Invest Atlanta board signals approval for bonds, breaks for Turner Field builds

By Maggie Lee

The first phase of Turner Field redevelopment looks to be on track for city bonds and tax abatements after votes by the board of Atlanta’s development authority.

Invest Atlanta’s board passed a pair of resolutions signaling their intent to issue bonds and offer tax abatements to a mixed-use project and a dorm.

A drawing by Carter of their development plans for Georgia Avenue. Credit: carterusa.com

A drawing by Carter of their development plans for Georgia Avenue. Credit: carterusa.com

And some area residents showed up to say they’re not happy with the terms of the deals.

The two projects are:

  • The Summerhill-Georgia Avenue mixed-use project, which will cover a few blocks of Georgia Avenue between Hank Aaron Drive and Terry Street. The board voted its support of a $50.2 million bond to finance the works, which will include 85,000 square feet of retail, 19,000 square feet of “creative office” and 120 housing units. The developer is the Carter team, a group that includes developers Carter, Oakwood Development and Healey Weatherholtz Properties. Eighteen housing units will be priced to be affordable to someone at 80 percent of area median income. In this case that means, for example, rent of $1,100 per month on a two-bedroom unit. (Fact sheet and inducement resolution)

 

  • A 220-unit, 680-bedroom student housing development by developer Aspen Heights Partners, just across Georgia Avenue from the stadium. Rents will vary depending on how many roommates share one unit. Four-bedroom units will start at $830 per moth. One-bedroom units will run $1,175. Invest Atlanta gave preliminary approval to a $69.6 million bond to finance that project. (Fact sheet and inducement resolution)

The two deals combined include tax abatements worth $5.1 million over ten years. And both projects require a separate bond resolution vote. There is no set date for those votes.

Board Secretary Julian Bene voted against both inducement resolutions.

“On both of these, I think the issue is we’re asked to give a significant — several million dollars each — tax abatement. From my perspective we need to get a public benefit,” said Bene. He said he’s heard the argument that the public benefit is the fact that there will be millions in investments in an area that’s had no investment in years.

“I don’t think that that’s enough for giving these kind of concessions,” Bene said.

Bene made his comments just before the vote on the dorm. Mayor Kasim Reed, the board’s chair, spoke up in response.

“If you make a decision today and we lose right now, I can tell you as a person that’s in the room when we’re trying to recruit businesses to that sector and headquarters to that sector … that you’re going to damage the continued prospects for that corridor,” said Reed.

But a handful of area residents who came to the meeting weren’t happy.

Peoplestown resident and Coalition for Community Benefits activist Avery Jackson said that the resolutions should have talked about community benefits like permanent jobs and educational resources. Jackson also said the people who are most vulnerable to displacement don’t have a real seat at the table.

“Now we see … they’re using lots of public money and there’s still no permanent benefits,” said Jackson.

The board heard publc comment from several residents including Jackson after their votes.

Board Vice Chair Constance Barkley-Lewis voted for both deals and explained during the meeting that they were the topic of much research on her part and long conversations by board members. But she also said displacing residents is not something the board wants to have on its conscience.

She and other board members offered to meet with the residents who came to speak.

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

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