Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm, hopes to lure new businesses downtown by making the buildings that would house them more energy efficient.
The organization's board approved Thursday a plan to use up to $8 million in funding from the Westside tax allocation district to help building owners conduct energy audits or retrofit structures that face obsolescence because of power and water inefficiencies, especially those C class of lower-grade offices that struggle with vacancies.
Invest Atlanta, formerly the Atlanta Development Authority, would pay as much as 40 percent of the cost of the work with the landlord footing the rest of the bill.
Cheryl Strickland, director of tax allocation district programs, for Invest Atlanta, said despite a spate of new construction over the past decade, downtown has a number of crumbling buildings and numerous vacancies.
"We still have a lot of aging, obsolete building stock," she said "We've got a lot of buildings that are inefficient, that are underutilized."
Invest Atlanta's move is part of a larger effort by the city to go green. Atlanta was one of a handful of pilot cities in the Obama administration's "Better Buildings" challenge, which seeks to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020.
Aaron Bastian, a spokesman for the Mayor's Office of Sustainability, said participating buildings are finding savings by updating HVAC and water systems that are at the end of their lives or replacing lighting that uses too much energy.
Brian McGowan, president and chief executive officer of Invest Atlanta, said investing in the retrofits and energy audits could help spur employment.
"The idea is that if we upgrade the buildings and make them more conducive to the attraction of investment, we can actually bring more jobs to the downtown," he said.
Board member Julian Bene applauded the program, but warned the staff to be very focused when looking for companies to fill the space. He suggested they focus on niche companies for the buildings -- possibly start ups or high tech businesses -- that can't afford Class A offices and would relish the more challenged space.
"We should be very careful in how we approach," he said. "We don't have a whole lot of money to throw around."
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