Ponce City Market developer pauses request for new incentives

This is a rendering of plans to expand Ponce City Market. The site's developer said Nov. 10, 2020 it will add 500,000 square feet. (Photo courtesy Jamestown)
Caption
This is a rendering of plans to expand Ponce City Market. The site's developer said Nov. 10, 2020 it will add 500,000 square feet. (Photo courtesy Jamestown)

Credit: Jamestown

Fulton agency also defers decision on tax break for Beltline apartments

The developer of Ponce City Market on Tuesday temporarily withdrew a request for an $8 million tax break for the second phase of the popular Beltline mixed-use project, as the proposed incentives apparently did not have the support needed to pass.

The Development Authority of Fulton County (DAFC) board also deferred a decision on incentives for a second Beltline project as members appeared to be deadlocked over whether incentives were justified.

Jamestown Properties requested its proposal for Ponce City Market be removed from the DAFC agenda prior to Tuesday’s meeting. Several residents and neighborhood groups expressed opposition to the proposal, questioning the need for tax breaks for an expansion of one of Atlanta’s hottest projects.

DAFC has been criticized for years as a rubberstamp that grants lucrative tax breaks for projects in well-off parts of the county. But the authority has undergone an overhaul in the wake of reporting by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this year that revealed a culture of loose financial oversight at the agency under former leadership.

ExploreOur reporting about the Development Authority of Fulton County

The makeup of the board has changed, with nearly half of its members having joined this year.

Jamestown acquired the hulking former Sears warehouse a decade ago and converted it into a thriving mix of apartments, shops, restaurants and offices.

Jamestown wants to develop a 163-unit apartment tower on an existing parking structure, an 85,000-square-foot, timber-framed office building and about 23,000 square feet of new retail space on the North Avenue side of the complex. The second phase also includes plans for a “hospitality living tower,” essentially a 405-unit residential high-rise with hotel-like services for short-term and extended stays.

Among the proposed public benefits are 16 apartments with subsidized rents reserved for people making 60% of the area median income, or about $52,000 for a family of four. That threshold of affordable housing is a requirement under the city’s inclusionary zoning. Jamestown also promised $1 million for a “legacy resident retention program.”

Jim Martin, the head of Neighborhood Planning Unit-D in northwest Atlanta, said DAFC has promised to provide more assistance to less affluent and majority Black communities south of I-20.

Ponce City Market “is not an area that needs (public funding),” he said. “This deal (flies) in the face of that commitment. This site is almost certain to expand without incentives.”

In August, an AJC investigation found DAFC provided preliminary or final approval for more than $328 million in tax breaks since 2018. Critics contend the public often receives too little in return for the largess, and in many cases the incentives were granted for projects that would have happened anyway in favorable markets such as Midtown or on the Beltline.

Jamestown CEO Matt Bronfman said in a statement that conversations with DAFC would continue.

“(We) are encouraged by the response to date but have opted to pause our application so that we can appropriately and substantively respond to feedback from staff and board members,” he said.

In separate action, DAFC’s board tabled to its Dec. 7 meeting a request by developer TPA Residential for a $3.7 million tax break to develop land near Zoo Atlanta that includes an unpermitted landfill and an old city drinking water chlorination facility.

ExploreFulton authority to consider incentives for Ponce City Market expansion

The 278-unit apartment and townhouse project at the corner of United and Avondale avenues is expected to include 43 units reserved for people making 80% of the area median income, or about $69,000 a year for a family of four, to comply with city inclusionary zoning.

Several residents expressed support, citing environmental hazards such as chemical seepage and concerns about methane emissions. Others said the landfill is a magnet for crime.

Two prior developers had tried to clean up the site and develop it but passed.

Tyler Gaines of TPA said his company estimates $7 million will be needed to remediate the site. He said the DAFC incentive and state and federal government assistance for brownfield projects are needed to make the project financially viable.

“This is not a small undertaking, and it’s not something people are lining up to do,” he said.

Chairman Michel “Marty” Turpeau IV applauded TPA for taking on the property, which DAFC says would grow in tax revenue from about $8,000 per year to $9.8 million over 10 years ,even factoring in the local incentive.

Michel "Marty" Turpeau IV, chairman of DAFC, standing with Sam Bacote (left), treasurer of DAFC and Kyle Lamont (second from left), member of DAFC, answers questions from the elected Fulton commissioners at the Fulton County government building in Atlanta on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Michel "Marty" Turpeau IV, chairman of DAFC, standing with Sam Bacote (left), treasurer of DAFC and Kyle Lamont (second from left), member of DAFC, answers questions from the elected Fulton commissioners at the Fulton County government building in Atlanta on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

But some DAFC board members raised several concerns, including about the need for a county incentive when TPA will also seek brownfield assistance.

“It is a close call because of the contamination, but I think the burden is on the developer to make the case,” said board member Tom Tidwell. “I don’t think they’ve done it here.”

Prior development attempts failed, but townhomes on an adjoining parcel sell for about $400,000, he said.

“This area has changed,” Tidwell said. “I don’t think we have to incentivize this project to get it done.”

Credit: WSBTV Videos

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Atlanta City Council passes controversial new tax for Beltline businesses, apartments

Credit: WSBTV Videos