A birds-eye view of The Gulch project, which sits adjacent to Philips Arena and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Courtesy CIM Group)

Atlanta City Council members Amir Farokhi, Michael Julian Bond, J.P. Matzigkeit, Natalyn Archibong, Jennifer Ide, Andre Dickens, Dustin Hillis and Matt Westmoreland introduced an ordinance at Monday’s meeting calling for a third-party audit of the Gulch deal.

The legislation would direct the city’s Chief Financial Officer to contract an outside accounting or consulting firm to analyze documents and figures related to the project and offer an independent report of its projected outcomes.

The bill’s author, Councilmember Amir Farokhi, said the decision to introduce the legislation is in response to overwhelming constituent demand. Residents spoke out against the Gulch deal for more than four hours at the Sept. 17 meeting. 

“We heard Atlanta loud and clear,” Farokhi said. “Hundreds of constituents have called, e-mailed, or come to City Hall to weigh in on the Gulch deal. The overwhelming feeling is that while residents want to see the Gulch developed, they don’t feel fully informed and want more assurances that the framework is in the public’s best interest.”

Farokhi believes that the size of the project and public fatigue from taxpayer funding of mega-projects provides a mandate for deeper scrutiny.

“We are talking about potentially $1.75 billion in taxpayer assistance,” he said. “There are many benefits to the project but we’re failing residents if we make a decision without hearing from more experts.” 

Council member Michael Julian Bond, a co-sponsor, added to this sentiment.   

“This project has the potential to change the face of Atlanta for untold decades,” Bond said. “On such an enormous proposal, we need to avail ourselves of the best minds to ensure that we are fully informed.” 

Earlier this month, the city of Atlanta announced that it had reached an agreement with CIM Group to redevelop the Gulch, a 40-acre site of parking lots and rail lines adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena, into a massive mixed-use complex of offices, hotels, apartments and retail. 

The Atlanta City Council did not vote on the deal at Monday’s full council meeting.

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.