Officials with Dalton's Barrett Properties say they plan to bring the historic railroad depot in downtown Dalton back to its "glory days" as a restaurant and bar.
Barrett Properties was the only bidder for the property, which is owned by the city of Dalton, when bids were opened Monday at Dalton City Hall. The City Council wants to sell the depot and asked the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation earlier this year to help market it to potential buyers and make sure that it is preserved as a historic building. Earlier this month, the potential buyers toured the building.
"We have relayed the bidder's proposed rehabilitation plan to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation for their review and consultation," said City Administrator Jason Parker.
Parker said he could have a recommendation for City Council members at their Oct. 1 meeting. Parker said Barrett bid $300,000 for the depot.
In a statement, Barrett President Bob Caperton and Vice President Barry Slaymaker noted that downtowns across the country have experienced "dramatic improvement and emphasis in the last 10 years."
"The way we see it, Dalton is only in the third inning of a downtown renaissance," they said. "That is why we see opportunity. It is our conviction that in five years or less, downtown Dalton will have more than 100 housing units, multiple hotels and expanded entertainment options. We are buying properties not only to invest, but to improve. Our goal is to trigger the 'critical mass' of investment that will put our downtown on the track to being competitive with Rome, Cleveland and even Chattanooga."
They say the depot is key to their plans.
"The Dalton Depot, the literal center of the city, one of very few remaining antebellum buildings and the most iconic location in terms of Dalton’s nightlife cannot remain vacant," they said. "We fully plan on bringing the depot back to its glory days, but it will not be a quick fix. Serious remediation will be necessary in addition to extensive marketing and prospecting to identify the correct user. It will remain a bar and restaurant facility ideally in the form of two different tenants. We have not yet had conversations with prospective users but certainly have a few recognizable names in mind."
Barrett already owns a number of buildings in downtown Dalton, including the former Belk building at 307 S. Hamilton St., which it is developing into apartments, and the Landmark Building, which now houses the Dalton Innovation Accelerator, the city's first business incubator.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the depot was built in 1852 by the Western & Atlantic Railroad. Most recently, it was the home for some 25 years of the Dalton Depot & Trackside Tavern restaurant. The city closed the depot in November 2015, citing conditions that “posed potential health hazards to the public,” including mold. The building has remained empty since.
"Obviously, you always want to have more options," said council member Gary Crews. "But Barrett Properties has an excellent reputation. They are investing very much in the community, especially downtown. As we go into the details on this, I'm hopeful that this will be a nice addition to downtown."
Mayor Dennis Mock agreed.
"I would have liked to had 100 bidders," he said. "But we are pleased that someone is interested in the depot and interested in downtown. I'm eager to look at their plans and also to hear from the Georgia Trust."