Fulton development authority signals support for Northside Drive commercial property tax abatement
By Maggie Lee
By an 8-1 vote, the Development Authority of Fulton County gave the preliminary OK for a property tax break worth $5.5 million over 10 years to the developers of Interlock II.
The property taxes on the new development would otherwise have helped build the BeltLine and underwrite other developments along the trail, because the Interlock is in a special zone where property tax increments fund those things.
The public incentive will help underwrite a development that will contain a grocery store, about 115,000 square feet of Class A office space and a 190-key hotel.
And help the developer pay to clean up what Jeff Garrison described as property contaminated with lead.
“It’s so much that it is in the water table,” said Garrison, a partner at S.J. Collins Enterprises, the site’s master developer.
Garrison emphasized repeatedly that the community wants a grocery store and Interlock II will not do the project without a grocery store. The Interlock II developers will pay for some public improvements, like traffic signal and road work. But in response to a question about the need for an incentive, he talked about lending too.
“In order to make this, to offset the challenges of these infrastructure improvements and the environmental improvements and the offsite improvements, we need the inducement to make it a financially viable project which means that a bank would actually lend us money based on the outcome of the development,” Garrison said.
Board member Tom Tidwell voted “no.”
Tidwell described a ‘food desert’ is a low-income, low-access area, and that those two things don’t describe Northside Drive and 11th Street, given that there’s a Publix at Atlantic Station.
Because the grocery store will have a parking lot, Tidwell expects many people will be driving to it, not walking to it.
“I don’t think we should be providing tax abatements for a grocery store that will just be more convenient for people, as opposed to, for instance, English Avenue, where people actually, literally need it,” Tidwell said.
Board member Kyle Lamont voted for it, though he did express concern that the development is in the BeltLine tax allocation district —a special zone where property tax growth is supposed to underwrite building the trail.
Board member Steve Broadbent said he came in ready to vote “no,” but he switched to “yes.”
“Because I do understand the issues about building the community down there and the rest of the work that you’re doing outside of just the grocery store,” Broadbent said to Garrison during the presentation.
The DAFC vote was a preliminary approval. A second vote that is yet to be scheduled is needed to formalize DAFC’s support.
Another development that will carry the name “Interlock” got a property tax abatement from the city of Atlanta’s development authority in 2018. Invest Atlanta granted The Interlock at 14th and Howell Mill a property tax break worth $7.5 million over 10 years.
That vote split the Invest Atlanta board 5-2. At that time, some Invest Atlanta board members said The Interlock’s public benefits, like sidewalk works and lighting, weren’t worth $7.5 million. Others said the incentive would be worth it to the city’s property tax base if the incentive would speed up development.
Garrison said that S.J. Collins Enterprises is the master developer of both, but the ownership of the two are different entities.