The City of Atlanta dropped its lawsuit accusing a prominent developer of a cutting backroom deal to build upscale homes on 80 acres of vacant land set aside for low-income residents.
The suit claimed Atlanta Housing Authority Chief Executive Officer Renee Glover conspired to sell the parcels, which are on or near the site of four demolished public housing projects, to Integral Development founder Egbert Perry at a steep discount.
Perry warned on Friday that the dispute is not over, but praised Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for dropping what he called a “frivolous and malicious” case.
“She did the right thing for the city and its residents by ending litigation that would have cost the city additional untold millions,” Perry said in a written statement.
Glover said Friday that she expected the city’s lawsuit to be dismissed.
“It was not only without merit, it was knowingly false and politically motivated.”
The city sought at least $100 million in damages and to kill the deal. A city spokesman confirmed the case was dismissed Thursday by a Fulton County superior court judge. A related suit filed in September by AHA against Perry is ongoing.
The option-to-purchase deal would lead AHA to subsidize homes for the affluent on land meant for the poor, a 2017 Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found. The city is facing an affordable housing crisis, and two of the sites are located in neighborhoods with good public transit and jobs that are being transformed by new, wealthier residents and luxury homes.
Perry claims credit for the revitalization, which he said would have been impossible before AHA and developers in the 1990s launched what he said was a risky plan to build mixed-income apartments where the projects once stood. He and Glover said that building upscale housing would prevent concentrated poverty.
The AHA estimate found that the authority would hand over control of the land at a $120 million discount, according to records obtained by the AJC. That figure was not part of a formal appraisal, and an Integral spokeswoman said that she could not say whether AHA’s estimate is valid.
The options contracts were signed in 2011, but current AHA CEO Catherine Buell said she only heard of the deal in late 2016, when Perry tried to exercise them. Members of the board in 2011 said they did not approve the option-to-purchase deal. Perry and Glover said they obtained all required approvals.
The city filed suit in December, during an ugly public feud between former Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration and Perry. Its complaint said the options deal “shocks the conscience and seethes of illegality,” but gave no evidence of law violations and no charges were filed.
Perry publicly called called current AHA leaders “clowns” and said in a court filing that he was the victim of a “smear campaign” by Reed, who was angered by a prior dispute over land where the city’s new Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation & Aquatic Center now stands.