By Maria Saporta
The board of the Atlanta Housing authority Wednesday approved the sale of 1.8 acres of land near the Civic Center to Southface, the nonprofit that promotes sustainable and green building practices in the region.
The sale, which still needs to be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, ensures that Southface will be able to remain at the location where it has been since 1996.
Atlanta Housing has agreed to sell the land to Southface for $3 million.
“It is a great first step and an important step in the process,” said Andrea Pinabell, CEO of Southface. “It is a real estate transaction so there are some legal steps.”
For Southface, the move by the authority is a welcome development. Last December, the authority – under its previous leadership – had signed a three-year lease with Southface to give it “adequate time to identify a new site and move its operations.”
Catherine Buell, then AHA’s CEO, confirmed the authority intended to redevelop the entire site, including the land where Southface had built its campus. But Buell resigned under pressure in May, and the authority revisited its decision.
Following Buell’s departure, Brandon Riddick Seals, an Atlanta Housing authority board member, was named as the interim president of the organization.
Actually the vote to authorize the sale to Southface was supposed to have happened at an authority board meeting on Oct. 31, but there was not a quorum. The action was postponed until the meeting on Nov. 28.
Dr. Christopher Edwards, AHA’s chairman, spoke to Southface during the meeting.
“We have always intended on being good neighbors,” Edwards said. “It is not our intent for them to go anywhere.”
But it is not clear what will happen to the rest of the Civic Center site. Currently the city’s watershed department is putting in a large vault in the middle of the property to capture combined sewage and storm water. There have been several attempts to get bids from real estate companies to redevelop the Civic Center property, but they have stalled for various reasons.
“We are rethinking some things,” Cecilia Taylor, the authority’s chief of staff, said Wednesday.
Pinabell said Southface was looking forward to being a good partner with Atlanta Housing.
“We are an advocate for quality, efficient, healthy and sustainable housing,” Pinabell said. “There are definitely opportunities. I think a change of leadership makes all the difference in the world. From our perspective, what happened in the past is the past, and we are excited about the future.”