Three transformative projects for Atlanta included in governor’s budget proposal

By David Pendered

Each in its own way, the three major construction projects Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed in Downtown Atlanta will increase the vitality of its surroundings and promote greater connectivity to people who have activities in the buildings.

GWCC expansion

By linking two exhibition halls, the Georgia World Congress Center will be able to compete against other cities for events that require 1 million square feet of space. Gov. Nathan Deal provided $55 million in his proposed budget to complete the expansion. Credit: GWCCA

Deal has proposed a total of $207 million to fund the three major projects in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget that begins July 1. They include: A new judicial complex; a crucial expansion at the Georgia World Congress Center; and a transformed library at Georgia Tech.

The Legislature has to approve the funding. Lawmakers aren’t expected to balk.

The most expensive project is the new judicial complex that’s to be built at the site of the shuttered Georgia Archives building, on Capitol Avenue. The archives were moved years ago to Morrow. The building reportedly leaks and has been viewed since Roy Barnes was governor, through 2002, as a likely tear-down rather than a renovation project.

Deal provided $105 million in construction funds for a building that’s being called a judicial complex, not a courthouse. For years, the building has been described in political terms – a structure big enough to house the expanded state court judiciary Deal favors.

However, in terms of urban visioning, the new building offers to serve as a connector.

If only visually, the new building and improved grounds could bridge the no-man’s land that now divides downtown Atlanta’s government district and the burgeoning residential neighborhoods stretching east along Memorial Drive. The architecture of the archives building added little to the aesthetics of the neighborhood. But it did serve its purpose of blocking sunlight from historic items.

georgia archives building

A trendsetter in its day, the Georgia Archives building is the site of Georgia’s new $105 million judicial complex. Gov. Nathan Deal provided funding in his budget proposal. Credit: atlantatimemachine.com

The planned judicial complex falls far short of the great park once imagined to begin at the Capitol’s east steps. Various renditions of this plan would have removed a parking deck across from the Capitol, on Capitol Avenue. The lot was demolished and greenspace installed. But the project was not expanded across a greenway built atop the Downtown Connector that would lead from the Capitol steps toward Oakland Cemetery and MARTA’s King Memorial Station.

However, the judicial complex will provide a way station between the government district and the new mini city Georgia State and Carter intend to build at Turner Field.

At the Georgia World Congress Center, Deal has proposed $55 million to build a fixed gateway to connect the exhibit halls in buildings B and C.

The gateway will instantly provide the GWCC with the size to compete against Chicago, Orlando and Las Vegas for larger trade shows. These other cities can offer more than 1 million square feet of contiguous space apiece. The GWCC’s largest contiguous space is 600,000 square feet, in the B building.

To provide 1 million square space, the GWCC has had clients create temporary exterior walkways between buildings B and C. Folks attending the events have to walk through whatever weather is happening, and get to watch the GWCC’s back-of-house operational areas, according to GWCC’s presentation.

tech library

The library facilities at Georgia Tech are being retooled into collaborative research spaces, rather than places to store information. Credit: bnim.com

The potential economic impact is enormous, according to the GWCC. The center envisions some $632 million of economic impact to be derived from nearly 600,000 folks who would attend large trade shows and youth sporting events.

At Georgia Tech, Deal provided $47 million to transform the Price Gilbert

Library and Crosland Tower complex into a research facility worthy of the new century. The facility aims to be the center of Tech’s confluence of research and social analysis.

Here’s how the architect, BNIM, describes the facility that result from the renovation of the two buildings:

  • “No longer a building where knowledge is simply stored, Georgia Tech conceived of a place where knowledge is generated. Stacks of books will be moved offsite to create spaces for people, whether they want to study alone or discuss ideas in collaborative groups.
  • “To aid with the discovery of knowledge, the role of the traditional librarian will be redefined, shaping them into connectors who will assist students in bridging the gap between what they know and what they want to know.”
tuttle courthouse

The architectural firm that is to design Georgia’s new judicial complex provided award-winning design services for the John C. Godbold Federal Building – Elpert P. Tuttle U.S. Court of Appeals. Credit: stevens-wilkinson.com

These three projects are part of a larger funding package the governor has proposed in metro Atlanta.

In all, Deal proposed $268.5 million in capital improvements in metro Atlanta. This represents about 25 percent of the total construction spending Deal recommended statewide – a total of $1.05 billion. The figure does not include any spending planned by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Georgia would sell bonds to raise the construction dollars. Bonds would be sold for terms of five years or 20 years. Some would be taxable, others tax exempt. The bonds would be backed by the state’s full faith and credit.

Georgia has a top credit rating from Moodys Investor’s Service, a credit rating agency. In an October rating action, Moodys’ analysts observed:

  • “[Georgia] remains a regional outperformer – solid tax revenue trends, conservative fiscal management, and moderate debt and pension liabilities. The outlook for Georgia is stable based on the state’s conservative fiscal management, the current strong trends in revenue growth, and manageable long-term liabilities.”
2018 state bonds, chart

Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed selling $1.05 billion in bonds in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Debt service on the bonds would be about $106 million a year. Terms range from five 20 years. Credit: georgia.gov

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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