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City of Atlanta vs. school system feud over Gulch deal could be coming to an end

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After a months-long dispute, officials from both parties appear to have reached a compromise

Downtown Atlanta’s horrible Gulch, in photos.
The sunken Gulch experience today.
Curbed Atlanta

The potential $5 billion redevelopment of downtown’s Gulch took a major step toward becoming reality Friday, as the City of Atlanta announced it had reached an agreement that would allow the project to use Atlanta Public Schools tax cash.

For months, the school district had sparred with the city over the development proposal that seeks almost $2 billion in public monies—$1.25 billion in future sales taxes and $625 million in property taxes collected from the Westside Tax Allocation District—to enliven the barren wasteland of parking lots and railroad tracks near Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

On Friday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s office declared the city and its school system had reached a deal in which APS agrees to eschew future property taxes yielded by the Gulch site through 2038.

In exchange, the city would pay $15 million to APS through 2023.

The school board is meeting today to vote on the agreement, and the Atlanta City Council could do the same during its 1 p.m. meeting.

The overarching Gulch vision.
Rendering courtesy of CIM Group; designs, Perkins + Will

The proposed agreement is centered around four main points, according to a city press release:

APS will continue its participating partnership in the Westside TAD through 2038, including by joining with the City and the State of Georgia in the support for the Atlanta Gulch Project.

The city of Atlanta will agree to a $10 million reimbursement of educational and infrastructure development costs incurred by APS on completed projects in the Westside TAD and an additional $1.25 million each year from 2020 to 2023, bringing the total reimbursement of such costs to $15 million.

APS will agree to a participating partnership in Atlanta’s four commercial TADs for 30 years. The four TADS are Campbellton Road TAD, Hollowell/M.L.K. TAD, Metropolitan Parkway TAD, and the Stadium TAD. APS’s participation provides enhanced and more immediate financial viability to the TAD incentives that can be provided in these areas of the city.

The City of Atlanta will pay off bonds on the Eastside TAD; COA will then make annual payments in lieu of taxes (“PILOT payments”) of APS’s portion of increment through the remaining life of the Eastside TAD. COA will continue to accept and review applications for funding for development projects within the Eastside TAD.

Of course, as with any development project of this stature, there are people who are protesting the plans.

Advocacy group Redlight the Gulch has raised almost $13,000 on GoFundMe, in an effort to take the city to court over what activists consider an illegal cash grab by billionaire developers.