CIM Group takes control of air rights over Atlanta’s Gulch

Photo of “The Gulch” that stretches from the Five Points MARTA station to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Monday Oct. 8, 2018. California-developer CIM Group would create a $3.5 billion to $5 billion mini-city over the rail beds and parking lots.
Photo of “The Gulch” that stretches from the Five Points MARTA station to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Monday Oct. 8, 2018. California-developer CIM Group would create a $3.5 billion to $5 billion mini-city over the rail beds and parking lots.

The developer of downtown Atlanta's Gulch on Monday said it has taken full control of air rights over a critical portion of the 40-acre site near State Farm Arena, an important step as the company prepares its plans for a multibillion-dollar mix of offices, apartments, hotels and retail.

Los Angeles-based CIM Group has spent years acquiring land within the Gulch, the sea of parking lots and rail beds between Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Five Points MARTA station. The land, among the most complicated property in the Southeast, was controlled by public agencies tied to the city and state, MARTA and railroad giant Norfolk Southern.

Air rights, or the right to build over the land, also were subject to complex ownership and lease agreements.

Last month, CIM acquired a lease to air rights held by Atlanta-based Cousins Properties over 8 acres of downtown property that Cousins had controlled since it developed CNN Center in the 1970s.

CIM previously bought the underlying property and the corresponding air rights from the state. In acquiring Cousins’ interest for about $13.3 million, CIM has full control of the land at the heart of the proposed downtown mini-city.

A spokesman for CIM said the deal “is an integral component in our strategy to rebuild the downtown neighborhood into a dynamic, vibrant and connected community. We are excited to be part of the Atlanta family and look forward to working closely with our neighbors to make downtown an example of Atlanta’s vision for the future.”

Rendering of the $5 billion Gulch project.
Rendering of the $5 billion Gulch project.

CIM has proposed office towers, 1,000 residences, 1,500 hotel rooms and a regional mall’s worth of retail space on a daunting site that has generated little development interest for decades.

The land is crisscrossed by active rail lines and sits some 40 feet below surrounding viaducts. To make development feasible, CIM plans a massive $500 million steel and concrete platform to raise the site to viaduct level and create some 15 blocks of developable property.

In November, Atlanta City Council approved an up to $1.9 billion public financing package for the up to $5 billion downtown development.

In January, Atlanta Public Schools ended a long-simmering dispute with the city over the Gulch, agreeing to use future school property taxes generated by the new development to help fund the project. A legal challenge from a citizen coalition to bonds that will help finance the project is pending.

As part of the Gulch transaction, Cousins could become a partner in the Gulch development. In a news release, Cousins said it retains rights to develop office space within the project site.

A message left for Cousins executives was not immediately returned.

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