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Newly negotiated Gulch development deal has emerged

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says the new documents “represent a tremendous departure from the initial terms”

The overarching Gulch vision, complete with new construction aplenty.
The gleaming, tentative vision CIM Group has for the Gulch.
Rendering courtesy of CIM Group; designs, Perkins + Will

Although Atlanta City Councilmembers won’t be digging into the nitty-gritty of the revised Gulch deal at a specially called meeting this afternoon—as was initially planned—details of the multi-billion development agreement have been posted online for all to see.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that, after further negotiations with Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group, and heeding the concerns of councilmembers and constituents, the plans have been drastically amended and “represent a tremendous departure from the initial terms,” as she stated in a release.

The new proposal, as expected, lacks the controversial 10-year extension of the Westside Tax Allocation District—from 2038 to 2048—which raised concerns that freezing property taxes at current levels would have hurt Atlanta Public Schools’s finances.

That clause was considered a significant hurdle toward “Green-lighting The Gulch,” as Bottoms has called for. The mayor opted not to discuss the project at today’s meeting because she wanted councilmembers to have ample time to study the hundreds of pages of agreements before deliberating further.

The new proposal dampens the project’s need for bond financing, according to a letter penned by Bottoms to Council President Felicia Moore. “The newly negotiated agreements reflect a dramatic decrease in the Tax Allocation Bond portion from $625 million to $40 million,” she wrote.

“Another significant change is the ‘pay as you go’ requirement for Tax Allocation District supplemental payments,” Bottoms continued, in the release. “This structure reinforces our goal of minimizing and reducing all risks to the City of Atlanta.”

While an earlier draft of the Gulch development agreement proposed using up to $1.75 billion in bonds supported by future sales and property taxes, the new deal, with a relaxed dependence on bonds, includes an incentives package worth just under $2 billion.

Additionally, Bottoms wrote, “All requests for reimbursement of qualified expenses, in accordance with this structure, will be verified by an independent agent obtained by Invest Atlanta.”

The new proposal also maintains many of the community benefits promised before, including the contribution of $28 million toward an affordable housing trust fund.

The restructured deal could be en route to a November 5 council vote, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.