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April 5, 2018

Economic development near stadium

Noah Syverson, COM 250 and Viking Fusion Reporter

ROME, Ga.--A new apartment complex and coffee shop could be just the beginning for economic development near State Mutual Stadium.

RiverPoint Apartment Homes, a $19 million, 124-unit luxury apartment community, will be finished by later this year. Lumina Coffee House, a 3,000-square foot coffee shop, plans to open by the fall.

But Rome City Manager Sammy Rich sees these two recent additions to the locale as only the beginning act to what will be a thriving commercial area.

"You're seeing a lot more people taking interest, and I think we'll see even more interest now that we have the apartment complex and the coffee shop," he said. "You're seeing a sort of springboard, one domino after the other."

According to Rich, when State Mutual Stadium was opened in 2003, the general thought was that the land around it would soon be filled by businesses. He cited the increased usage of the Armuchee Connector, which was opened in 2012 after being funded through the 2006 SPLOST, as one of the main reasons why the area near the stadium of the Rome Braves has become more attractive to potential businesses.

Rich said that according to a recent electronic monitoring survey, more than 14,000 trips per day are made on the connector, which cuts right through the chunk of privately owned land around the stadium.

Rich sees the construction of the apartment complex, and the subsequent influx of up to 124 households, as the single biggest driver for why businesses are coming. He said the new residents' demand for consumer services will be a big incentive for additional players to move in and provide.

The completion of the 60-court Rome Tennis Center in 2016 is another big selling point for businesses, said Rich. Tournaments throughout the year draw potential consumers to the area.

Restaurants, drug stores, bars, and retail stores are all possibilities for occupiers of the remaining space near the stadium, said Rich. He added that he likes the idea of urban mixed use, an area where residents can "live, work, and play."

According to one of its owners, Mike Schieffer, the Lumina Coffee House will be a large structure, with space to seat 65 on the inside and 24 on the outside.

"One of our purposes is to really be a place where people can chill and hang out," said Schieffer, the elder half of the father-son ownership duo. The son, Matthew, is a recent graduate of the University of Florida and will be working full-time on the management of Lumina.

Mike, currently president of the Winshape Foundation, spent 18 years with Starbucks, watching them grow from 64 stores to over 19,000. He and his son plan to differentiate themselves from the other players in the Rome coffee market with an attention to detail and service. They want to be a place where people feel comfortable spending extended periods of time socializing or working on projects.

"I've been asked, 'what if you have college students just sitting in there all day,'" Schieffer said. "Are you kidding me? That'd be awesome."

Assistant General Manager of the Rome Braves, Jim Jones, looks forward to working with his new neighbors.

"We're excited about [the recent development]," he said. "I think we're certainly going to have a great group over here."

Jones said that the Braves have worked with nearby Bella Roma Grill on various sponsorships and promotions, and that they are open to working with the new businesses as well.

The geographic makeup of the incoming residents of the RiverPoint apartments remains guesswork, but Rich estimates that there will be a healthy mix of both Romans moving from other parts of town and people from out of area relocating.

"I think hopefully we'll see an influx of people moving from out of town, from the Kennesaw area, Marietta, those places," he said.

It remains to be seen just what other businesses could be moving into the area at the intersection of Veterans Memorial Highway and Braves Boulevard. Rich couldn't comment on specific businesses, but said there have been discussions with potential suitors.

RiverPoint and Lumina might be the first two dominoes to land in this new wave of development near State Mutual Stadium, but they most likely aren't the last.

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