The Atlanta Housing Board of Commissioners voted last Wednesday to negotiate with a development partner to embark on an ambitious path to create a vibrant, mixed-use community that includes affordable and market-rate housing, office, retail, hospitality, education and open space in Atlanta’s historic Civic Center site.
Atlanta Housing CEO Eugene Jones Jr. thanked AH board members for devoting the time and attention necessary for their decisive vote. “The board’s informed and decisive action allows AH to immediately enter into negotiations to finalize the proposed business and legal terms in order to enter into a Master Developer Agreement,” said CEO Jones.
“The vision for this development has the potential to infuse $1 billion into the Historic Old Fourth Ward, providing thousands of Atlantans from all walks of life with endless opportunities,” said Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens. “The project will also honor the legacy of Buttermilk Bottom by embracing the site’s rich history, while preserving the Performing Arts Center and transforming the site into a true civic anchor at the heart of a new livable and equitable community.”
To achieve the vision for the Civic Center site through a public-private partnership, AH released a Request for Qualifications for development partners in August 2021 and a Request for Proposals in November 2021 to RFQ respondents with the capacity and capability to execute a large urban, multi-phased development. The Civic Center Evaluation Committee included representatives from the City of Atlanta, Invest Atlanta, the community and AH staff.
Following the June withdrawal of a development team, the Evaluation Committee again analyzed, interviewed and negotiated with the respondents to unanimously recommend the joint venture team of The Republic Family of Companies, The Michaels Organization and Sophy Capital for the redevelopment of a 14.7-acre portion of the property to include the Exhibition Hall. The board also authorized the selected team to play a role in the master planning and potential development of the Plaza and Performing Arts Center.
The development team’s plan calls for a multi-phase, 10-year development that will transform 14.7 acres of the city’s center into a mixed-use, mixed-income community with a focus on inclusivity, sustainability and affordability. Key elements of the plan include paying tribute to the past while building for the future; creating a neighborhood-focused, inclusive development; establishing pedestrian connectivity and public green space; utilizing sustainable and socially responsible design; offering educational and cultural programming; offering a thoughtful retail mix to stimulate activity and the environment, and re-connecting the street grid to the surrounding area to re-integrate the site.
The Republic team’s redevelopment plan will deliver 1,311 units, of which 525 will be affordable at or below 80 percent of area median income (AMI). Of those, 305 units will include AH HomeFlex subsidies for families earning at or below 80 percent of AMI. Historically, most AH HomeFlex subsidies have supported families earning at or below 60 percent of AMI. An additional 220 units will be available at or below 80 percent AMI without AH subsidies.
“We’d like to thank the Atlanta Housing staff for their tireless efforts in getting this project off the ground,” said acting AH Board Chair Tené Traylor. “Because of their hard work and community outreach, AH and our new partners will deliver hundreds of affordable new units to needy Atlanta families and breathe new life into the old Buttermilk Bottom.” Added Commissioner Larry Stewart, “This is a tremendous opportunity for AH and our new partners to work collaboratively to serve those in need. We are also very proud that this project will preserve the important memory and legacy of Buttermilk Bottom.”
The Development Team’s $575-million investment will create 1.8-million square feet of residential, office, retail, and hospitality and cultural spaces, as well as a new school. In addition to affordable and mixed-income housing, the plan includes a grocery, rooftop gardens, open spaces and recreational areas, as well as a civic square and outdoor space for local food.
Under the redevelopment proposal, AH will fully recover its $41.7 million cost of acquiring the property over a 99-year ground lease.
AH and the Development Team will begin negotiating a master development agreement immediately to finalize business terms and final due diligence. We expect to have a signed agreement within the next six to nine months with construction to being in late 2023.