value (sales comparison, cost and income) to determine valuation of properties. Statistical analysis, as provided by law, is used to calculate the level of assessment, uniformity and assessment bias for a group of properties defined by area, neighborhood, or class of property (residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial.)”


Property owners whose home is their primary residence are able to file for a homestead exemption by April 1 of the current tax year. The homestead exemption continues without renewal until the property is either sold or change in deed occurs.


“We partnered with the county Communications Division to make an extra effort this year to inform the public about the homestead exemption deadline of April 1, as we wanted to ensure property owners were aware of the deadline. We wanted to ensure anyone entitled to the homestead exemption receives one,” Swindell said. “In 2022, our office received 5,809 new homestead exemption applications, with nearly 1,000 received in the final week prior to the April 1 deadline.”


A homestead exemption provides a $5,000 reduction of the fair market value, and a 2008 local resolution dictates that once a homestead exemption is granted, that property value is frozen for Cherokee County’s maintenance and operations millage rate until the property changes hands or modifications are made. In addition, there are exemptions for disabled veterans and senior citizens.


“The senior homestead exemption is increased each year by the Social Security Index, which saw a 5.9 percent increase in 2022,” Swindell said. “Seniors with a qualified senior homestead exemption will see an increase in their exemption amount this year.”


The Tax Assessor’s Office, which is governed by the Board of Assessors, will mail the 2022 assessment notices on May 16, and property owners have until June 30 to file any appeals. The appeals process is explained on each assessment notice.

State Awards Cherokee County $3.9 million for Road Project

– A multi-jurisdictional transportation project recently received a financial boost that will shorten the waiting period for it to commence.


Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday a $17 million investment in transportation infrastructure projects across Georgia, and Cherokee County will receive $3.9 million from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank for Technology Ridge Parkway Phase I, known historically as the Heard Road Extension. The project is in partnership with the city of Canton, the Cherokee Office of Economic Development and Cherokee County.


The total award amount is the sum of a $2.9 million loan with a five-year repayment schedule and a $1 million grant. Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds are planned to be used to repay the note. This is the first time Cherokee County has applied for and been awarded a GTIB loan and grant.


“Thank you Gov. Brian Kemp and State Road and Tollway Authority Leadership for the investment in Cherokee County and for inviting us to the Capitol to commemorate the award,” said Chairman Harry Johnston. “We’d like to also thank the city of Canton and the Cherokee Office of Economic Development for their written support of the grant application.”

This is phase one of a five-phase project that will ultimately connect Bluffs Parkway to the Cherokee County Regional Airport. The Technology Ridge project has been in the works for more than a decade – the Technology Urban Redevelopment Plan was adopted in 2011 and identifies the corridor from Bluffs Parkway to the airport as prime location for industry.


“Technology Ridge Parkway Phase I is a new roadway that will connect Bluffs Parkway to Heard Road and Fate Conn Road and will be just over a half of a mile,” said Cherokee County Community Development Agency Director Brantley Day.


The project will begin with a new roundabout on Bluffs Parkway and ends with a new roundabout installed in the Heard Road/Fate Conn Road intersection. This project will immediately enhance mobility and safety on these roadways while improving critical intersections,” Day said.


The project is expected to spur corporate and industry development bringing more jobs to Cherokee County. The new thoroughfare, when complete, will provide easier access from the airport to the businesses in the area.


“The first phase of the parkway will deliver essential connectivity while providing a critical alignment for future expansion,” said Marshall Day, Chairman of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development. “It will also ensure opportunity for quality growth with positive economic impact for the region.”

Cherokee Chamber Announces Volunteer of the Quarter

The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that Jason Blakey, with Credit Union of Georgia, has been named the Chairman's Council Volunteer of the Quarter for first quarter 2022. He was honored during the Chamber's April Good Morning Cherokee breakfast networking event.

Members of the Chairman’s Council are accepted by invitation only from the Chamber's Board Chair. The Chairman’s Council members are invited to attend Ribbon Cuttings & Ground Breakings, Coffee & Connections…For New Members and special invitation Chamber meetings that aren’t open to the general membership.


In determining the Volunteer of the Quarter, attendance at Chamber events is evaluated for all members of the Chairman's Council. "There was no doubt when naming this quarter's honoree as Jason has attended many Chamber events since the first of the year," said Brian Stevens, Chamber Board Chair and CEO & Co-Owner of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers.


For information on the Cherokee County Chamber and its programs, visit

Cherokee County Marshal's Office conducts underage alcohol operation

The Cherokee Marshal’s Office conducted an underage alcohol sale enforcement detail Friday, April 1. Underage individuals who volunteered to participate in the enforcement detail attempted to purchase alcohol at 73 stores in Cherokee County. Underage operatives were able to purchase alcohol at 11 of the 73 stores.


“Cherokee Marshal’s Office will continue to periodically check businesses for these types of violations and encourages business owners to educate and warn their employees on the ramifications and dangers of selling alcohol to underage persons,” said Chief Marshal Jamie Gianfala. “From the results of this operation, it appears there is some work that needs to be done, as having 100 percent compliance is the goal. Checking identification is certainly a good thing and is what we are after. Thank you to the 61 establishments that checked IDs and refused to sell to a minor. We appreciate your efforts in keeping alcohol out of the hands of children.”


The following establishments were cited for selling alcohol to a minor:

· Circle K, 8023 Cumming Highway, Canton. Samuel Burdo was cited for selling to a minor.

· Valero, 5963 Union Hill Road, Canton. Jaswinder Singh was cited for selling to a minor.

· Marathon, 2880 Lower Union Hill Road, Canton. MD Islam was cited for selling to a minor.

· Sunoco, 256 Arnold Mill Road, Woodstock. Malek Ghorbani was cited for selling to a minor.

· Walmart, 6345 Bells Ferry Road, Woodstock. Desiree Wilson was cited for selling to a minor.

· Sunoco, 5856 Yellow Creek Road, Ball Ground. Wagner Piraquire Jr. was cited for selling to a minor.

· Hop-In, 514 Arnold Mill Road, Woodstock. Tarunkumar Patel was cited for selling to a minor.

· Shell, 6045 Highway 92, Acworth. Robin White was cited for selling to a minor.

· QT, 4865 Holly Springs Parkway, Holly Springs. Phillip Myers was cited for selling to a minor.

· Marathon, 6742 Bells Ferry Road, Woodstock. Ajay Krishna was cited for selling to a minor.

· Shell, 6135 Hickory Flat Highway, Canton. Michael Golightly was cited for selling to a minor.

During the operation, Sergei Makarov was cited for open container at the 76 gas station at 6080 Highway 92, Acworth.

The Cherokee Marshal’s Office plans to continue these types of operations to combat the illegal sale of alcohol to those under 21 years of age. Anyone wishing to report an establishment that is selling or allowing minors to purchase alcohol is asked to call the Cherokee Marshal’s Office at 678-493-6200.


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