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Mall redevelopment hits a snag

Sofia Gratas

No progress yet on a community benefits agreement intended to dictate how a proposed redevelopment of Georgia Square Mall would proceed.

At a meeting of the Mall Area Redevelopment Committee yesterday afternoon, committee members, which include both commissioners and board of education members, had more questions about whether the community would be deriving enough benefits for its projected $189 million investment.

I mean, at some point, we put out the stuff that we want and if it doesn't happen then we walk.
ACC Commissioner Mike Hamby

Some members of the committee said they needed more time to make an informed decision; more information and updates to the community benefits agreement hit members’ email inboxes over the weekend – a short time frame to evaluate a complicated proposal.

"There are elements of what's being brought before us that's very atypical, as well the percent that's being asked for, some of the gaps in information that have been taken some time to work out, and one of which we just got on Saturday," said District 6 Commissioner Jesse Houle.

District 10’s Mike Hamby expressed concern that the county might be giving too much away to the developers, and compromising on affordable housing and wages associated with the project.

"We need to say we'll walk if we don't have 60% affordability on the table, or we'll walk if we don't have some wages associated with the jobs [the redevelopment could bring]," Hamby said. "I mean, at some point, we put out the stuff that we want and if it doesn't happen then we walk."

Houle suggested that they wanted to see a comparison of how this proposed redevelopment – part of a tax allocation district, or TAD, compares to similar TADs elsewhere in Georgia.

"If we compare [the proposal] to other communities who have had affordable housing paid for in their TAD, how does that look?" Houle asked. "I think that would be helpful to see - like these places in Atlanta where affordable housing has been part of what they've paid for, what was the AMI that they associated with it? What was the percentage of the units of the project that were affordable?"

But, Board of Education member Linda Davis disagreed.

"I think this is our community and so if this is what we consider important to our community, that's what we should be working toward, whether somebody else had that idea or not," Davis said. "So I'm asking if there are things in our community that we haven't spoken to, not necessarily comparing it to what somebody else did."

The committee is expected to meet again in the coming days.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.
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