By Maria Saporta
The board of the Atlanta Housing authority is looking to sell 1.8 acres of its Civic Center property to Southface Energy Institute, the environmental organization that promotes green building practices in metro Atlanta and Georgia.
According to the posted agenda of its meeting on Oct. 31, the housing authority is seeking “authorization to seek disposition approval” from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and “authorization to consummate the sale” of 1.8 acres of the Civic Center site.
This is in stark contrast to the position that the Atlanta Housing authority had last December when it negotiated a three-year lease “to provide Southface with adequate time to identify a new site and move its operations.” That lease agreement was negotiated with Catherine Buell, who resigned under pressure earlier this year as CEO of the Atlanta Housing authority.
Brandon Riddick-Seals, an AHA board member last year, was named the authority’s interim president and CEO in May.
At the press announcement of a new City of Atlanta Chief Housing Officer on Oct. 16, Riddick-Seals confirmed that the authority was having discussions with Southface that would allow them to stay on the property where they’ve been since 1995. Southface has since developed a cluster of buildings that have become models of how to build environmentally-sustainable structures that use less energy and water.
“We are talking about having that parcel under their ownership,” Riddick-Seals said in a brief interview after the press briefing at in the old City Council Chambers at Atlanta’s City Hall. “We are speaking about this to HUD, and we have at the current time a letter-of-intent from both sides.”
Riddick-Seals said they were still in the process of updating the purchase price and other logistical issues related to the “dispossession” of the property.
After several follow-up emails, texts and phone calls with officials from Atlanta Housing, no new information was provided until the agenda was released on Monday. Even then, the authority seemed unwilling to comment about the potential sale.
“I don’t think they will (discuss the sale of land to Southface) prior to board approval,” AH consultant Jeff Dickerson wrote in an email.
Andrea Pinabell, the CEO of Southface, said she wanted to wait until the Housing Authority had signed off on the announcement so they could have all have a consistent message.
The news that Southface will be able to remain in place as the Civic Center site is redeveloped is a relief to the environmental community. It also increases the potential that Southface could play a role in helping the Civic Center be developed with the latest in green-building practices.
“That’s a really strong step in a neighborly direction,” Riddick-Seals said in mid-October. “The fact that Southface can stay and purchase that land is a strong statement.”