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Atlanta City Council Questions Financing For Gulch Redevelopment

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms asked Atlanta City Council members for their support as the city negotiates a deal with CIM Group to cap the Gulch with a mixed-use project. The financing of the development concerned some council members.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms asked Atlanta City Council members for their support as the city negotiates a deal with CIM Group to cap the Gulch with a mixed-use project. The financing of the development concerned some council members.
Credit Keizers / wikimedia
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In a more than three-hour work session Tuesday, Atlanta City Council members raised questions about the massive development proposed for the site of the Gulch.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has called the 40 acres of parking lots and railroad tracks in the center of Atlanta “an economic dead zone” and told City Council members that they had a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform Atlanta.”

She asked for their support as the city negotiates the deal with the California-based developer, CIM Group, to cap the Gulch with a mixed-use project. It could create 15 new city blocks in downtown and include offices, retail and apartments.

But the financing of the development concerned some council members. The administration said it wants to offer CIM Group up to $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds, stressing that the developer would carry any risk that might come with the debt.

“The city has worked very hard to come up with a framework where there is minimal public cost,” said council member Amir Farokhi, who represents downtown, “but there is a public cost.”

For example, according to the proposal, the developer would repay some of the bonds with the new revenue from property taxes. But that would mean those taxes would not go toward Atlanta’s general fund.

The City Council is currently considering four pieces of legislation that would allow Atlanta to move forward with the deal with CIM Group. The mayor would not give a timeline for when the deal would be finalized.

In her remarks to the council, she recognized another reason why the project was important to her administration: The Gulch has been floated as a possible site for Amazon.

“The elephant in the room is that very big company that is looking at the city as a place potentially to relocate its headquarters,” Bottoms said.