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Mall redevelopment faces first in several key votes today

On Friday, the Athens-Clarke County Mall Redevelopment Committee (MARC) started wrapping up discussion for a 78.4-acre housing and commercial development.

After over a year’s worth of deliberation, ACC officials, developers, and the Clarke County School District have created a community benefits agreement (CBA), a document which lays out what each stakeholder in the partnership will bring to the project.

Friday’s meeting allowed members of the public to comment on the expected plan. Some community members expressed concern about the project’s financing through a tax allocation district (TAD). Project Developer Jon Williams, President and CEO of W&A Engineering, said the developer takes full financial responsibility for the project.

"I've heard that if this development doesn't generate the $189 million of taxpayer money, taxpayers may have to pay for the remainder," Williams said. "It's not true... In that case, the developer loses... They bear 100% of the burden and the risk in this case."

District 6’s Jesse Houle added that TADs mitigate financial risk while renovating the city’s declining areas.

"The idea of a tad is you're able to incentivize developments that happen in places that it wouldn't otherwise," Houle said. "The two-part benefit of a TAD is, one, maybe you get people to come to the table to work on a property that might not get redeveloped otherwise... The other part is that you get the public a seat at the table and how that private development occurs. I think in that way this TAD setup has gotten us to somewhere good."

The mall committee plans to vote on the community benefits agreement on Monday. If the agreement passes, the Mayor and Commission will vote on development plans and the CBA on Tuesday.