Dead Zone no more: Atlanta OK’s $5 billion revitalization of largest infill opportunity

There’s a huge dead zone in downtown Atlanta, Georgia called The Gulch.  It’s almost entirely barren of life, biological or economic.  It’s long been the city’s largest infill opportunity.

The Gulch today. Photo: Keizers via Wikipedia.

While the Gulch itself is at ground level, the streets surrounding it are elevated. They were elevated back in the early 20th century to allow automobile traffic to flow above railroads.

Back in August of 2018, Atlanta, Georgia Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a tentative agreement with CIM Group, a California-based real estate development group. CIM offered $15 million for a major piece of the 30-acre Gulch.

In return, the city offered the firm almost $1 billion in public funding to ncourage CIM to redevelop the 13 city blocks into mixed-use, including some 200 units of affordable housing. It’s estimated that, when complete, a total of $5 billion of private and public money will have gone into revitalizing the area.

Now, on November 5, 2018, Mayor Bottoms announced that the City Council had voted to approve the Gulch redevelopment. “We have established a new model for leveraging land development to achieve both economic growth and community good. Never in the history of our city has a single development deal been negotiated in a way that will have such far-reaching, generational impact.

The Gulch redevelopment will not only physically bridge the gap between the east and westsides of Atlanta, bringing economic vitality to a long-undeveloped part of downtown, but also affordable housing, workforce training, enhanced public safety, and job opportunities throughout the city,” she said.

I am grateful for the approval by the Atlanta City Council and look forward to continuing to work with them to ensure that as our city grows and prospers, our communities are not left behind,” she added.

As a result of the City Council’s vote, Atlanta will receive:

  • $28 million investment into a citywide affordable housing fund;
  • Required minimum affordable housing residential units of 200 or 20%, whichever is greater;
  • $2 million commitment for workforce training;
  • $12 million investment into a citywide economic development fund;
  • Commitment to unprecedented levels of minority and female- owned businesses with a goal of at least 38% utilization and an offer of 10% equity; and
  • $12 million commitment towards the construction of a new seven-bay fire station.

Additional terms of the Council-approved deal include:

  • CIM assuming all financial risk, including all design and construction expenses and serving as the sole purchaser of the new TAD bonds;
  • CIM paying taxes in full, only receiving the benefit of TAD supplemental payments as reimbursements once compliance on obligations and expenses has been independently verified. For qualified expenses, Invest Atlanta will make reimbursement payments to CIM for up to 12.5% of total project costs or through 2038, whichever occurs first; and
  • Reducing TAD bond proceeds available to CIM from $500 million to $32 million, with up to $8 million in bond proceeds available to Empowerment Zone Communities.

Mayor Bottoms concluded, “Thank you to Governor Nathan Deal, CIM, Invest Atlanta, the members of our Administration and the many community, public and private-sector partners who have worked tirelessly over several months to bring this historic redevelopment plan- the single largest development in our city in nearly 50 years- to fruition.

Featured image is a rendering of the overall Gulch revitalization by CIM Group / Perkins + Will.

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