The sale of Underground Atlanta is expected to be discussed by the board of the Downtown Development Authority on Thursday, but whether a vote on the deal will happen isn’t clear.
An early agenda for the DDA posted Tuesday evening listed a resolution about the Underground transaction, but included no other details about the sale. The resolution, however, was on Page 2 of the agenda beneath a planned executive session for a real estate matter, and below an agenda item for the meeting to adjourn.
Later Tuesday night, the reference to an Underground transaction was gone. A message left for an Invest Atlanta spokesman late Tuesday about the agenda was not immediately returned.
South Carolina developer WRS Real Estate Investments has been in negotiations to buy the struggling downtown mall for more than two years. Invest Atlanta, the city’s development agency, and the DDA must convey the property to WRS, and an authority board vote is necessary to complete the transaction.
A sale had been planned before the end of December, but was moved to Jan. 5 to accommodate the New Year’s Eve Peach Drop celebration.
WRS then missed that deadline.
On Jan. 4, Mayor Kasim Reed appeared to set a Jan. 31 ultimatum for WRS to get a deal done. Reed told Atlanta Business Chronicle the city is moving to close a deal and that WRS is his “first choice,” but he warned in the Chronicle article: “This is the end.”
The city wants to move the money-losing mall off its books and spur redevelopment that it hopes will fuel downtown revitalization. A number of groups are scouting the city’s core for redevelopment opportunities, including some that have emerged as potential suitors for Underground if WRS can’t close the deal.
Asked Tuesday night if WRS planned to close the deal by the end of the month, WRS executive Kevin Rogers sent a text stating: “As soon as possible.”
The AJC first reported last month one of the groups that might move in if WRS fails to close the deal is the U.S. arm of German real estate outfit Newport Holdings, which has hired former executives of Ponce City Market developer Jamestown.
WRS has proposed a $300 million overhaul involving apartments, student housing, a grocery store, a hotel and other retail.
The city has gone to great lengths to help seal a deal.
Last year, the city and state of Georgia consummated a complicated land swap that saw the city take on state-owned land near Underground, while the state took over the city-owned Bobby Jones Golf Course in Buckhead. The land swap was necessary, Reed has said, to help provide needed parking for the Underground redevelopment.
Last month, the Atlanta City Council approved a controversial plan to “abandon” parts of several downtown streets that would become private property upon completion of the deal.