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City seeks to sell Civic Center to Atlanta Housing Authority

Civic Center

Atlanta Civic Center (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

By Maria Saporta and Maggie Lee

The City of Atlanta plans to sell the 19-acre Civic Center property to the Atlanta Housing Authority, Mayor Kasim Reed announced at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

AHA would buy the site for $31 million, and it would partner with Weingarten Realty to develop retail and offices on the site. Weingarten had been selected as the preferred developer for the site when the city put the project out for bid, but the deal never closed.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, with Atlanta Housing Authority President and CEO Catherine Buell, announced the Civic Center proposal at City Hall on Thursday.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, with Atlanta Housing Authority President and CEO Catherine Buell, announced the Civic Center proposal at City Hall on Thursday. Credit: Maggie Lee

Reed said AHA, which will be the lead developer of the site, has committed to setting aside a minimum of 30 percent of of residential units on the site as affordable housing.

“It’s exciting news for affordability,” Reed said, adding that previous proposals only called for 15 percent of the units to be affordable. “This is the biggest opportunity to do it in the heart of the city as opposed to the outskirts.”

Catherine Buell, CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority, said the agency is still working on the design of the site, but she said it likely would have high density residential. It will be a “Home-Flex” project for AHA – a project-based rental assistance program.

“We are working on getting approval on the acquisition from HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development),” Buell said.

The site includes the Civic Center Auditorium as well as the building that once housed the SciTrek museum.

“We are working hard to close by Nov. 1,” Reed said. “By that time we are hopeful the asset will transfer from the City of Atlanta to the Atlanta Housing Authority. Sometimes the right partner is right around the corner.”

The Civic Center property has been hard to develop because of its water and sewer issues. Previously, developers have planned for the water to be stored in a large water retention tank underneath the development.

But the mayor said he would prefer to have that turned into a water feature that the public could enjoy.

“That’s my preference,” Reed said. “It’s too early in the process. The bottom line is we are going to find a solution. We haven’t picked a path yet. But that is my clear preference.”

When asked about the future of the Civic Center auditorium, Reed said: “I don’t think we’ll be able to preserve the Civic Center. We are in conversations to have another performing arts center in the area but on a smaller footprint.”

Another reason the Civic Center property sale has not moved forward has been its proximity to the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter. But the controversial shelter is supposed to close by today.

Atlanta Civic Center exterior. The building likely won't be preserved, said Mayor Kasim Reed. File/Credit: Kelly Jordan

Atlanta Civic Center exterior. Mayor Kasim Reed said he does not think it will be possible to preserve the building. File/Credit: Kelly Jordan

“I think this is going to be one of the most important projects in the life of the city,” said Reed, mentioning workforce and affordable housing as well as being located near transit.
When asked about the desire to close the project by Nov. 1, Reed said he was just responding to the market.

“I don’t think about it as rushing into it at all,” Reed said. “I think it’s just about getting things done. Most of the energy to get things done is not being driven by us. It’s being driven by others.”

Reed said the market knows there will be a major change in political leadership at the City of Atlanta after the November elections. Half of the city councilmembers are not running for their posts again – many of them are running for either Mayor or City Council President. The mayor also said that most of his staff will probably be leaving when he leaves office with his term ending in January.

Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.


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  1. Harvey Davis September 1, 2017 9:23 am

    How much is “affordable housing” to rent or buy a month?Report

  2. jzsnake September 1, 2017 10:41 am

    30% is too high of an amount. After the initial glitter rubs off it will become a rundown place that full paying consumers will not rent. Of course the people who made this decision will be long gone.Report

    1. Burroughston Broch September 1, 2017 5:52 pm

      It will become another Section 8 housing project, complete with all of the fleas that come with that dog. But His Dishonor will have gotten his share and will be long gone by then.Report


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