A real estate developer wants to build apartments, retail and office space in the Gulch in downtown Atlanta, but bond financing for the project has been challenged in court. J. Scott Trubey/strubey@ajc.com
Photo: J. Scott Trubey
Photo: J. Scott Trubey

Judge validates $40 million Gulch bond package, but appeal is likely

A judge has said the city of Atlanta can issue $40 million in bonds backed by future property taxes to redevelop downtown’s Gulch district, although the ruling is almost certain to be appealed.

Public financing of the Gulch redevelopment has been controversial ever since Atlanta City Council approved the project in November 2018. And a group opposed to bond financing is fighting the project on several different legal fronts.

Julian Bene, a leader of Redlight the Gulch, said his group will appeal last month’s decision by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney. One potential argument for appeal is that McBurney’s opinion relies on a separate case that remains active.

“That case is still under challenge in his own court,” Bene said.

The Los Angeles real estate firm CIM Group is set to develop a 40-acre site located next to State Farm Arena and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a project called Centennial Yards that could transform downtown Atlanta. The site is now mostly parking lots, but it’s transected by MARTA trains and freight railroads and is surrounded by bridges that carry major city streets.

CIM Group wants to build apartments, office buildings, hotels and retail in the Gulch. It’s one of several large, mixed-use developments in the works throughout metro Atlanta. In Doraville, a project called Assembly is underway at the former General Motors plant. And, on the Westside, the Quarry Yards is planned.

However, Redlight the Gulch challenges the legality of using future property taxes and sales taxes to finance the redevelopment, describing it as a giveaway to a private company without sufficient public benefit.

A hearing on one of the earlier bond validations that Redlight the Gulch has appealed is scheduled for Feb. 13 before the Georgia Supreme Court.

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