No action was taken today on a plan to redevelop the Gulch property in Downtown after four hours of public comment urging the Atlanta City Council to reject a $2 billion incentive plan being offered to developer CIM Group.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has endorsed using public financing via bonds to get the $3.5 billion project off the ground. The Gulch, a warren of parking lots and rail lines adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, would be transformed into a massive mixed-use development office space, residences, hotels, retail and restaurant space. It’s also been touted as a location for Amazon’s second headquarters complex.
Bottoms issued a statement ahead of today’s meeting after it became obvious there would not be enough support from the council. “We recognize and respect that members of Council, and the public, need more time to understand the largest development deal in our city’s history. I have no intention of asking the authors of these proposals to request a vote on these proposals today. Members of my Administration will continue to work with members of Council and the public to better understand the substantial benefits we have negotiated and the benefits this project will bring to our entire city.”
The chorus of public dissent included elected officials and even representatives from the city’s economic development arm, Invest Atlanta.
Former Georgia senator and mayoral candidate Vincent Fort warned that “someone will go to jail” if the city council allowed the deal to go forward.
Former Invest Atlanta member Julian Benet called the Gulch deal “the worst I’ve ever seen.” He encouraged the council to walk away from the deal and find outside, objective advisors before moving forward. “It’s appalling this deal was brought to you,” he said.
Councilmembers Amir Farokhi, Michael Julian Bond, J.P. Matzigkeit, Natalyn Archibong, Jennifer Ide, Andre Dickens, Dustin Hillis and Matt Westmoreland introduced an ordinance Monday calling for a third-party audit of the Gulch deal.
Current Invest Atlanta board member Bill Bozarth said the city needed to “back off the Gulch proposal.”
“It’s a bad deal from the start, and I cannot support the project as defined if it comes before me,” Bozarth said.
Sherise Brown, a member of the Community Benefits Coalition, thanked the council for not being “bullied into making a decision” and said there needed to be more community representation before any deal was made.
An impassioned Deborah Scott, executive director of Georgia Stand-Up, raised alarms about Los Angeles-based CIM Group’s past dealings in other cities, especially when it comes to affordable housing, upkeep of properties and connections to the Trump Organization.
Mayor Bottoms’ office is still planning to hold a public meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. at City Hall to present a report on “all the benefits [The Gulch] has to offer. There’s also a website, AtlantaGA.gov/GreenLightTheGulch.