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Atlanta City Council members want Eastside TAD funds to flow

An Atlanta City Council committee wants the city’s economic development agency to restart funding from an incentive program that’s become a bargaining chip in negotiations to redevelop the Gulch.

The Eastside Tax Allocation District (TAD), a development incentive that’s been used to woo new development and build green space east of downtown, has been effectively stalled for about a year, the councilmembers say.

The program has been a boon to the Memorial Drive corridor and parts of downtown, but it has failed to deliver much revitalization to other parts of the TAD, such as Sweet Auburn and Edgewood Avenue.

A TAD is a zone where governments freeze property tax collections and use future expected increases in property values over many years to fund infrastructure and other improvements in that zone. Losing the Eastside TAD, residents and businesses say, could set back efforts for renewal in areas that haven’t seen TAD funding.

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The council’s Finance/Executive Committee approved a resolution Wednesday asking Invest Atlanta to begin accepting applications for funding out of the TAD.

Councilmembers want to know why funding from the incentive program have been effectively sidelined for about a year.

“There’s no reason this TAD should be closed right now,” said Councilman Amir Farokhi, who represents Old Fourth Ward and other Eastside neighborhoods.

The driving force behind the resolution includes Farokhi and Councilwomen Jennifer Ide and Natalyn Mosby Archibong.

Downtown Atlanta’s Gulch could become a massive mixed-use development. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The resolution could be seen as a challenge to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms as her office negotiates a potential billion-dollar incentive package to redevelop downtown’s Gulch.

In June, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Bottoms was in talks with Atlanta Public Schools to win the system’s support to extend the life of the Westside TAD to help fund the Gulch.

Closure of the Eastside TAD was one of the school system’s terms, text messages and documents obtained by the AJC showed.

On Monday, the AJC first reported incentives for the Gulch could top $1 billion, and one funding stream requires extending the Westside TAD to 2048.

Former Mayor Kasim Reed tried to close the Eastside TAD in 2017, but that effort stalled. The TAD remained open, but residents complained that funding from the incentive program dried up.

The TAD’s supporters say it hasn’t met its eight goals for redevelopment and should remain open.

Farokhi and Ide peppered Invest Atlanta CEO Eloisa Klementich last week about why new projects weren’t getting consideration for Eastside TAD funding.

December 15, 2016 Atlanta - Eloisa Klementich, CEO of Invest Atlanta, speaks as councilman Kwanza Hall (background) looks during City of Lights Grand Opening Celebration at City Lights Senior Housing, a new affordable senior housing facility, in Atlanta on Thursday, December 15, 2016. Kwanza Hall takes the wraps off a new affordable housing development for seniors on Thursday in his downtown district. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/hshin@ajc.com)

Klementich told a council work session that in 2017, Invest Atlanta had several projects it was working through its pipeline at once. That slowed the pace of new applications.

She later said the agency stopped taking new applications because of possible legislation to close the TAD.

An email to Invest Atlanta executives obtained by the AJC shows that in February, then-city chief financial officer Jim Beard said his department recommended the TAD’s closure.

“It is additionally requested that Invest Atlanta refrain from executing any additional development agreements for the Eastside Tax Allocation District,” the email said.

Farokhi said this week any decision to close a TAD belongs to the city’s legislative branch.

“We want to send a message for any TAD, not just this one, that if any TAD is going to wind down it should go through council,” he said. “No TAD should pause its work just because there’s an inclination [that it might close].”

The resolution does not carry the force of an ordinance. The matter will go before full council on Monday.

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