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After months of debates and revisions, Atlanta City Council green-lights Gulch deal

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Key pieces of legislation passed by a narrow margin of 8-6

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

Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group’s dreams of bringing a multi-billion mini-city to the desolate downtown ditch known as the Gulch just became more realistic.

After more than six hours of public comments Monday, and months of debates among local leaders, developers, and residents before that, the nearly $2 billion incentives package for downtown’s Gulch development has been given the go-ahead by a majority of the Atlanta City Council.

The vote Monday took place just before midnight and entailed the passage of four pieces of legislation pertaining to the major development agreement.

Two of the four ordinances narrowly cleared the council vote with 8 yeas and 6 nays.

The “No” votes on those two controversial ordinances—which contained key components of the Gulch project’s public funding mechanism—came from Councilmembers Amir Farokhi, Jennifer Ide, Matt Wesmoreland, Howard Shook, Andre Dickens, and Natalyn Archibong.

Councilmembers Michael Bond, Andrea Boone, Marci Overstreet, Cleta Winslow, J.P. Matzigkeit, Joyce Sheperd, Carla Smith, and Dustin Hillis voted “Yes” across the board.

The hotly debated development agreement promises at least 200 “affordable” housing units, in addition to $28 million that would go toward an affordable housing fund.

Clearing the city council hurdle puts CIM Group ever closer to beginning the construction of hotels, office towers, residences, restaurants, and retail—all on top of gigantic platforms that will carry the 40-acre community above the pit of parking spaces and railroad tracks.

This also means there’s still a strong chance that Virginia-based railroad company Norfolk Southern could bring its headquarters to Atlanta. (The company had threatened to withdraw the possibility if the Gulch deal didn’t pass on Monday.)

After the Gulch deal passed, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms—who’s long been asking the council to “Green-light the Gulch”—said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” quoting South African political icon Nelson Mandela.

“Over the past few months, at times, this has almost seemed impossible,” she continued. “But with the collaboration of city council, and working with our community partners and so many stakeholders across this city who simply care and love this city, we are here today.”