Facing opposition, developer asks for a pause on Beltline incentives

A rendering of the proposed New City Properties development along the Atlanta Beltline. SPECIAL TO THE AJC

A rendering of the proposed New City Properties development along the Atlanta Beltline. SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comment from the developer. 

The developer seeking $22.5 million in tax breaks from the city of Atlanta for a posh mix of offices, retail and apartments long the Beltline asked to delay consideration before a Thursday vote amid public outcry and as the project appeared to lack enough votes for approval.

Atlanta-based New City Properties requested that the proposal be removed from the agenda, said Eloisa Klementich, CEO of Invest Atlanta, the city’s development agency. She said she did not know if the matter might be revisited in the future.

“It’s a big project and complicated and I think everyone wanted time to ensure questions were answered,” Klementich said after the meeting. Board members who spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said support for the deal evaporated Wednesday and the developer — in a rare step — asked that the matter be removed from consideration.

New City has proposed 1,100 residences, more than 1 million square feet of office space, 200,000 square feet of retail and a 75-room hotel on a former Georgia Power yard overlooking Historic Fourth Ward Park near Ponce City Market. New City sought the tax break for the first phase of the project, which includes 350 apartments and about 475,000 square feet of office space.

Jim Irwin, New City’s president, said after discussions with the board that it was best pause to provide Invest Atlanta officials with more information about the project.

“Basically, it became clear to us in the discussions leading up to the board meeting, because of the complexity of the project, there were still a lot of unanswered questions,” Irwin said. “It’s appropriate to allow for more time to sit and answer these questions and help everyone understand what we’re proposing today.”

The requested tax break, known as an abatement, is a rare move for a project along the Beltline. Critics said it flies in the face of how the Beltline was envisioned. That’s because the Beltline is supposed to pay for itself using future tax revenue generated by new development and appreciating property values.

When the city started the Beltline, it created a special taxing district that’s designed to take long-term gains in property values triggered by new development and investing those dollars into the trail, parks, future transit and affordable housing.

Critics said the project’s public benefits, including a plaza connecting the project to the Beltline, pedestrian improvements and a new street grid, were not enough to justify the incentive.

“We seem to have a consensus that these kinds of handouts aren’t appropriate anymore,” said Bill Bozarth, an Invest Atlanta board member.

More as this story develops…