Atlanta Housing’s redevelopment plan for civic center hits snag

April 15, 2022 Atlanta - Aerial photograph shows Atlanta Civic Center on Friday, April 15, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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April 15, 2022 Atlanta - Aerial photograph shows Atlanta Civic Center on Friday, April 15, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Plans to build affordable housing at the site of Atlanta’s aging civic center have hit another snag.

The Atlanta Housing Authority, which owns the property, has spent eight years searching for a company that could build a mix of affordable and market-rate housing on the 19 acres. Last Wednesday, Atlanta Housing’s board members voted to contract with Tishman Speyer and H. J. Russell & Company to redevelop the property.

On Tuesday evening, however, Atlanta Housing President and CEO Eugene Jones said in a statement that Tishman Speyer’s corporate attorney emailed him last Thursday to say the real estate giant is “respectfully withdrawing” from the project. The attorney’s brief email stated the company “determined that the project is not right for us at this time,” according to Jones.

Jones said in a statement that Atlanta Housing is disheartened and surprised by the withdrawal.

ExploreAtlanta Housing selects developers for mixed-use plan at civic center
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Atlanta Housing Authority members listen to Trish O'Connell, Deputy Chief Real Estate Officer, to the proposal to build affordable housing at the Civic Center grounds during the monthly board meeting at the Atlanta Housing Authority office on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Atlanta Housing Authority members listen to Trish O'Connell, Deputy Chief Real Estate Officer, to the proposal to build affordable housing at the Civic Center grounds during the monthly board meeting at the Atlanta Housing Authority office on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Atlanta Housing Authority members listen to Trish O'Connell, Deputy Chief Real Estate Officer, to the proposal to build affordable housing at the Civic Center grounds during the monthly board meeting at the Atlanta Housing Authority office on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

“Despite Tishman Speyer’s sudden withdrawal, Atlanta Housing remains committed to its mission and will ensure the Civic Center site is developed with a strong affordable housing component, which will also advance Mayor Andre Dickens’ goal of creating 20,000 units of affordable housing in the city of Atlanta,” Jones said.

The New York-based Tishman Speyer is a real estate investment firm that provides development, fund management, and real estate operation services on a global scale. Last year they bailed on a similar mixed-use plan to remake The Mall West End.

Tishman Speyer’s most recent Atlanta project was Three Alliance Center, a top-tier office tower in Buckhead, and it is currently planning a massive project in West Midtown.

H.J. Russell & Company is a locally, Black-owned provider of services in construction, development and property management. H.J. Russell is still involved in the civic center’s redevelopment, according to an Atlanta Housing spokesman. But Speyer’s withdrawal raises procurement issues.

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April 15, 2022 Atlanta - Aerial photograph shows Atlanta Civic Center on Friday, April 15, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

April 15, 2022 Atlanta - Aerial photograph shows Atlanta Civic Center on Friday, April 15, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
April 15, 2022 Atlanta - Aerial photograph shows Atlanta Civic Center on Friday, April 15, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

“Due to this unforeseen circumstance, Atlanta Housing is reviewing its procurement requirements to determine the next steps to proceed expeditiously in the selection of a responsive team to foster the redevelopment of the Civic Center,” Jones said.

Dickens said Wednesday that Atlanta Housing spent eight months in discussions with Tishman Speyer.

“It was a disappointment,” Dickens said. “I feel confident that the Housing Authority board and leadership will get back at it and will find us a team.”

City officials closed the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center in 2014. A year later, then-Mayor Kasim Reed said Houston developer Weingarten Realty would buy the site from Atlanta to perform the $300 million project. That deal fell through in 2016.

Atlanta Housing purchased the site for $31 million in 2017 and later planned to partner with Weingarten, but that plan also failed.

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February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones speaks as Mayor Andre Dickens looks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones speaks as Mayor Andre Dickens looks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones speaks as Mayor Andre Dickens looks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Today, the latest proposal would transform the civic center into a large retail space that preserves the site’s plaza and performing arts center, according to Atlanta Housing.

The redevelopment would also include 1,300 housing units, with more than 400 at or below 100% of the Atlanta metro area’s median income, which is $86,200 for a family of four, according to the city. Jones said the agency wants to complete the project by 2030 at a cost of $1 billion.

“Hopes are very high for the property, particularly given how long it has remained in limbo,” said Amanda Rhein, a seasoned real estate expert and executive director of the Atlanta Land Trust nonprofit.

Rhein, who sits on the mayor’s Affordable Housing Strike Force, said she wants to see Atlanta Housing’s affordable housing goals for desired mixed use of the land.

“That is a critical site in the heart of our city,” Rhein said. “It has the opportunity to provide a significant amount of affordable housing given its ownership by Atlanta Housing, but also it has the ability to become a real community serving development.”