The Atlanta City Council, late in its first meeting back from recess Aug. 18, approved the sale of $117 million in bonds for the BeltLine, at least $45 million of which will be used to complete the purchase of 4.5 miles of the proposed route in northeast Atlanta from developer Wayne Mason.
The authorized bond sale represents the first major cash infusion for the project, which proposes to redevelop aging freight rail tracks that circle the inner-city neighborhoods of Atlanta into a network of transit, trails and parks bordered by commercial development.
The bonds will be backed by anticipated increases in property tax revenue resulting from development along the 22-mile route.
Some of the money will be used to buy land for the transit line and provide subsidies for affordable housing. The first bond sales should provide about $14 million of the $120 million a BeltLine task force recommends should be spent on affordable housing during the 25-year lifespan of the BeltLine project.
This first bond issue was planned for 2006 but was successfully challenged by a Buckhead lawyer who said the state constitution forbids school property tax money from being spent on redevelopment projects like the BeltLine.
That bond sale was projected to be $200 million, but the bond sale now being prepared relies only on city and county property tax revenues.
During the two-year delay in the bond sale, it has been difficult for BeltLine officials to hire staff, secure right of way and obtain land for parks.
The bond issue is the first of several planned over 25 years to raise an anticipated $1 billion. The BeltLine has a projected budget of $2.8 billion. The council’s action is the last step before the actual sale of the bonds.