Gwinnett commission approves $5.2M tax incentive for Tesla facility

This photo provided by Edmunds shows a line of parked Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. The shopping and research process when buying your first used Tesla can be more involved than what's required for a typical gas-powered car. (Courtesy of Edmunds via AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

This photo provided by Edmunds shows a line of parked Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. The shopping and research process when buying your first used Tesla can be more involved than what's required for a typical gas-powered car. (Courtesy of Edmunds via AP)

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a $5.2 million tax incentive for an expansion of a Tesla service center that is already under construction adjacent to the Gwinnett Place Mall.

The service center opened a few months ago in a former Haverty’s outlet furniture store on Satellite Boulevard, county officials said. The property lies within the Gwinnett Place Tax Allocation District, where developers, with county approval, can offset costs using property taxes they would otherwise pay to the county.

The developer, Trinity DT, is spending $35 million to remodel and expand the facility, a project that includes a five-story, 598-space parking deck, Gwinnett Planning and Development Deputy Director Roman Dakare said. The expansion is estimated to be finished this fall, Dakare said.

When complete, it will be one of the biggest Tesla facilities in the state, also serving as a sales and distribution center, Dakare said.

The tax break the county commission approved lasts 15 years. After that, the property owners will be paying taxes on a higher assessed value given the addition of the parking deck, Dakare said. The proceeds will go into the TAD fund for investment into future developments, he said.

The development breathes new life into the property, officials said.

“It’s a very lucrative deal for Gwinnett County,” said District 1 Commissioner Kirkland Carden, who represents the area — and drives a Tesla. “We were collecting sales tax on furniture. ...Now we’re collecting sales tax on luxury electric vehicles in an extremely fast-growing market.”

It’s unclear whether the developer would have undertaken the project without TAD funding, Dakare said. County staff did not have that conversation with them, but construction did not begin until staff confirmed last summer that the project met the requirements for the incentive, Dakare said.

The facility is anticipated to create about 150 jobs, he said.

Trinity DT’s managing director, Tom Abernathy, and its state-registered agent, Abernathy’s son Justin, did not return messages seeking comment.

Gwinnett County owns 39 acres of the nearly-vacant Gwinnett Place Mall and is pursuing a mixed-use development to revitalize that site. In the meantime, the county has agreed to let Tesla park some of its vehicles for sale in a surface lot that will be torn up as part of the mall redevelopment.

“The cost of structured parking has gone up significantly in the last four years, whether it be labor, material, you name it,” said Carden, who works for a multi-family housing company.

The Gwinnett County Redevelopment Agency earlier this month unanimously approved the agreement between itself, the county and Trinity DT for use of the TAD funds.

“This is just the beginning of what we’re anticipating to be a halo effect of redevelopment in the area anchored by Gwinnett Place Mall,” Dakare said.

Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, is the world’s richest man and owns the social media platform X. The Development Authority of Fulton County approved a $10.1 million tax break in January for a data center expansion by X after much controversy, given hate speech on the social media platform — including an antisemitic post from Musk.

The Fulton development authority has also been criticized for granting tax breaks to projects already under construction.