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City eyes riverfront site
Officials consider making $1.8 million offer for land next to Point Mallard Park

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

Decatur city officials could be prepared to offer $1.8 million to purchase an empty property adjacent to Point Mallard Park.

The 44-acre site, which belongs to General Electric Co., is one of the last remaining undeveloped waterfront properties in Decatur.

Situated on the south bank of the Tennessee River, between the GE plant and Point Mallard Park, the undeveloped property recently hit the real-estate market. GE executives say they plan to sell it to the highest bidder.

But city officials say they may attempt to purchase the land themselves to help control its development and to protect nearby Point Mallard from any developments that could adversely affect it.

"I think the main interest is to preserve one of the small pieces of waterfront that we have left in Decatur for more public access than we have in a lot of places," said Mayor Don Kyle.

Decatur City Council members discussed the proposal during a work session Monday. They added a measure to the council's Oct. 15 meeting agenda to deal with the matter.

If approved, the measure will authorize Kyle to negotiate a deal with GE, making an initial offer of $1.8 million.

The measure also instructs Kyle to send a letter of intent to GE executives, asking them not to sell the property before giving the city an opportunity to beat the highest bidder.

GE officials could not comment on the property or its potential sale in detail on Tuesday but said there is no set asking price for the land.

"It's an open-bid process, so we're soliciting offers from the general public at any level," said Randy Reeves, a GE spokesman. "Market price will determine what the price will be for this property, and that's all I can say at this point."

Kyle said his potential negotiations would depend heavily on surveys of the property, which will determine how useful the land really is. He said portions of the acreage are inside the Tennessee River floodway, which could prevent some types of development.

City officials said they have no specific plans for the property. Some said they would like to see a Point Mallard Hotel and Convention Center constructed there or a new marina, but all said nothing is set in stone.

"It's got water frontage, so it gives us several options to look at as far as what can be incorporated there," said District 2 City Councilman David Bolding, who serves as the council's liaison to Point Mallard Park.

"Whether or not it will become a large-scale city asset or be held for resale for a specific development proposal down the road is hard to say," Kyle said.

Financing for any potential purchase is also murky.

According to the city's finance department, there is no money set aside in the capital budget for purchasing the property, which hit the market unexpectedly.

Kyle said it would be up to the City Council to decide how to fund the purchase. Council members could use a short-term loan, a long-term bond issue or defer work on other capital projects to pay for the land.

"There's been no decision about what the source of funds will be," Kyle said. "But we want to see if we can help control the use of that property to blend with the park and the homesteads in that part of town."

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