The Gulch (Courtesy of Google Maps)

The Community Development/Human Services & Finance/Executive Committees of the Atlanta City Council will hold a joint work session on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the Westside Tax Allocation District, which includes The Gulch project in Downtown.

Representatives from various City Departments, Invest Atlanta, the Atlanta Independent School System, and Fulton County Government have been invited to attend. There will be no official action taken by members of the Atlanta City Council. The work session is open to the public, and will take place in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.

The meeting comes after the city extolled a plan to the redevelop The Gulch, a warren of below street-level parking lots and viaducts adjacent to Philips Arena and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in a media statement on Aug. 14. The media statement appeared after the AJC published a report that incentives for the mixed-use project could top $1 billon for developer CIM Group.

The AJC and WSB-TV obtained a document outlining a plan to use public financing via bonds to get the $3.5  billion project off the ground. The Gulch would be transformed into a massive mixed-use development with office towers, retail, apartments and hotels. The site has also been touted as a location for Amazon’s second headquarters, dubbed HQ2.

Here is the statement in full issued by the city:

For the last several months, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ Administration has been working ambitiously and collaboratively to continue the momentum that will transform the downtown area widely known as the “The Gulch.”

For fifty years, the site that was once a rail yard has been chronically underdeveloped. To many, it was little more than a yawning hole in the ground in the middle of some of Atlanta’s most prime real estate.

Year after year, decade after decade, the parcels that make up The Gulch generated zero tax revenue for the City.

But that is about to change in a big way.

With the City’s assistance, the CIM Group has committed to bringing millions of square feet in mixed-use development to The Gulch. The company will invest billions of its own dollars to revitalize thirteen blocks of unused land that will change the face of downtown Atlanta.

“At roughly the equivalent of thirty football fields, this will be the largest development of its kind in Atlanta’s history and in the entire Southeast,” said Mayor Bottoms. “Our Administration is proud to help make this a reality.”

Bond money generated for the project could reach upwards of a billion dollars and would primarily come from two sources: the Westside Tax Allocation District (TAD); and the Enterprise Zone Bond (EZ Bond).

Last year, the State Legislature passed HB342, which stipulates that any urban redevelopment project in excess of 400-million dollars can qualify for a sales tax exemption. The EZ bonds would allow CIM to use roughly five-cents of the City’s 8.9-cent sales tax to help fund the project. Eighty percent of that money is from the State of Georgia’s share of the sales tax; the remaining 20% is from Fulton County’s Local Option Sales Tax. Atlanta’s Municipal Option Sales Tax would remain untouched.

With the approval of the Atlanta City Council, the lifespan of the Westside TAD would be extended ten years to 2048, to help pay off the City’s commitment to the development.

The City does not pledge any portion of its General Funds toward the project.

Once The Gulch project is online, 20% of the TAD bond proceeds generated within its boundaries will be applied toward other projects in the neighborhoods within the Empowerment Zone and West of the Empowerment Zone.

Also, not less than 20% of the development will be reserved for affordable housing, with a minimum of 200 units, bringing The Gulch project in line with our City’s vision of One Atlanta, which ensures that none of our residents gets left behind by Atlanta’s good fortune.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.