Developers of a proposed $176 million building project want to attract a specific kind of tenant to downtown Atlanta: Educators.
“Teachers Village” is a 31-story, mixed-use development pitched for a prime address at 98 Cone Street, a block from Centennial Olympic Park.
Developers plan to market 229 of the 438 apartment units to Atlanta Public Schools employees, an effort district and city officials are lauding as a way to provide affordable and market-rate housing so teachers and other staffers can live closer to the schools where they work.
On Thursday, the city development agency Invest Atlanta approved $30 million in public financing incentives requested by RBH Group, LLC, which built similar projects in Newark, New Jersey, and Hartford, Connecticut.
The project is backed by APS officials, including Superintendent Lisa Herring and school board member Michelle Olympiadis, who also serves on the Invest Atlanta board.
“It’s meant to be moderate, affordable housing … right there in the heart of downtown,” Olympiadis said. “There’s nothing not to like about the project.”
Only 27% of APS’ 3,000 teachers live within the city, according to a 2019 district report. Those who live in the neighborhoods where they teach “are more committed, stay employed longer and have better attendance,” according to the report.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
“It has long been a priority of our school district that our staff, at all income levels, are able to make the city we serve their home,” said Herring, in a letter endorsing the project.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who chairs the Invest Atlanta board, said during Thursday’s meeting that the development will help fill the need for housing aimed at workers “who aren’t making six figures, but still want to be a part of the community.”
The average Atlanta teacher makes roughly $66,000, while a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree earns about $49,000, according to the district’s most recently available data. Other employees, such as bus drivers, some office workers and paraprofessionals who assist teachers, make less.
Officials view the cost of renting or owning a home in the city as one reason why more school employees don’t live in the communities where they work. Renters generally are considered “cost-burdened” if they spend more than 30% of their income on housing, according to federal definitions.
Apartments in the proposed downtown project would rent for $813 to $2,060 a month, depending on the size of the unit and income of renters. Of the 229 units planned for educators, 140 would be designated for tenants who make less than the area median income, or $82,700, as of last year.
The median gross rent in that area was about $1,1164 a month in 2019, according to an analysis of Census data by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Another 209 units would be geared toward senior housing. The project also includes retail space.
To help finance the $176 million project, Invest Atlanta approved a $26 million tax-exempt loan and a $4 million grant. The grant funding now goes to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners for its review.
RBH Group spokesman Lonnie Soury said developers found success with similar East Coast projects and are looking to expand the educator-housing concept to Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and other cities.
He said developers can’t guarantee every unit in “Teachers Village” will be rented by an educator, but they plan to target school employees in their marketing efforts.
Soury said they envision a “milieu of young people and seniors” living in the same building and interacting.
Olympiadis is excited about the potential of more APS employees living downtown.
“They help reinforce the fabric of the community,” she said.
Bottoms highlighted the support from APS, which in the past sparred with the city over tax incentives for development projects.
“It’s great to have something that we’re all on the same page on, and this is going to be great for our community,” she said.
The project is expected to take two years to complete.
Data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this article.
“Teachers Village” project
Address: 98 Cone St.
Number of stories: 31
Number of rental units: 438, with 229 marketed to educators and 209 to seniors
Total cost: $176 million