The Westside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine (Photo by Asep Mawardi)

A small tax increase for businesses and apartment complexes along the Atlanta BeltLine corridor has been proposed to help fund the completion of the entire 22-mile loop.

Legislation to create a Special Service District (SSD) within the Atlanta BeltLine Planning Area was introduced at the Atlanta City Council meeting on Jan. 19. 

Without additional funding, BeltLine officials contend the trail corridor would not be completed before the Tax Allocation District (TAD) expires in 2030. The TAD will generate at least $1 billion less than originally projected. The estimated cost to design and construct the remaining trail corridor is $350 million.

The finished BeltLine is expected to yield a $10 billion economic impact and 50,000 permanent jobs for the city. 

“This additional funding moves us one step closer to our vision for creating One Atlanta,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in a press release. “I am encouraged by this latest commitment to move our plans for affordable housing and community revitalization forward.”

An SSD is a geographic district created through legislation that levies additional property taxes to provide local government services. In the case of the BeltLine, commercial and multi-family property owners within the Atlanta BeltLine Planning Area (which includes the half-mile on either side of the corridor) would see an estimated 2-mill increase or two-tenths of a penny per dollar in the assessed value of each property. Funds go towards trail acquisition, design, and construction. 

“Fulfilling the promise of the Atlanta BeltLine, and especially the benefits to the community, is more important than ever,” said Clyde Higgs, CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI). “The proposed district will bring value to communities by focusing on greater job creation and equitable economic access which all support Mayor Bottoms’ One Atlanta Plan.” 

Residents living in single-family homes would not be subject to the increase. Almost half of the commercial and multi-family parcels contained within the proposed SSD would pay less than an additional $250 annually, or about $20 a month.  

Additionally, new dedicated funding for trail completion through the SSD – combined with philanthropic support and the growth in TAD revenue – would generate an additional $50 million in funding to create deeper and longer-term housing affordability around the BeltLine and $7 million in small business support. 

“Enacting the Special Service District will help ensure that the BeltLine is home to 5,600 units of affordable housing by 2030,” said Councilmember Dustin Hillis, who introduced the ordinance at Tuesday’s Atlanta City Council meeting.

Affordable housing remains a top priority for the Atlanta BeltLine organizations. In addition to ABI’s commitment to meeting the project’s 5,600 unit goal, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership (ABP) recently launched the Legacy Resident Retention Program – a $12.5 million, philanthropically-funded initiative to alleviate the burden of increasing property taxes for legacy homeowners. This new program complements existing Home Empowerment Workshops that connect BeltLine residents with resources to stay in their homes. 

“Atlanta’s philanthropic leaders have made early and ongoing investments in the BeltLine and want to see its benefits brought to all the communities it will connect. Our continued fundraising success is dependent upon those who benefit most financially from the Atlanta BeltLine’s completion making a meaningful contribution as well,” said ABP Executive Director Rob Brawner. “We must pass the Special Service District legislation now.” 

For more information, visit www.beltline.org/SSD2021.

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.