City Council hears updates on big projects at retreat

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, left, discusses the construction on the new Mercedes Benz Stadium with Wayne Wadsworth, Executive Vice President of Holder Construction Company.
Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, left, discusses the construction on the new Mercedes Benz Stadium with Wayne Wadsworth, Executive Vice President of Holder Construction Company.

The Atlanta City Council held its 2015 fall retreat on Oct. 22 during which members heard from various agencies on the status of several major planned and ongoing economic development projects. Here’s a recap from the city:

The projects discussed included significant investments planned for the Georgia World Congress Center, Centennial Olympic Park, multi-million dollar neighborhood projects underway as a result of funding from the Westside Tax Allocation District (TAD) and the redevelopment of Fort McPherson.

“Right now we are experiencing a strong economic upswing in the city that creates increased interest in redevelopment from both the economic development and job creation perspectives,” said Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. “I thought it was critical and advantageous for councilmembers to see the larger picture. We had a presentation on key projects going on in our city that are significant and of regional consequence. It also allowed us to see how collaboration is occurring in productive ways, which results in the transformation neighborhoods in positive ways.”

Pete Haley of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority (MILRA) spoke about the transformation of the former military base which has attracted Tyler Perry Studios, its largest occupant in terms of land-use and economic investment.

City Councilmember Joyce Sheperd represents the Fort McPherson area and sits on the MILRA Board as an ex officio member.

“I’m excited that Fort McPherson, which has over 400 acres of land, is being redeveloped and the fact it’s on the southside of Atlanta,” Sheperd said. “At the retreat among the many presentations that will have a major economic impact on the city, Fort McPherson was among them.”

Jennifer Fine, Senior Project Manager for Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, provided an overview of over 30 Westside TAD projects and programs approved within the past two years, representing an investment of $43 million into the western portion of Downtown, and the neighborhoods of Castleberry Hill, English Avenue and Vine City. This investment of Westside TAD tax increment has helped to leverage over $240 million in private and other funding sources. Programs discussed include the $15 million Community Improvement Fund that includes projects focused on providing job training, community centers, parks and open space, retail and increased safety. Initiatives include the construction of the new Quest Healthy Workforce Development Complex in English Avenue which will be the home for the successful Westside Works job training center, $1.2 million in funding to the Atlanta Police Foundation to purchase security cameras and tag readers to further enhance the city’s existing crime prevention network, and funding for Lindsay Street Park, the first park in English Avenue, which had its ribbon cutting on October 21.

The Atlanta City Council
The Atlanta City Council

Fine also detailed two large development projects, Castleberry Park adjacent to the new stadium, which will include 200 apartments and a signature hotel, and Post Centennial across the street from the World of Coke, which will include approximately 450 apartment units. This $8.5 million TAD investment helped to leverage over $150 million in private funding. Nine Downtown Façade Improvement Program projects and two signature infrastructure projects  – Boone Boulevard green street and MLK Drive streetscape – were also presented. Lastly, the need for neighborhood stabilization and blight removal in English Avenue and Vine City was discussed. Invest Atlanta has allocated $1.5 million for land acquisition and assembly and is working closely with the Blank Foundation, the City of Atlanta and other community partners on a coordinated approach focused on site control, demolition and ultimate redevelopment.

Environmental matters were also discussed as the legislative body heard from representatives of the Emerald Corridor Foundation, a nonprofit that has developed a public-private partnership with the city and the Trust for Public Land to create a 9.2-acre park and bike trail along Proctor Creek. Once completed the green space would be called Proctor Park. It would include four-acres of restored wetland that will serve as a retention pond to handle storm water run-off in the area.

During the retreat, City Ethics Officer Nina Hickson briefed the City Council on city ethics rules and on the launch of a new ethics e-learning course/training that will be required of all city employees once every three years.
Additionally, Senior Assistant City Attorney Kristen Denius updated the Council on the State of Georgia open meetings and open records laws.

“We had an opportunity to receive training that is important in order to effectively represent the public,” Mitchell said. “We also talked about practices that will help us perform better from an internal perspective.”

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority hosted the Atlanta City Council’s retreat in the authority’s administrative board room Thursday.

A tour of the construction site of the new Mercedes Benz Stadium occurred at the conclusion of the retreat.
Mitchell said of the future home of Atlanta’s beloved Falcons, “It’s unbelievable. It will be an architectural icon for our city.”

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