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As Gulch redevelopment hinges on court decisions, CIM Group signs tenant nearby

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The massive project may be in legal limbo, but a Flying Biscuit is on the way

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

While the redevelopment of downtown’s desolate Gulch remains in limbo, the Los Angeles-based firm spearheading the 40-acre site’s potential overhaul has inked a lease with a restaurant that could set up shop nearby soon.

In three or four months, a Castleberry Hill condo complex is slated to welcome a new Flying Biscuit, which is meant to provide a spark of activity in the district, according to developer CIM Group.

The new restaurant is expected to take vacant retail space at the foot of Castleberry Point Lofts on Centennial Olympic Park Drive, around the corner from the now-demolished Nelson Street Bridge. Meanwhile, the Gulch is tapped for a potential $5 billion overhaul that would transform the swath of parking lots and railroad tracks into the mixed-use Centennial Yards.

The restaurant signing isn’t “technically [part of Centennial Yards], but I think it’s going to impact the area greatly,” a CIM Group spokesman told Curbed Atlanta.

A CIM Group rendering shows a pedestrian-friendly environment surrounded by new buildings and green space.
A rendering of the developer’s dream for the Gulch.
CIM Group

As for the Gulch’s monumental looming redevelopment, the spokesman said, “We’re still waiting on the bond validations.”

That’s a reference to a court battle between the City of Atlanta and an activist group called Redlight the Gulch, which has cried foul on CIM Group’s plan to use nearly $2 billion in public funds to support the site’s redo.

The Enterprise Zone Bond Funding—colloquially called EZ bonds, which are backed by sales taxes—would amount to some $1.25 billion, according to the city.

And a Fulton County Superior Court judge has said city officials acted lawfully when crafting and approving the incentives package—at least the part that pertains to sales tax support.

A brick condo building which shoots out toward an intersection, looking like a flatiron building.
The retail slot in question at 118 Centennial Olympic Park Drive.
Google Maps

But Redlight the Gulch organizers, including leader Julian Bene, have filed an appeal with the court challenging the judge’s ruling.

“I don’t think anyone thinks that’s going to be successful, but it just freezes everything,” the spokesman said. “And corporate lawyers say, ‘Until this is done, we can’t do or say anything.’”

Bene and company have said the city and CIM Group have not provided proof their sales tax revenue projections are viable.

“Nor would those revenues come close to supporting a bond issue of $1.25 billion,” Bene wrote in an email to Curbed last month. “The city and developer had admitted this in court. In effect, they had asked the judge to delegate bond validation to an unidentified consultant on a rolling future basis.”

There’s still no judicial ruling on the two components of the bond package that relate to property tax monies.

But soon, in Castleberry Hill, there will be fresh biscuits.

Downtown Atlanta’s horrible Gulch, in photos.
The Gulch, as it looks today.
Curbed Atlanta