By Katrice L. Mines, Senior Editor
Plans to move forward with the redevelopment of the Atlanta Civic Center as a mixed-use development have finally been finalized — a conclusion Mayor Kasim Reed called “one of the most important projects in the history of the city.”
According to the Mayor during a press conference today, the seemingly defunct talks with Texas-based Weingarten Realty have reached a fruitful conclusion with the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) partnering with the developer to revitalize the property on the to the western edge of Old Fourth Ward downtown. Reed promised, at minimum, 30 percent affordable housing as a part of the project which AHA expects to span about two years for development.
The project will represent the largest commitment to affordable housing in the heart of the city in more than a decade. “It’s a vital part of midtown and downtown in developing a strategic corridor where working families, millennials and others will be able to live,” Reed said. “This decision today shows that affordability and mobility remain the top priorities of our administration.”
Catherine Buell, CEO of the AHA, said called the deal “particularly exciting” for the AHA because the organization has been spending so much time thinking through how to advance affordability within the city of Atlanta. “Having key properties located next to commercial centers, job centers … located adjacent to transportation and most importantly retail; we are very excited to be partnering with a retail partner. This is the first time that the housing authority will be having a dynamic space like this downtown,” she said.
Weingarten was the successful bidder for a $31 million acquisition of the 19-acre site. Because of the complexities of the site, including an extensive amount of necessary water and sewer work, the transaction had been slowed down. Buell, Reed said, came up with the idea that the City needed to put a larger stake in the ground for affordability, which AHA had the balance sheet to spearhead. The AHA will pay the $31 million to the City of Atlanta and will lead on all specs related to housing while Weingarten will be the developer that focuses on the commercial aspect — including office space and other retail components.
“I think given where the Civic Center is with a 30 percent affordability opportunity, it was one that we didn’t think it was smart to pass up,” Reed explained.
The AHA is still working on the design of the site, but will likely be a high density site with multiple high rises. “What we will do, as the housing authority, is by virtue of us owning the property, we will be able to subsidize those units through what we call our complex program which is essentially a project-based rental assistance program,” Buell said.
The City began talks with Weingarten about the site in 2015 but had previously considered several other options from a new movie studio to a basketball arena for the Hawks. The City is hoping to close on the asset with the AHA by November 1.