Atlanta Housing picks new developers for mixed-use plan at civic center
August 24, 2022
By Wilborn P. Nobles III, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Housing Authority is in negotiations with the Republic Family of Companies, The Michaels Organization, and Sophy Capital to develop a long-awaited mixed-use community on the site of city’s massive, aging civic center.
AHA President and CEO Eugene Jones told city council members Tuesday that the agency wants to build 1,330 homes and a grocery store within that area of the Old Fourth Ward. The AHA also wants to preserve the plaza and performing arts center.
But on Wednesday, Trish O’Connell, Atlanta Housing’s deputy chief real estate officer, said the developers proposed to build 1,311 units. Approximately 525 of those homes will offer rents affordable for people making at or below 80% of the area median income, which is $77,120 for a family of four.
The proposed developers for the site were disclosed after the Atlanta Housing board spent more than an hour in closed-door executive session. The board members emerged and unanimously voted to select the trio of developers.
“We are excited about this opportunity,” said AHA board chair Tené Traylor.
The housing agency has struggled to find a developer for the 19 acres of land ever since city officials closed the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center in 2014. Then-Mayor Kasim Reed said Houston developer Weingarten Realty would buy the site to perform the work, but that deal fell through in 2016.
AHA paid the city $31 million to obtain the property in 2017 amid efforts to partner with Weingarten, but the developer still declined the project.
At one point in April, years after the AHA tapped Eugene Jones as their new CEO and President, Jones said the housing board was considering five proposals for the site. The details of those proposals weren’t accessible to the public, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained letters showing Fulton County officials pitched the creation of a Grammy Museum within the broader mixed-use plan.
On May 25, the AHA voted to contract with New York-based developer Tishman Speyer and the local H. J. Russell & Company to redevelop the property. Their plan called for more than 400 units out of 1,300 units to be offered at rents affordable for people making at or below 100% of the Atlanta metro area’s median income, which is $96,400 for a family of four.
Jones said that project would have been completed by 2030 at a cost of $1 billion. But on May 31, Jones revealed that Tishman Speyer withdrew from the project after the company determined it was “not right” for them at this time.
At Wednesday’s board meeting, O’Connell said the project team includes several other developers, architects, engineers, and contractors, as well.
The proposal from the developers covers 14.7 acres of the site. It features plans for a recreation site, educational center, open space, rooftop gardens, commercial space, grocery store, and a workplace area.
Although the plan leaves space for the 4.36 acres of land where the arts center and civic square exist, O’Connell said that portion of the land will not be awarded to the development team.
Instead, O’Connell said the AHA will spend six months in discussions with developers about a plan for the arts center and the civic square. That plan will then be presented to the AHA board at a later date.
During the meeting, representatives from the three developers thanked the board for their consideration of their joint proposal.
“This has been a long process, but it’s been one that has been very rewarding,” said Sophy Capital Managing Partner Michael Green. “I think we’ve developed an opportunity for the city that I think will pay dividends for years to come.”