A meeting with an executive in President Barack Obama’s administration left leaders in DeKalb County optimistic about the development potential of the closed General Motors plant in Doraville.
“There are very credible players here who have not only put together a vision but an approach that would be conducive to ultimately [attracting] an investor,” said Jay Williams, executive director of the federal Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers.
“I think this site is well-positioned…because of its proximity to all the transportation amenities [and] because of its proximity to the city of Atlanta,” said Williams after meeting with DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, Doraville Mayor Donna Pittman, representatives from three congressional offices, the Georgia General Assembly, the DeKalb Board of Commissioners, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Development Authority of DeKalb County.
Williams said redeveloping the 165-acre GM plant, which has been closed since 2008, will be challenging, but DeKalb leaders have a head start.
“My perspective in what we’ve seen across the country is it is clear that there is a consensus vision here,” Williams said. “You’d be surprised at how many of these sites fail to achieve a consensus vision from the stakeholders.”
Williams said his office was created by Obama to help local stakeholders “navigate the federal bureaucracy.”
“We will help identify appropriate resources, but from what I’ve seen here today and based on my experiences in other parts of the country, this site is well-positioned,” Williams said.
Pittman said her city wants a “live, work, play” development that will bring jobs and have an educational component.
“We would like to see something that would be good for the community,” Pittman said.
The revitalization of Doraville should be the goal of any development on the GM plant site, said Doraville councilwoman Maria Alexander.
“General Motors was here since 1947, so it was a great loss,” Alexander said. “We would hope to see it revitalized and new life come into the city.
“The important aspect of our meeting today is the collaboration with all levels of government and with General Motors to remarket the site,” Alexander said. “We want to see a sustainable redevelopment with a large employment center, preferably along the white collar line.”
Ellis said GM seems “to be acting very responsibly in the selection of a developer.”
GM leaders are concerned “about the legacy that they will leave behind when they dispose of the site to whomever they decide to sell it to,” Ellis said. “I think we all have a vested interest and we’re working to facilitate those common goals.”
Ellis said county leaders are encouraged by market conditions.
“We think this is a tremendous opportunity with …our job stimulus plan to upgrade our water and sewer system, the regional transportation referendum and other major regional capital improvement projects that are moving forward,” Ellis said.